Welcome to Commodities, Conflict, and Cooperation


In Fall 2016 and Winter 2017, students at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, studied “Commodities, Conflict, and Cooperation,” with professors Savvina Chowdhury (Feminist Political Economy), Zoltán Grossman (Geography/Native Studies), and Sarah Williams (Feminist Theory / Consciousness Studies). The interdisciplinary program examined how the capitalist drive to extract commodities stokes divisions among communities, and deepens their differences and conflicts, but also how those communities can and have come together to defend common ground. The process of commodification turns goods (crops, minerals, energy, water, information, bodies, etc.) into resources to be exploited for profit.


The program reviewed North American case studies where the quest to control commodities has contributed to ethnic, racial, or religious conflicts—such as the origins of racial slavery and the white race on early colonial tobacco and cotton plantations, treaty rights struggles of Indigenous nations over access to fish and water, and the use of migrant labor from Latin America in fruit fields and orchards. We drew parallels between domestic and overseas “resource wars”—such as the ethnic/sectarian conflicts that divide the oil-rich Middle East, the forested and dammed tribal territories of South Asia, and the heartland of corn in Mexico.


This class website project (in the second quarter of the two-quarter class) focused on the role of commodities in social change, with each student drawing from a case study of resistance and/or resilience, grouped thematically in these categories:

Orientalism and Gorilla Poaching in Rwanda – Emma Somers
American Wild Horses: Commodities or Sacred Beings?
     – Allie Kuppenbender
Deforestation, Cattle, and Fast Food – Marcos Borja

Butoh: The Intercultural Embodiment of Opposition – Lorena Macias
Hip Hop, BRUJAS, and Urban Feminism – Lizzie Merrick
Anti-Authoritarian Traditions: Activism and Media – Zach Yandrich
Muslim Watch: A Media Analysis Under Trump – Zak Soeria-Atmadja
The Anti-Contra Movement and Transnational Solidarity
     – Natasha Higbee

Death Care in U.S. Prisons – Kendra Freas
The Future of Senior Care in the U.S. – Izzy Gore
The Adoption Industry and the Adoptee Rights Movement – Alex Lipe
Profiting off Indigenous Children in South Dakota – Colleen Zickler
Trans Bodies as Commodities in the Medical World – Mo Dole
Criminalization of Abortion in El Salvador – Frieda Bequeaith
People Not Playthings: Abuse in America – Amanda Delouise
Torture: Fueled by Greed – Katie Fong
Intersectional Health and HIV/AIDS in the U.S. – Jaxson Merk

The Danger of Commodifying Knowledge – Alex Nolting
Instant Messaging and Social Media as Commodifying
     Communication – Drew Vandergriend
Common Knowledge: Free Software and Copyleft – Joseph Thayer
West Coast Gun Regulations Without Representation – Kellin Kahl

Western Shoshone Nation Opposes Yucca Mountain Nuclear
      Repository – Matthew Neisius
Public Power: Distribution of Electricity in North America
     – Laurel Trammell
Carbon Trading – Colin Edwards
Resistance to Privatization of Oil in Mexico – Franz Carroll
The Nationalization of Iranian Oil – Christina Cravens
The Rojava Revolution: Oil, Water, and Liberation – Chris Colella

Nisqually Food Sovereignty: Sustainable Decolonization and
    Restoration – Tori Chapman
Palestinian Olive Trees Under Attack – Anna Lucia Salerno
Planting Justice: Food Sovereignty in the Bay Area – Kieran Shell
The Chicago Unemployed Movement’s Protests for Food and
     Housing – Harry Katz

Fast Food Workers’ Rights and the Minimum Wage – Punkin Ward
The Importance of Immigrant Worker Cooperatives
     – Taylor Maschger
Women’s Labor Under Capitalism – Amelia Clausen
Sex Workers’ Collective in New Zealand – Arielle Heighton

Resource Extraction and Social Unrest in Montana – Thomas Clark
Logging, Owls, and Unlikely Alliances around Environmental Ethics
     on the West Coast – Zack Shaver
Neoliberal Conservation and REDD in Ecuador – Kela Hall-Wieckert

Oil and Indigenous Resistance at Standing Rock- Rebecca Bramwell
Women’s Leadership at Standing Rock – Liz Randol
Indigenous Resistance to Enbridge Oil Pipelines – Raven Yamada
Keystone XL Pipeline: A History – Junius Dexter
Water Protectors Against the Trans-Pecos Pipeline
     – Roma Castellanos

The opinions expressed on this website are those of the students and/or their research sources, not of other students or faculty in the program, or of The Evergreen State College. For feedback or questions, please contact the winter-quarter program faculty Savvina Chowdhury and Zoltán Grossman.