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Favored Flowers
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Billions of fresh-cut flowers are flown into the United States every year, allowing Americans to choose from a broad array of blooms regardless of the season. Favored Flowers is a lively investigation of the worldwide production and distribution of fresh-cut flowers and their consumption in the New York metropolitan area. In an ethnography filled with roses, orchids, and gerberas, flower auctions, new hybrids, and new logistical systems, Catherine Ziegler unravels the economic and cultural strands of the global flower market. She provides an historical overview of the development of the cut flower industry in New York from the late nineteenth century to 1970, and on to its ultimate transformation from a domestic to a global industry. As she points out, cut flowers serve no utilitarian purpose; rather, they signal consumers' social and cultural decisions about expressing love, mourning, status, and identity. Ziegler shows how consumer behavior and choices have changed over time and how they are shaped by the media, by the types of available flowers, and by flower retailing. Ziegler interviewed more than 250 people as she followed flowers along the full length of the commodity chain, from cuttings in Europe and Latin America to vases in and around New York. She examines the daily experiences of flower growers in the Netherlands and Ecuador, two leading exporters of flowers to the United States. Primary focus, though, is on others in the commodity chain: exporters, importers, wholesalers, and retailers. She follows their activities as they respond to changing competition, supply, and consumer behavior in a market characterized by risk, volatility, and imperfect knowledge. By tracing changes in the wholesale and retail systems, she shows the recent development of two complementary commodity chains in New York and the United States generally. One leads to a high-end luxury market served by specialty florists and designers, and the other to a lower-priced mass market served by chain groceries, corner delis, and retail superstores.
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Cultural history of the flower trade in New York City and the transformation of the cut-flower industry into a global commodity system

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii Introduction 1 1. Tastes, Traditions, and Trade, 1870-1970 15 2. Favored Flowers: Growers and Traders, 1870-1970 33 3. Fresh Flows: Global Flower Growing, 1970-2005 55 4. State and Structure: Floriculture in a Global System 74 5. Cultivating the Global Garden: Local Growers in a Global System 97 6. Specialty and Abundance: Middlemen in a Changing System 130 7. Risk and Relationships: Middlemen Strategies 163 8. Self and Signs: Flower Consumers 192 Conclusion 227 Notes 235 Bibliography 277 Index 291

About the Author

Catherine Ziegler received her Ph.D. in social and cultural anthropology from The New School for Social Research. She teaches history and anthropology at Parsons: The New School for Design. She is the author of The Harmonious Garden.

Reviews

"What might it mean to offer a biography of an everyday commodity, at once attentive to its conditions of production and distribution and yet never losing sight, as Marx asserted, of its magic, mystery, and fetishistic qualities under capitalism? Catherine Ziegler's marvelous book Favored Flowers tackles the extraordinary world of the global flower industry, tracing the complex sinews linking growers in the Netherlands and Ecuador to retailers and consumers in New York. She takes the reader for an exhilarating ride along the cut-flower commodity chain, dirtying her hands in the greenhouses, interviewing middlemen and retail florists, and charting the floral contours of love and pleasure of the Upper East Side bourgeoisie. This is political and cultural economy of the highest order."--Michael Watts, University of California, Berkeley "Favored Flowers is an excellent book, an extremely impressive and important piece of original research. A case study of the contemporary commodity chain has been the 'next big thing' in anthropology, geography, and sociology for some time now, but this is one of the first studies that I have read that really lives up to the promise, including all the neglected middle sections of the chain. Here the wholesalers, the buyers, the packing, developing, storing, transporting, selecting, and distributing finally get the respect they deserve."--Daniel Miller, editor of Materiality

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