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Fast, Easy, and In Cash

Artisan Hardship and Hope in the Global Economy

“Artisan” has become a buzzword in the developed world, used for items like cheese, wine, and baskets, as corporations succeed at branding their cheap, mass-produced products with the popular appeal of small-batch, handmade goods. The unforgiving realities of the artisan economy, however, never left the global south, and anthropologists have worried over the fate of resilient craftspeople as global capitalism remade their cultural and economic lives. Yet artisans are proving to be surprisingly vital players in contemporary capitalism, as they interlock innovation and tradition to create effective new forms of entrepreneurship. Based on seven years of extensive research in Colombia and Ecuador, veteran ethnographers Jason Antrosio and Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld’s Fast, Easy, and In Cash explores how small-scale production and global capitalism are not directly opposed, but rather are essential partners in economic development.

Antrosio and Colloredo-Mansfeld demonstrate how artisan trades evolve in modern Latin American communities. In uncertain economies, small manufacturers have adapted to excel at home-based production, design, technological efficiency, and investments. Vivid case studies illuminate this process: peasant farmers in Túquerres, Otavalo weavers, Tigua painters, and the t-shirt industry of Atuntaqui. Fast, Easy, and In Cash exposes how these ambitious artisans, far from being holdovers from the past, are crucial for capitalist innovation in their communities and provide indispensable lessons in how we should understand and cultivate local economies in this era of globalization.

200 pages | 30 halftones, 7 line drawings | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2015

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Latin American Studies


"Fast, Easy, and in Cash is a welcome breath of fresh air in the study of artisans."

American Anthropologist

"Readers keen to understand what current economic anthropology has to offer need look no further than this fruitful collaboration from Jason Antrosio and Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld. Written in their typical straightforward, lightly humorous style, Fast, Easy, and In Cash charts a set of dynamics common to artisan economies in Andean South America, but with obvious applications elsewhere. Its key contribution is to embed artisan production and sale firmly within a capitalist economy, in ways that disrupt several key assumptions of classical/neo-classical economic theory and representations of the artisans themselves."

Journal of Cultural Economy

"Investigates what enables some artisan marketplaces to withstand economic dislocation and global competition. Explores the value of cultural identity in sustaining cooperation among rivals within community trade and the fate of ideas and innovation in an economy without intellectual-property protections, focusing on the Northern Andes."

Journal of Economic Literature

“With engaging stories and descriptions, Fast, Easy, and In Cash shows how home based artisans in the Northern Andes reach world markets with innovations built on a cultural commons. Through their sophisticated account that focuses on the margins, Antrosio and Colloredo-Mansfeld reveal many dynamics of central capitalism from profit making, to winner-take-all markets, to Ponzi schemes.”

Stephen Gudeman, University of Minnesota

“This ethnography is innovative, well written, and important. The authors are pioneers in the analysis and comparison of artisanal production in both Ecuador and Colombia using the concepts of the cultural commons and invasive economies as an exceptional theoretical framework. In addition, it is truly a pleasure to read. ”

Lynn Meisch, Saint Mary’s College of California

Fast, Easy, and In Cash is the most thought-provoking economic anthropology book I have read in the past decade. Antrosio and Colloredo-Mansfeld use material from their fieldwork among artisan entrepreneurs in the Ecuadorean Andes to examine recent provocative arguments by economists, such as risk-taking, innovation, and winner-take-all competitions. Their lively prose, intriguing illustrations, and fascinating case studies make this book accessible and stimulating.”

Michael Chibnik, University of Iowa

Table of Contents


Prologue: Tradition, Innovation, and Artisan Economy in the Northern Andes

1 The Artisan Returns: Invasive Trades, Invaded Communities

2 Fast Easy Cash: Artisan Risk and Peasant Markets

3 Winner- Take- All Competition: How Artisan Stardom Sustains Artisan Production

4 Information- Age Indian Market: Innovation in Moderation

5 Artisan Public Economies and Cluster Development

6 Designing Dreams: Innovation and Tradition in the Artisan Cultural Commons

Conclusion: Andean Lessons in Artisan- Led Revitalization



Society for Economic Anthropology: Society for Economic Anthropology Book Prize

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