Framing hybrid exchanges in subsistence contexts

Frida Mwiti, Winfred Onyas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
143 Downloads (Pure)


This paper aims to deepen the understanding of subsistence exchange practices and their contribution to international marketing theory and practice. It draws on the notion of embeddedness to examine the hybrid exchange practices unfolding within subsistence communities, and between subsistence communities and (international) firms.

The paper reports two ethnographic studies conducted in low-income farming and slum communities in Uganda and Kenya, respectively. Both studies involved participant observation, interviews, field note-taking and visual methods.

The findings demonstrate that hybrid exchange systems prevail in subsistence contexts, supporting both market and non-market logics simultaneously. Actors remain deeply embedded in their social worlds during exchange, making it problematic to disentangle social relations from market exchanges.

The study suggests implications for international firms interested in forging business partnerships with subsistence actors. It calls for international marketers to surpass the traditional marketing roles and develop competences that enable firms to meaningfully embed in subsistence contexts. Further research could explore how international marketers could develop such competences.

The paper draws from diverse exchange literatures to demonstrate how subsistence actors become actively involved in shaping hybrid exchanges that (potentially) incorporate international firms. The study calls for a broader understanding of international marketing, which accounts for the embedded marketing practices entailed in serving subsistence markets. It concludes that categorizing exchanges as either economic or social is problematic as both forms co-evolve to constitute multiple levels of intra-community, local marketplace and extensive hybrid exchanges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-618
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Marketing Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • International marketing
  • Subsistence contexts
  • entanglement
  • embeddedness
  • hybrid exchange


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