Ethical Eating in the Postsocialist and Socialist World 9780520958142

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Table of contents :
CONTENTS
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Ethical Eating and (Post)socialist Alternatives
1. Homogenizing Europe: Raw Milk, Risk Politics, and Moral Economies in Europeanizing Lithuania
2. The Moral Significance of Food in Reform-Era Rural China
3. Placing Alternative Food Networks: Farmers’ Markets in Post-Soviet Vilnius, Lithuania
4. Ambivalent Consumers and the Limits of Certification: Organic Foods in Postsocialist Bulgaria
5. Connecting with the Countryside? “Alternative” Food Movements with Chinese Characteristics
6. Vegetarian Ethics and Politics in Late-Socialist Vietnam
7. Agroecology and the Cuban Nation
8. Gardening for the State: Cultivating Bionational Citizens in Postsocialist Russia
Afterword: Ethical Food Systems: Between Suspicion and Hope
Contributors
Index
Recommend Papers

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ETHICAL EATING IN THE POSTSOCIALIST AND SOCIALIST WORLD

The publisher gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the General Endowment Fund of the University of California Press Foundation. The publisher also gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Barbara S. Isgur Public Affairs Endowment Fund of the University of California Press Foundation.

ETHICAL EATING IN THE POSTSOCIALIST AND SOCIALIST WORLD Edited by

Yuson Jung Jakob A. Klein Melissa L. Caldwell

university of california press Berkeley Los Angeles London

University of California Press, one of the most distinguished university presses in the United States, enriches lives around the world by advancing scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Its activities are supported by the UC Press Foundation and by philanthropic contributions from individuals and institutions. For more information, visit www.ucpress.edu. University of California Press Berkeley and Los Angeles, California University of California Press, Ltd. London, England © 2014 by The Regents of the University of California Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Ethical eating in the postsocialist and socialist world / edited by Yuson Jung, Jakob A. Klein, Melissa L. Caldwell. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. isbn 978-0-520-27740-3 (cloth : alk. paper) isbn 978-0-520-95814-2 (ebook) 1. Food—Moral and ethical aspects. 2. Food—Social aspects. 3. Food consumption—Moral and ethical aspects. 4. Food consumption—Social aspects. I. Jung, Yuson, 1972– II. Klein, Jakob. III. Caldwell, Melissa L. TX357.E84 2014 178—dc23 2013034545 Manufactured in the United States of America 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 In keeping with a commitment to support environmentally responsible and sustainable printing practices, UC Press has printed this book on Natures Natural, a fiber that contains 30 post-consumer waste and meets the minimum requirements of ansi/niso z39.48–1992 (r 1997) (Permanence of Paper).

CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

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Introduction: Ethical Eating and (Post)socialist Alternatives Jakob A. Klein, Yuson Jung, and Melissa L. Caldwell

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1. Homogenizing Europe: Raw Milk, Risk Politics, and Moral Economies in Europeanizing Lithuania Diana Mincyte

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2. The Moral Significance of Food in Reform-Era Rural China Ellen Oxfeld

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3. Placing Alternative Food Networks: Farmers’ Markets in Post-Soviet Vilnius, Lithuania Renata Blumberg

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4. Ambivalent Consumers and the Limits of Certification: Organic Foods in Postsocialist Bulgaria Yuson Jung

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5. Connecting with the Countryside? “Alternative” Food Movements with Chinese Characteristics Jakob A. Klein

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6. Vegetarian Ethics and Politics in Late-Socialist Vietnam Nir Avieli

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7. Agroecology and the Cuban Nation Marisa Wilson

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8. Gardening for the State: Cultivating Bionational Citizens in Postsocialist Russia Melissa L. Caldwell

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Afterword: Ethical Food Systems: Between Suspicion and Hope Harry G. West

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Contributors Index

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Earlier versions of the chapters in this volume were presented at an international workshop on “Ethical Foods and Food Movements in Postsocialist Settings,” co-organized by the editors and held on May 11–13, 2011, at the Food Studies Centre, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. The project has benefited greatly from the many insightful and constructive interventions made by the workshop discussants: Peter Jackson, Peter Luetchford, Ruth Mandel, Marina Marouda, Susan Pattie, Hans Steinmuller, and Harry West. The editors wish also to thank all of the workshop presenters for their contributions, including those whose papers do not appear as chapters in the volume: Katy Fox, Zsuzsa Gille, Petr Jehlicka, Nadezhda Savova, and Joe Smith. The workshop was funded by generous grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Award BCS-1101655, and the SOAS Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of London. We would like to express our special gratitude to Deborah Winslow, the Cultural Anthropology Program Officer at NSF, whose support from the inception of the project has been instrumental. During the editing process we have been fortunate to benefit from the support and wise suggestions made by our reviewers, who have identified themselves as Elizabeth Cullen Dunn and James L. Watson, and by Kate Marshall, our patient and generous editor at the University of California Press. Finally, we thank our families for their unflagging support without which this project and collaboration would not have been possible. Yuson Jung, Jakob A. Klein, and Melissa L. Caldwell vii

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introduction

Ethical Eating and (Post)socialist Alternatives jakob a. klein, yuson jung, and melissa l. caldwell

In spring 2013, alternative food activists and their supporters took to the streets around the world to protest against GM (genetically modified) foods and Monsanto, arguably one of the most visible symbols behind the spread of genetically modified seeds. Organizers claimed that more than two million people throughout the world, but primarily in Western capitalist countries in North America and Western Europe, participated in the demonstrations, although the figure was not necessarily verified by independent media. In market socialist (or “reform socialist,” Hann and Hart 2011: 137–39) and postsocialist countries, the response seemed to be much more muted, with few details in local or international media about any noticeable anti-Monsanto activity. In Russia, a rally in Moscow, a city with a population of approximately fifteen million, drew only fifty people, mainly to protest Russia’s recent membership in the World Trade Organization, which requires Russia to relax its existing regulations against the importation of genetically modified products. Similarly in Bulgaria, which has the most stringent law against GM farming in the European Union (it is virtually impossible to plant GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds in Bulgarian soil), only dozens of activists and citizens joined in the global protest in the two cities of Sofia and Veliko Turnovo, demanding better GMO labeling for imported food. In China, where Monsanto has a formal joint venture with the state, although some citizens have expressed concerns about the importation of GMO products—what one Chinese natural sciences professor described as an impending “biological invasion”—there is no evidence of any noticeable awareness of or participation in these larger global protests. 1

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Yet this relative silence from market socialist and postsocialist citizens should not be interpreted as a lack of concern over the ethical dimensions of the contemporary food system. Rather, market socialist and postsocialist citizens have been extremely vocal and visible in questioning the ethics behind food production and consumption and demanding high standards for “eating right,” whether that is in terms of diet and nutrition, farming practices, animal welfare, production and distribution systems, or social obligations to reduce hunger and poverty. How market socialist and postsocialist citizens have articulated ethical concerns may not, at first glance, appear to align with the approaches and demands presented by their counterparts in the more advanced capitalist societies. In the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, consumers prefer foods that have been canned through industrial manufacturing rather than through traditional practices of home canning because they consider the industrially produced canned food safer, with less chance of botulism (Dunn 2008). In the case of Russia, transnational food and agricultural corporations such as McDonald’s and John Deere have been key players in the improvement of farm animal health and welfare, the revitalization of small farms, and the introduction of environmental sustainability practices. And in some Chinese supermarkets, in-store advertisements for ecologically certified “Green Foods” display images of packaging plant staff wearing white lab coats and face masks, but not images of farmers as one might find in the United States or Great Britain, or maps of the world indicating the far-flung places to which the company airfreights its “ecological” vegetables, an image that in EuroAmerican contexts might draw shoppers’ attention to the thorny issue of “food miles.” Even though such cases would appear to contradict the aims of Western proponents of alternative food movements who frame their critiques and goals in opposition to industrial food production dictated by neoliberal capitalism, they are in fact deeply embedded within ethical value systems concerning health, safety, labor, access, autonomy, and democracy. Yet market socialist and postsocialist citizens may not think about these issues in precisely the same ways as their counterparts elsewhere in the world. For example, the embrace of industrial food manufacturing is a response to the real and potential dangers of canning by home cooks who have lost necessary knowledge about food safety. During socialism, these home cooks relied on industrially produced canned food that was managed and controlled by the socialist state,

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which bore the ultimate responsibility for food safety. Furthermore, various food contamination scandals in the market socialist and postsocialist world provoked a complex debate about the role of the state and the market in shaping the ethical and moral frameworks of contemporary food systems. At the same time, the growth of conglomerates like McDonald’s and other transnational food corporations has in some of these societies facilitated financial, social, and moral support for small- and medium-sized farmers who would otherwise be swallowed up by speculators in the frontier zone of postsocialist real estate privatization. In real and profound ways, market socialist and postsocialist consumers are constantly making deliberate choices that reflect their understanding of whether the present food systems are good for their health, their families, their communities, their businesses, and their nations. In other words, the ethical dimensions of food in everyday life are shaped by historical experiences of state socialism, including particular relationships to the state and to markets. By taking up the question of what constitutes an “ethical” food system through the lens of market socialist and postsocialist societies, the contributors to this book share a commitment to understanding not only how people in market socialist and postsocialist countries articulate a sense of what is good, right, and necessary, but how these perspectives challenge existing paradigms in both scholarly and activist circles about the nature of “alternative” food systems. In many ways, the contributors to this volume are positioned as “alternative” voices to an “alternative” movement by virtue of focusing not on advanced capitalist societies in the West or Global North, but rather on China, Vietnam, Cuba, and the formerly socialist countries in Europe—countries that have been marked in geopolitical terms as “developing,” “emerging,” “Second World,” or “Third World” (Creed and Wedel 1997). As the chapters variously demonstrate, market socialist and postsocialist conversations about “ethical” foods and “alternative” food movements and consumption practices frequently take on forms and meanings that differ significantly from those found in the more familiar, advanced capitalist contexts. By focusing on (post)socialist contexts we thus aim in this volume to provide a politically more nuanced and historically more accurate understanding of ethical foods and “alternative” food movements. This approach challenges some of the key notions that popular discourses of alternative food movements in the advanced capitalist societies uphold, including the widespread notion that such movements are inherently oppositional to the

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industrialized agriculture and food processing, practices of standardization, and regulatory systems that typically characterize capitalist “agrifood systems.” The societies covered in this volume include both former socialist countries in Eurasia and increasingly market-oriented, communist party–ruled countries in Asia and Latin America. These countries all share a common legacy of state socialism, which continues to affect the ways in which citizens experience daily food practices. While recognizing the problematic nature of the term “postsocialist” to describe these countries (Buyandelger 2008; Hann, Humphrey, and Verdery 2002), the individual authors have also taken this term as a provocation to think critically and ethnographically about how particular configurations of politics, economics, and culture in these countries have produced particular ethical values and practices associated with food. In turn, this approach raises critical questions not just about whether postsocialist societies are similar or dissimilar to one another, but also whether postsocialist approaches to ethical foods and alternative food movements share anything with their counterparts in established market capitalist democracies and offer new insights on contemporary food systems. Through ethnographically grounded studies from Bulgaria, Lithuania, Russia, China, Vietnam, and Cuba, the anthropologists, sociologists, and geographers collaborating here shed light on the political economies, regulatory regimes, and discourses surrounding ethical foods and food movements, and on the ways in which these are interpreted and shaped in the everyday life practices of citizens of market socialist and postsocialist countries.

bringing ethics to the postsocialist dinner table In market socialist and postsocialist societies, “ethical foods” have taken a variety of forms, ranging from popular demands for “natural,” “organic,” and “safe” foods to organized social movements seeking to “reconnect” urban consumers with rural producers, and from new local models of personal and civic healthfulness to state-led development initiatives involving export-oriented agriculture and morally charged nutritional guidelines. Shared sympathy, solidarity, and collective action are springing up between social actors involved in the provision and promotion of these new ethical foods. These social actors include the more expected “peasants” and “urban farmers” as well

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as unionized foodservice workers, migrant farmworkers, health care workers, welfare officials, animal rights activists, consumer rights activists, environmentalists, and ordinary consumers. For their part, many market socialist and postsocialist consumers now couple their focus on ingredients and dietary criteria of foods with careful attention not just to the conditions under which foods are grown, harvested, produced, and distributed, but also to the ideological values associated with particular foods, labor relations, and the impact of harvesting, production, and consumption on the planet and its inhabitants. Despite this “revolution at the dinner table,” the burgeoning social sciences literature on “ethical (food) consumption” and “alternative food networks” (e.g., Alkon and Agyeman 2011; Ankeny 2012; Carrier and Luetchford 2012; Goodman et. al. 2011; Gottlieb and Joshi 2010; Guthman 2011; Kneafsey et. al. 2008; Lewis and Potter 2011; Lyon and Moberg 2010; Nicholls and Opal 2005) has focused almost entirely on advanced capitalist economies, or on those societies that have long been the objects of colonial intervention by those same capitalist economies—namely, “Third World” and “developing” communities in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. As if the need or desire to explore ethical and alternative food practices is solely the privilege and responsibility of capitalist states, scholars, activists, and policy makers have yet to pay serious attention to analogous consumer practices and social movements in postsocialist and other emerging market economies and to understand their different shapes and meanings. This oversight is especially noteworthy, given that the “alternative food networks” that these food activists are promoting as antidotes to capitalism are often laced with themes that have long been familiar in state socialist societies: peasants, labor unions, labor reform, farmers’ markets, hand-to-hand distribution channels, agricultural revolution, and even ideological revolution, to name just a few. Within this body of literature, an anticapitalist socialist fetishism masquerades as progressive social justice without any clear link to socialist-inspired food justice movements. Even more intriguing is that many of the forms of agriculture, food processing, distribution, and consumption that are associated with these alternative and ethical food movements have clear precedents in state socialist societies and their successor states. North American practices such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) have their analogue in the collectivist food gathering and redistribution of state farm food in the former Soviet Union. Similarly, the informal networks of trust between small farmers and individual consumers that are promoted as the ideal economic model for North

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American farmers’ markets replicate the informal exchange practices that have constituted socialist informal economies of barter within and across socialist geographies (e.g., Mandel and Humphrey 2002; Ledeneva 2006; Yan 1996; Yang 1994). The push for “organic” foods that are free from pesticides and industrial agriculture has been the norm in state socialist societies, where farmers have long been unable to afford modern farming technology and chemicals and continued with pre-industrial forms of farming (Jung, this volume). Anticapitalist animal welfare activists and back-to-the-land proponents, with their call for “humane” treatment of animals through practices that allow animals to retain their autonomy as distinct from their roles as raw materials in factory farms, also have important interlocutors in their socialist counterparts who have maintained livestock as part of their personal households and not as alienated commodities. As a result, many of the foods and food practices classified as “alternative” in the capitalist world have been an ordinary part of everyday life for decades in the socialist world. Much of the discussion surrounding ethical consumption and food movements thus far has, importantly, been concerned with revealing the often problematic relationship between stated ethical goals, on the one hand, and the actual social and environmental effects of “ethical” consumption and production practices, on the other (e.g., Doob 2010; De Neve et al. 2008; Goodman et al. 2011; Guthman 2004; Lewis and Potter 2011; Nicholls and Opal 2005). These discussions frequently start from the presumption—usually proposed by research subjects but sometimes even by analysts themselves—that food is intrinsically ethical or unethical, with little attention paid to how foods, and by extension personal food practices such as eating and sharing, come to be ethical or unethical. By contrast, because the contributors to this volume engage critically with the question of how foods become entangled in ethical projects, their analyses demonstrate how food movements may involve the negotiation of competing ethics between activists and consumers (see the chapters by Klein and Mincyte in this volume) or how calls for more “ethical” foods may be shot through with and reinforce geopolitical and social inequalities (see the chapters by Avieli, Oxfeld, and Wilson in this volume). Our collective aim is neither to condemn such movements nor to celebrate them, but rather to understand them and the roles they play in postsocialist and market socialist contexts, thereby contributing to a better understanding of “alternative” global food systems.

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To this end, we adopt a broad, working definition of “ethical foods.” Food is “ethical” when it becomes the subject of deliberations in which its production, distribution, preparation, or consumption intersect with moral notions about the human condition and how humans should treat themselves, one another, and their nonhuman surroundings. In other words, “ethical foods” are those foods that symbolize and convey particular value systems that are often presented in terms of rightness and justness. Accordingly, “ethical foods” may be the domain of social movements, businesses, state programs, or regulatory regimes concerned with improving the social, environmental, public safety, or health dimensions of food and drink. Equally important is that “ethical foods” also emerge out of the most ordinary, everyday social interactions and ritual behaviors, in which the ethical values at stake may be about “proper” human conduct and the “correct” relationships between individuals and social group. An explicit argument that runs throughout this volume is the idea that in order to understand the social movements and institutions that invoke ethical foods, it is important to pay attention to the sometimes less explicit articulations between codes of propriety and justice that inform food use in everyday and ritual practices (see especially respective chapters by Avieli, Caldwell, and Mincyte in this volume). Lambek (2010) uses the term “ordinary ethics” to highlight that the ethical is part of the human condition, grounded in practice and tacit understandings. While ordinary ethics may be expressed through a wide range of objects and linguistic and material practices, food and drink typically play an especially important part in ethical deliberations and moral evaluations. Food is, of course, necessary for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and thereby a precondition for the existence and reproduction of any human society, from the family and household level up to the nation-state. Similarly, how we procure our food informs relationships between humans and the environment and influences how we perceive nonhuman surroundings. As generations of anthropologists writing on commensality, hospitality, ritual, and myth have demonstrated, food has an enormous symbolic value in delineating and communicating across boundaries, not only between social groups but also between humans and the nonhuman, including supernatural domains (e.g., Allison 1991; Appadurai 1981; Counihan 1984; Douglas 1966, 1975; Goody 1982; Lévi-Strauss 1966; Meigs 1984; Ohnuki-Tierney 1993; Thompson 1988). It is the centrality of food to human biological, social, and symbolic processes that makes it such an integral part of our ordinary ethics.

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In considering food’s central role in ethical deliberations, it is important also to consider the strong emotional feelings that food and its uses as markers and mediators of relationships and identities may engender in individuals. These are heightened by the materiality of food itself. As Fischler (1988) points out, food is a substance that crosses the threshold between the outside and inside and is physically incorporated into the body itself, thereby easily giving rise to anxieties as well as being central to the construction of selves. Further, as Sutton (2001, 2010) argues, the emotional force of food emerges in part from its links to memory, stemming not least from the multisensory nature of eating and the ability of smell and taste to evoke concrete times, places, and situations from the past with an uncanny, nonlinguistic directness. In other words, there is a crucial emotional dimension to ethical food movements—a dimension that is evident in many of the chapters in this volume but often overlooked in studies of food movements. This needs to be understood against the backdrop of food’s wider symbolic and emotional significance, as evident in many ritual and everyday behaviors (see, for instance, Oxfeld’s chapter in this volume). This is not to argue that the kinds of ethical practices and discourses that emerge through alternative food movements necessarily are consistent with “ordinary” or “everyday” ethics—the domain of ethics that is grounded in daily practices and tacit understandings, and which may or may not be verbally articulated. In some contexts, the demands of everyday ethics and ethical consumption may be in conflict. Miller (1998, 2001), for example, contends that while “ethical” consumption demands that choices be made on the basis of care for distant others, what he calls the “morality” of everyday food shopping puts the household first, with the result that any purchases made in terms of the former need also to be legitimated in terms of the latter. Yet, as Dombos (2008, 2012) argues in the case of postsocialist Hungary (see also chapters by Oxfeld and Caldwell in this volume), the boundary between the intimate and the distant cannot be assumed to be coterminous with the household. Such boundaries may shift according to context, and individuals’ practices as shoppers, eaters, or activists may be enabled and constrained by emotionally charged, moral commitments to communities such as villages, ethnic groups, or nations. Indeed in some cases, it may be legitimate to follow Kneafsey and her collaborators (2008) who discuss ethical food movements in terms of an extension of an “ethics of care” from the immediacy of the household to distant human and nonhuman others who thereby become incorporated into one’s moral universe (for a critical discussion see Klein’s chapter in this volume).

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the role of the state in alternative food movements One important factor that makes food central to ethical considerations is its historically long-standing significance in relationships between people and states. Throughout the ancient world, rulers’ legitimacy rested on their ability to provide the populace with adequate food. In Imperial China, the moral requirement to “nourish the people” underpinned an emperor’s “mandate of heaven” and gave rise to successive dynasties playing a highly proactive role in agriculture and in the development of an extensive system of ever-normal granaries (Will and Wong 1991). And as Scott (1976) famously argued, a “subsistence ethics” underlay the economic and social practices of Southeast Asian peasantries, and peasant rebellions against the state occurred only in situations when this basic “moral economy” had been undermined by excessive taxation and other predatory state practices. Indeed, the moral commitment of the communist party-state to provide adequate sustenance to the people, although infamously broken in the mass famines in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and in China around 1960, was absolutely key to the relationship between state and people throughout the socialist world and underpinned the food systems of these countries. Typically, the emphasis, at least in principle, in these systems was on the production of basic staples over “surplus” foods (although these categories were variously defined); on equitable access to food resources through state redistribution rather than market mechanisms; and on the suppression of individual desires in favor of frugality for the benefit of the greater collective (e.g., Caldwell 2009; Croll 1983; Glants and Toomre 1997; Li 2007). Of course, these principles were upheld to varying degrees in different times and places, and there was frequently a tension between, on the one hand, commitments to the provision of basic necessities and, on the other, the desire to demonstrate (to citizens and to the outside world) that socialism was working by attempting to create access to good, “surplus” foods, treats, even “luxuries” (Farquhar 2002; Gronow 2003; Klein 2009; Patico 2002). Nevertheless, throughout the socialist world, party-states instilled an ethics of frugality, equality, and self-denial. Feeding the people was crucial to the popular legitimacy of communist party rule, yet citizens were at the same time expected to suppress present desires for the benefit of the collective and for future rewards once communism had arrived (Ci 1994; Croll 1994; Feuchtwang 2011; Glants and Toomre 1997). Understanding the role of the party-state in shaping socialist ethics and the vital importance of food in this ethics is crucial to grasping a core

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argument of this volume, which is that the ethical debates and movements surrounding food in the postsocialist and market socialist states often reflect the experiences, legacies, and memories of state socialism. They do so in a variety of ways, ranging from the significance of social divides entrenched under radical socialism (Klein, this volume) to the ongoing mistrust of market vendors and other petty entrepreneurs (Blumberg, this volume) as well as certification regimes (Jung, this volume). But to different degrees, citizens of these states have all experienced, in tandem with the introduction of market mechanisms in the food system and the wider economy, a recent shift from an officially promoted ethics of self-sacrifice and collectivism to one of individualism and self-realization through consumption (Yan 2009, 2012). Even in Cuba, where the party-state continues to emphasize economic self-sacrifice, this is challenged by a growing space for notions of personal gain (Wilson, this volume). Yet socialist citizens have not reacted to this shift according to any uniform plan. In some contexts, memories of an earlier ethics continue to inform dispositions and explicit values (Blumberg, this volume). In others, the memories of the socialist state and its shortcomings continue to inform a critical approach to the postsocialist state and to other regulatory institutions (Jung 2009 and in this volume). Market socialist and postsocialist experiences with food movements bring out the role of the state in ethical deliberations, which studies of alternative food movements thus far have overlooked. The neglect of ethical foods in market socialist and postsocialist countries has profound consequences for our wider understanding of ethical foods and, by extension, of the global food system itself. Much of the existing social sciences literature has, quite appropriately, presented movements such as those advocating organics, Fair Trade, Slow Food, locavorism, agroecology, and even nutritionism as being in critical conversation with a dominant, capitalist global agrifood system (e.g., De Neve et al. 2008; Goodman et al. 2011; Guthman 2011; Kneafsey et al. 2009; Lyon and Moberg 2010; Nestle 2007). Such movements, it is argued, attempt to address the ecological and social impacts of contemporary food production and consumption by expanding the “moral sphere” of the market (Alkon and Agyeman 2011; Browne 2009), and some may present radical alternatives to the capitalist food system (Gross 2009). Crucially, scholars have also highlighted the many contradictions that emerge within movements, whose success has typically depended on the very market mechanisms of which they are critical (Wilk 2006). Thus, for example, organic and other allegedly

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“alternative” foods have frequently become “conventionalized” by agribusiness (Guthman 2004) and transformed into niche markets for status-seeking middle-class consumers (Carrier and Luetchford 2012; Goodman et al. 2011). Marketers of Fair Trade foods, too, promote and rely on partial understandings among consumers of the processes involved in producing such foods and bringing them to market (Berlan 2012; Luetchford 2012; Lyon and Moberg 2010). The contributors to this volume demonstrate that the histories, practices, and meanings of ethical foods have often taken on distinctive features in postsocialist and market socialist contexts, where the role of the state in the production, distribution, and even consumption of food has been, and in some cases continues to be, central. In these contexts, the mechanisms and experiences of the market continue to be profoundly shaped by the memories and legacies of state socialism (Caldwell 2009; Humphrey and Mandel 2002; Verdery 1996) and provoke a rethinking about the relationship between the state, market, and capitalist industrial agrifood system that affects ethical deliberations in everyday life. The expansion of the “moral” sphere in the market, therefore, is necessarily entangled with and embedded in these experiences under state socialism. Thus, while the ethical foods and food movements explored in this volume certainly often are part of critical engagements with the expansion of capitalist transnational food markets, international trade regimes, regulations, global accountability, and neoliberal ideologies, these conversations and reactions crucially involve the state and its roles in food systems in ways that are directly linked to the unique experiences of state socialist regimes and their successors. In other words, the state continues to be an important category and channel for the articulation of ethics and food. Nevertheless, while recognizing the significance of the state in postsocialist and market socialist contexts in the development of ethical foods and in the critiques of the global food system put forward by proponents of these foods, it is important not to overlook the diverse ways in which consumerproducer-market-state relations manifest themselves within postsocialist and market socialist settings. This diversity is produced by different historical experiences, including the ways in which these societies have countered and interacted with external circumstances and regimes of governance to modernize the nation and society. Indeed, by bringing together and highlighting a variety of postsocialist and market socialist contexts in which ethical foods

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and food movements operate, this volume critically interrogates not only the diversity of these phenomena but also the diversity of postsocialisms, capitalisms, and neoliberalisms that underlie these movements (Blim 2000; Buyandelger 2008; Hann 2002; Ong 2006). In the early 2000s, when Humphrey and Mandel reflected on the first ten years of market reforms in formerly socialist states of Central Asia and Eastern and Central Europe, they pointed out that at that time “the postsocialist societies still struggle to come to terms with the clash between deeply ingrained moralities and the daily pressures, opportunities, and inequalities posed by market penetration” (Humphrey and Mandel 2002: 1). Now another decade later, in the 2010s, “struggle” and “clash” do not always seem the most appropriate terms, particularly in places such as Lithuania where there may be an emerging consensus about the (dominant) role of the market economy (Mincyte, this volume). Yet preexisting moralities, including moral judgments associated with socialism, continue to shape profoundly the ways in which citizens of both postsocialist and market socialist societies relate to expanding markets. Such moralities are not necessarily explicitly articulated, but are part of the ordinary ethics evident in everyday speech, practices, and bodily dispositions. Not least, they are evident in practices of growing, foraging, sharing, cooking, and eating food (Caldwell 2011; Farquhar 2002; Hervouet 2003; Lora-Wainwright 2009). These changes invite new conversations about the nature of the state and its role in the everyday lives of citizens. Under state socialism, the deep penetration of the state in the most intimate spaces of citizens’ daily lives (and bodies) meant that state and citizen were never fully distinguishable from one another. Moreover, under the planned economies of state socialism, the state not only controlled the market but was, in effect, indivisible from the market. Consequently, “civil society” and “economy” were not necessarily spheres separate from the state, and thus efforts to work against “the state” could never fully occur in realms that were outside the state (or the citizen). In other words, whereas citizens in advanced capitalist countries such as the United States understand spaces and activities like community gardens, organics, and Slow Food as deliberately distanced from the state and the market, socialist citizens have experienced them as belonging within a state-citizen intimacy that can jump scales from the personal to the national and from the personal to the political, even if the precise nature of that intimacy is being criticized and debated (see Wilson in this volume).

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This reality of socialist state-market-citizen relations has important ramifications for questioning whether the ideological and spatial distancing that is presumed to exist in alternative food movements based in advanced capitalist societies is, in fact, real or instead a myth. The latter appears to be more likely, as Julie Guthman’s work on the California organics industry has demonstrated (2004). Guthman convincingly argues that alternative food movements like organics require state support and market structures in order to function and be legitimized. Food justice advocates who are striving for improved labor conditions and immigration laws in the United States and the European Union must also work with and within, and not outside, the legal and cultural frameworks of the states and suprastate entities in which they exist (e.g., Alkon and Agyeman 2011; Allen 2008; Gottlieb and Joshi 2010).

spatial logic and alternative food systems The particular state-market-citizen configurations that exist in state socialist, and now postsocialist/market socialist, societies have also directly shaped another spatial logic that has been essential to alternative food movements around the world: that of urban/rural distinctions. In many state socialist countries, states’ mandates to modernize their countries and citizens entailed a privileging of urban spaces as the best sites for achieving the goals of advanced industry, technology, and “civilization.” By comparison, rural spaces were presented, both symbolically and practically, as the spaces of backward people and cultures on the one hand, and as the spaces of unspoiled authenticity and cultural heritage on the other. State strategies to “civilize” through “urbanization” could entail both the mass migration of citizens from the countryside to the cities, as well as the transformation of rural villages into urban spaces through the construction of urban architecture such as high-rise apartment buildings and municipal buildings, the creation of mass transit routes linking the countryside to the city, and the establishment of formal work cadres and labor unions for “rural” workers such as farmers, herders, and peasants (Anderson 2008). At the same time, socialist state-sponsored rural folk festivals reified the distinctions of rural/urban and were used for engaging in identity politics and the reproduction of cultural hierarchies that differentiated rural and urban citizens (e.g., Ching and Creed 1997; Creed 2011). These practices then effectively produced a country of cities and concerns about the “death”

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of the countryside as noted in the Russian case (see Caldwell 2011: 102) and in many other parts of the socialist world. Whereas these common elements in the spatial logic of the socialist state regarding the rural/urban distinctions were more or less shared across the socialist world, there have also been particular historical experiences that shaped the different development of rural/urban relations resulting in diverse responses to alternative food movements in the present market socialist and postsocialist societies. In China, Maoist rhetoric upheld the “peasantry” as the most revolutionary segment of the population, and denigrated the cities as sites of “bourgeois consumerism.” Yet during much of the revolutionary period the peasants were effectively serfs tied to the rural collectives, as the country pursued a policy of industrialization while at the same time keeping rural-to-urban migration to a minimum. Peasant livelihoods were suppressed as the grains and other goods they produced were expropriated to ensure sufficient diets for the urban population and industrial workers. From the perspective of the comparatively privileged urban residents, rural spaces were further coded as undesirable with the “sending down” of politically “problematic” citizens in need of political and moral reeducation by the “revolutionary” peasantry—a practice that became routinized between the late 1960s and late 1970s as millions of urban students, mostly teenagers, were rusticated in order to “learn from the peasants” (Bernstein 1977; Kirkby 1985; Potter and Potter 1990; Whyte and Parish 1984). Moreover, the uniquely socialist recalibration of urban and rural meant that the traditional “occupations” of individuals who lived in rural spaces—that is, peasants and farmers—were also revalued. In China, the association of “peasants” with “backwardness” and “poverty” that had emerged in the first half of the twentieth century was reinforced by communist party policies, which systematically disadvantaged the supposedly “revolutionary” peasantry (Cohen 1993). In the Soviet Union and socialist Europe peasants came to be understood as dangerous, antistate entities, and especially “rich” peasants (kulaks) were even associated with the bourgeoisie. For example, in the Soviet Union, official policies of “dekulakization” violently removed these peasants from the Soviet countryside and replaced them with more politically sympathetic workers. “Farmers,” then, were an occupational category typically filled with laborers with no prior experience (or aptitude) for farmwork or country living. In Bulgaria, peasants came to be considered both as dangerous and as the pillars of state socialism who aptly domesticated the revolution (Creed 1998).

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The distinctions between “farmers” as an occupational category and “peasants” were often blurred and at times overlapped. In addition, because of the intensive migration wave from the countryside to the city in the early years of state socialism in Bulgaria (1950s), most urban citizens always have had rural ties. The restitution process of land and family properties further reinforced these ties to the countryside by the urban population and has formed a particular sensibility and sentiments in regards to the urban/rural connections. During the chaotic transition period in the early 1990s where food shortages continued despite the influx of commodities in the aftermath of state socialism, those urban citizens in Bulgaria without rural ties perceived themselves as being “punished” by rural citizens as they could not rely on the support from rural relatives to provision their basic food. While the cities had a rationing system, the countryside was self-sufficient thanks to the subsistence economy practices in the villages. Now, in the postsocialist period of restitution and real estate privatization, rural spaces have acquired new values. In postsocialist Europe and the former Soviet Union, at the same time that rural spaces are losing their last villagers through youth migration and elderly death, upper-class urbanites are moving into the countryside and buying up fields and farms in order to build both huge homes that require the urban conveniences of satellite television and the Internet and new factories that require large plots of land no longer available near the cities. As a result, even though rural spaces are becoming more desirable in the postsocialist world, their desirability is precisely because of their quality as empty spaces with the potential for industrial development and as country homes for urban pensioners and other relatively privileged urban citizens. In China, a reevaluation of the relationship between the country and the city is also occurring (see chapters by Klein and Oxfeld, respectively, in this volume). In villages across the country, farming is often left to the elderly as young people seek out opportunities for employment—and consumption—in the cities and towns. Agricultural land is not formally alienable, yet it is increasingly sought after and often forcibly appropriated for purposes of urban expansion and industrial development. Meanwhile, urbanites romanticize about the “simplicity” of rural life and the “purity” of rural foods and air quality, spurring on the development of an agro-tourism industry—especially in villages that are easily reached from the larger conurbations by car, the preferred mode of transportation among China’s new urban middle class. The spatial logics of urban and rural and the values attached to these different realms are a critical point of difference not only among the market

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socialist and postsocialist societies, but also between postsocialist ethical food movements and their capitalist counterparts. In North America and Europe, ethical food movements have been pitched largely as a deliberate move away from the dominant industrial, urban world. It is not incidental that the Slow Food movement originated in the industrial Italian city of Bra (Petrini 2001), or that workers at the pinnacle of high modernity and urbanism such as those in the high-finance and high-technology fields are fleeing the physical, emotional, and moral stresses of the “rat race” by embracing a rustic “simplicity” that can only exist in an idealized, bucolic, postpastoral countryside (see especially Paxson 2012; also Gould 2005). For capitalist citizens who cannot physically move to the countryside, community gardens, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and shops and restaurants offering “organic” and “local” foods effectively bring the countryside to them. Food activists and supporters of alternative food movements in capitalist societies similarly privilege rural residents and their lifestyles over their urban, industrial counterparts, suggesting that preservation and protection of “rural” ways of life and work is not only economically beneficial but also a more ethical stance. Food democracy and food sovereignty movements in particular have celebrated and promoted ideals of equality and justice by supporting peasant farmers, especially in Latin America, against the incursions of agribusiness models, practices, and foods (especially seeds). This celebration of “native” lifestyles as producing better forms of farm labor and healthier, safer, and more “traditional” farm products has entered the mainstream as part of a back-tothe-land movement in which middle- and upper-class capitalist citizens replace their lawns and schoolyards with food gardens that require low-technology and hence more labor-intensive (and often more unpleasant) forms of work. Above all, in scholarship, activist priorities, and general sensibilities grounded in capitalist societies, the rural and its “native” residents are imagined as panaceas for the ills and travails of the modern world. The power of the rural according to this imaginary is that it is presumed to exist as a world set apart that is superior to the urban world, and its products are therefore imagined as antidotes to the nutritional, social, and moral dangers of the modern, urban, industrialized world. Yet underlying these perspectives is a misrecognition and even obfuscation of the relations that exist among states, markets, and citizens, on the one hand, and between urban and rural spaces, on the other. The community gardens that urban, upper-class Americans promote to counteract and provide a retreat

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from the physical and nutritional dangers of the industrial food system have their roots in deliberate state projects of involving citizens directly in the goals and values of a capitalist, democratic state (Lawson 2005). Thus this historical legacy means that even today, because these community gardens are still part of civil society, citizens who participate in these gardening activities and ingest foods grown in these community gardens are, in effect, simultaneously ingesting the state and becoming ingested by the state. At the same time, efforts to privilege “peasants” as having the right to make the most compelling claims on farmwork, farm knowledge, and “traditional” heritage disguise how “peasants” can be a class category that can also be bourgeois and upper-class. This is especially prominent in light of concerted development projects in Latin America to support only artisanal food producers over their poor neighbors who are not engaged in food production. This approach also “forgets” about long histories of “traditional” farmwork that have migrated to capitalist countries from other parts of the world: for instance, Laotian farmers in California and African farmers in the American Midwest. Bringing market socialist and postsocialist states into discussions of alternative food movements forces us to reconsider not just a different set of histories of ethical concerns and practices in food systems, but more importantly, questions about how citizens, states, and markets are always intimately interconnected with one another and how their spatial locations vis-à-vis one another affect the values associated with those locations. Furthermore, it also brings us back to the question of whether alternative agriculture and food systems inherently oppose capitalism, the state, regulations, and standardization that are associated with the perils of an industrialized food system. The view from the postsocialist world productively challenges and upends conventional wisdom about ethical food movements, both by offering a new set of case studies and, perhaps more importantly, by opening up new vantage points from which to reanalyze and retheorize similar activities in the “capitalist” world. Ultimately, the view from postsocialist states forces the question of what, if anything, is alternative, distanced, or peripheral about these “alternative” food movements.

concluding remarks: “alternative” food movements and the legacy of state socialism While movements and discourses advocating “alternative” food movements such as “vegetarianism,” “local foods,” “heritage foods,” “agroecology,”

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“organics,” “Fair Trade,” and “farmers’ markets” will all be familiar to readers in North America and Western Europe, the chapters in this volume demonstrate that the practices and meanings associated with these phenomena are profoundly shaped, in both convergent and divergent ways, by experiences of state socialism and market reform. In doing so, they provide insights into the changing and diverse ways in which globalization—including the expansion of capitalist (food) markets, international trade regimes and food system governance, and neoliberal ideologies—are managed by citizens in postsocialist and state socialist countries in both everyday life practices and through more organized and institutionalized forms. This has important implications for assessing the ways in which diverse market socialist and postsocialist societies are coming to terms with economic globalization, and indeed whether terms such as “postsocialism” can adequately capture such a diversity of experiences. Our position as editors of this book is that the term “postsocialism” still carries some weight, by drawing attention to the continued relevance of the experiences, institutional legacies, and memories and imaginaries of radical state socialism—in both postsocialist and market socialist countries as they envision, practice, and seek “alternatives” to the present global food system. Importantly, however, we recognize the divergences of such “postsocialisms.” Our argument is that by examining the various ethical deliberations on and reactions to foods in this era of market reforms and growing integration into transnational economic networks, we can shed light on the ways in which regulatory capitalism and neoliberalism are being reshaped in these postsocialist and other emerging market economies. It is thus no longer (if it ever was) adequate to speak of “capitalism” or “neoliberalism” – or indeed the “global food system” – in the singular (Blim 2000; Ong 2006). Equally important is how these diverse postsocialist experiences unsettle assumptions concerning the role of the state (or lack thereof) in regulatory capitalism and neoliberalism worldwide, an unsettling that, as West highlights in his afterword to this volume, has implications for how we think about “alternative” food systems across a broad range of contexts. Through these insights from postsocialist experiences, the volume sheds important light on the existing literature on ethical foods and alternative food systems. This body of literature describes discourses and movements advocating such foods largely as reactions to capitalist agrifood systems. Such discourses and movements, it is argued, emphasize, first, the ways in which the

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market, by reducing food to a mere commodity, disembeds food from its moral, ecological, cultural, and social contexts—with disastrous results for social life, food quality, animal welfare, and the ecology—and, further, how various social movements attempt to reembed food in such contexts (Kneafsey et al. 2008; Pratt 2007; Raynolds 2000). Yet as the chapters in this volume show, the Polanyian language of “disembedding” coupled with the Marxian language of “commodity fetishism” may be inadequate to capturing the range of meanings of “ethical foods” in market socialist and postsocialist settings. In such settings, the everyday discourses and organized movements pertaining to food and ethics are equally and explicitly as much or more in discussion with the state as they are with the market. Indeed, the cases we present here lay bare the often ambivalent attitude toward the state in such settings: On the one hand, there is a great skepticism toward the state, shaped by experiences of state socialism and communist authoritarianism (Jung, Avieli, both in this volume). In some contexts “ethical food consumption” emerges as a form of consumerism that embraces the capitalist market against the memories of central planning and state redistribution. In such settings, ethical foods discourses under both state socialism and postsocialism may be regarded as attempts to move beyond the state itself. On the other hand, in some cases strong identification with the state and critique of market mechanisms do indeed inform ethical foods discourses, albeit with caveats (Wilson, Blumberg, both in this volume). In one way or another, sometimes explicitly, sometimes more subtly, the discourses and practices explored in this book are carried out in conversation with both the state and the market. Our understanding of alternative food movements and critique of a global food system can benefit from these insights. Ethical foods and food movements are not simply global trends originating in and expanding from advanced capitalist societies. Their different meanings are rooted in specific historical and political contexts and manifest themselves in diverse ways. Through exploring these diversities we aim to shed light on the changing articulations of “food,” “ethics,” and “alternative” in this global era.

notes 1. Following Lambek (2010) we do not adopt a general distinction between “ethics” and “morality,” although some individual authors distinguish between them as analytical concepts in their analyses.

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2. See Caldwell (2012) for a discussion of the spatial arrangement of state, citizen, market, and civil society in socialist and postsocialist Russia.

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Lambek, Michael. 2010. “Introduction.” In Ordinary Ethics: Anthropology, Language, and Action, ed. Michael Lambek, 1–36. New York: Fordham University Press. Lawson, Laura. 2005. City Bountiful: A Century of Community Gardeners in America. Berkeley: University of California Press. Ledeneva, Alena. 2006. How Russia Really Works: The Informal Practices that Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1966. “The Culinary Triangle.” Partisan Review 33: 586–95. Lewis, Tania, and Emily Potter, eds. 2011. Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction. London and New York: Routledge. Li, Lillian M. 2007. Fighting Famine in North China: State, Market, and Environmental Decline. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Lora-Wainwright, Anna. 2009. “Fatness and Well-being: Bodies and the Generation Gap in Contemporary China.” In The Body in Asia, ed. Byan S. Turner and Zheng Yangwen, 113–26. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books. Luetchford, Peter G. 2012. “Consuming Producers: Fair Trade and Small Farmers.” In Ethical Consumption: Social Value and Economic Practice, ed. James G. Carrier and Peter G. Luetchford, 60–80. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books. Lyon, Sarah, and Mark Moberg, eds. 2010. Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies. New York: NYU Press. Mandel, Ruth, and Caroline Humphrey, eds. 2002. Markets and Moralities: Ethnographies of Postsocialism. Oxford and New York: Berg. Meigs, Anna S. 1984. Food, Sex, and Pollution: A New Guinea Religion. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Miller, Daniel. 1998. A Theory of Shopping. Cambridge: Polity Press. . 2001. The Dialectics of Shopping. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Nestle, Marion. 2007. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. Berkeley: University of California Press. Nicholls, Alex, and Charlotte Opal. 2005. Fair Trade: Market-Driven Ethical Consumption. London: Sage. Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko. 1993. Rice as Self: Japanese Identities Through Time. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Ong, Aihwa. 2006. Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press. Patico, Jennifer. 2002. “Chocolate and Cognac: Gifts and the Recognition of Social Worlds in Post-Soviet Russia.” Ethnos 67(3): 345–68. Paxson, Heather. 2012. The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America. Berkeley: University of California Press. Petrini, Carlo. 2001. Slow Food: The Case for Taste, trans. William McCuaig. New York: Columbia University Press. Potter, Sulamith Heins, and Jack M. Potter. 1990 China’s Peasants: The Anthropology of a Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Pratt, Jeff. 2007. “Food Values: The Local and the Authentic.” Critique of Anthropology 27(3): 285–300. Raynolds, Laura. 2000. “Re-Embedding Global Agriculture: The International Organic and Fair Trade Movements.” Agriculture and Human Values 17(3): 297–309. Scott, James. 1976. The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press. Sutton, David. 2001. Remembrances of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory. Oxford and New York: Berg. . 2010. “Food and the Senses.” Annual Review of Anthropology 39: 209–23. Thompson, Stuart E. 1988. “Death, Food, and Fertility.” In Death Ritual in Late Imperial and Modern China, ed. James L. Watson and Evelyn S. Rawski, 71–108. Berkeley: University of California Press. Verdery, Katherine. 1996. What Was Socialism and What Comes Next? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Whyte, Martin K., and William L. Parish. 1984. Urban Life in Contemporary China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Wilk, Richard. 2006. “From Wild Weeds to Artisanal Cheese.” In Fast Food/Slow Food: The Cultural Economy of the Global Food System, ed. Richard Wilk, 13–27. Lanham, MD: Altamira Press. Will, Pierre-Étienne, and R. Bin Wong with James Lee. 1991. Nourish the People: The State Civilian Granary System in China, 1650–1850. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, Center for Chinese Studies. Yan, Yunxiang. 1996. The Flow of Gifts: Reciprocity and Social Networks in a Chinese Village. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. . 2009. The Individualization of Chinese Society (London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology, vol. 77). Oxford and New York: Berg. . 2012. “The Changing Moral Landscape.” In Deep China: The Moral Life of the Person, What Anthropology and Psychiatry Tell Us about China Today, Arthur Kleinman, Yunxiang Yan, Jing Jun, Sing Lee, Everett Zhang, Pan Tianshu, Wu Fei, and Guo Jinhua (contributors), 36–77. Berkeley: University of California Press. Yang, Mayfair. 1994. Gifts, Favors, and Banquets: The Art of Social Relationships in China. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

chapter 1

Homogenizing Europe Raw Milk, Risk Politics, and Moral Economies in Europeanizing Lithuania diana mincyte

In July 2009, something quite unusual began to appear in the lobbies of Lithuania’s largest supermarket stores—colorful raw milk vending machines that dispensed milk that had been delivered to the supermarkets directly from the farm. The lines of customers at these machines were long but moved quickly as plastic bottles were rapidly filled with milk, a process that was accompanied by the sounds of whistling and popping of plastic caps in the frosty, vacuum-tight chamber of the vending machine. As many of the consumers I interviewed noted, the raw milk coming from the vending machine was the purest and safest in the sense that it did not have “direct contact” with air as it flowed from cows through tubes to containers to the vending machine. Consumers were protected and so were their kin who drank the milk at home. The appearance of these vending machines in Lithuania is significant not only because it marks the introduction of new technologies for handling food risks in the European peripheries, but also because it interrupts the informal raw milk economies that have defined postsocialist Lithuania’s dairy sector for almost two decades. Before vending machines, raw milk in Lithuania was available only along street curbs and through trust-based, face-to-face transactions. Since the end of state socialism and subsequent land privatization reforms in the region, semisubsistence farmers have been delivering raw milk to the cities and selling it directly to urban consumers, circumventing largescale processors and supermarkets (Harboe Knudsen 2012; Mincyte 2012; Nicholson 2003). The milk flowing through these networks arrived in the trunks of unrefrigerated cars and was poured by farmers from large metal 25

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containers into jars that consumers brought with them. Alternatively, milk was also packaged and sold in recycled soft drink bottles and other containers. This economy relied on poor producers who either did not or could not afford to apply for European Union (EU) support to modernize their farms, and on impoverished urban consumers who were dependent on fixed incomes. Although these informal economies might have raised public health concerns to some observers from the “West,” raw milk deliveries were considered valuable and were much coveted among consumers. Consumers particularly appreciated the considerably lower prices of the milk (about half the supermarket price) and the opportunity to socialize and connect with their neighbors and the farmer while waiting for the deliveries. In this sense, raw milk deliveries emerged as ways for mediating economic risks and opening much-needed public spaces in the context of the liberalization of market economies. In light of these factors, the installation of the vending machines in Lithuanian supermarkets has transformed these informal economies in important, even irreversible, ways, by bringing to the fore questions about their cleanliness and safety. Because the raw milk sold in Coca-Cola bottles was recast in the moralizing language of hygiene, public health, and quality, so too were the people involved in these “dubious” economies. Now that there was “quality” raw milk available through a vending machine, consumers faced a choice between trusting the farmer who sold milk on a street curb and buying tested and highly regulated milk at the supermarket. In this manner, the introduction of this new mode of food production, consumption, and distribution exposed the live nerves of disputed claims to authenticity, safety, and value. At the center of this transformation is the emergence of two competing ethical orders. On the one hand, the participants in the vending economy emphasize their commitment to food safety and public health, which are ensured by adherence to rigorous food hygiene requirements. By underscoring safety, these narratives equate food safety with care for one’s families, particularly the young and the old. In some cases the safety concerns spill beyond concerns with risks related to food and other consumables to include questions about safety in urban spaces. In such discourses, producers and consumers emphasize the value of cleanliness and order in their surrounding environments, contrasting it to the disorderly, law-breaking behaviors of the unauthorized milk sellers in their neighborhoods. Most importantly, these narratives reproduce and naturalize the language of governmental institutions

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and European bureaucracies that have framed their mission in terms of protecting the general public and ensuring order. On the other hand, members of informal raw milk networks who express their ethical position through the emphasis on personal responsibility see themselves as self-reliant actors surviving in a world where the cards are stacked against them. Similar to the consumers of store-bought raw milk, who assert care and family values as their moral compass, the consumers in informal markets, too, underscore their commitment to the family. They frame raw milk deliveries as ways to acquire inexpensive food that enables them to provide nutritionally superior meals for the members of their households. But rather than trusting the industry and state institutions to ensure food safety, they place value on their own skills, knowledge, and creativity in procuring what they consider healthy food. Similarly, semisubsistence producers underscore their hard physical work as an ethical way of making this food. They also adopt the language of care for the health of their farmland and animals, claiming that both are attended to more conscientiously than in the industrial sector. In this analysis, I explore the ways in which these two ethical domains intersect and are reproduced. Specifically, I focus on the emergence of the new industrialized farms and raw milk vending industry as a locus where new ethical claims are cast. In developing this line of inquiry, I ask: What economic, social, and political institutions play a role in creating the new ethical domain? How do these new ethical projects translate into material realities? More broadly, what does the case of raw milk in Lithuania reveal about the ways in which we think about food ethics in Eastern Europe and beyond? Relying on ethnographic fieldwork, governmental reports, and interviews with officials of state institutions, consumers, and farmers, I aim to show that there are several scales at which food ethics work, including those of farmers, nation-states, supranational organizations, and international entities (cf. Wilson this volume). I argue that these ethical projects are hierarchically structured, with dominant or hegemonic orders drawing their power by claiming superiority over “backwards, unsafe, and untrustworthy” practices and individuals. More specifically, I argue that European state institutions have played a central role in the shaping of what is considered ethical food in the postsocialist space in general and in Lithuania in particular. In their attempts to establish legitimacy in the context of the liberalization of markets, European state institutions have been committed to supplying citizens with

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access to cheap and safe food, while grafting these efforts onto the European state-building project and its vows of democracy. It is in this larger historical and political context that the morality of cheap food won out over other competing concerns, effectively catering to the industrial interests. In Lithuania, this meant that the flourishing industrial farms and artisanal niche markets received preferential treatment as the embodiments of these European projects and have prevailed over semisubsistence agriculture and informal dairy networks. Although each term has a long and rich history of public polemics and academic debate, I approach the concepts of “ethics” and “morality” as overlapping domains in that they refer to a consensus about codes of conduct, prescriptions for how to live one’s life, social expectations, and shared visions of how things should work and what the world should look like. More specifically, I use morality when I refer to individual responsibilities and commitments, and I use ethics when I speak about the transactions taking place in the broader social systems and institutional settings. This analysis is organized into four sections. The following section presents a brief historical background needed to understand land use patterns as well as dairy production and consumption in postsocialist Lithuania. I then present the case of the young farmer who introduced raw milk vending machines in Lithuania and discuss the ethical dilemmas that the new generation of successful producers face on their farms. The section that follows extends beyond Lithuania’s borders to consider the questions of ethics in the development of agrifood politics in Europe. This section explains how and why the European Union has introduced a particular regulatory regime that supports industrialization and niche markets to the benefit of the vending industry and the detriment of informal economies. I then conclude with a short discussion of economic diversity.

two economies in action The informal dairy market and the food vending machine economy embody two fundamentally different modes of production that have emerged in postsocialist Europe. On the one hand, informal raw milk markets are extensions of semisubsistence economies that proliferated with the restitution of land property rights in the early 1990s. In Lithuania at that time, collectivized agriculture collapsed and the vast majority of state and collective farms were

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split into small-scale holdings. As in other postsocialist countries, the average size of registered land holdings continued to drop precipitously in the early and mid-1990s; on the eve of the Russian economic crisis of 1998 the average size was only 7.3 hectares, compared to the average British and French farms of 57.4 and 45.3 hectares respectively (Eurostat 2006). Technology was used scarcely, if at all, on these farms. While major consolidations of agricultural production swept through Lithuania in the mid-2000s, it was still not uncommon to see carriages pulled by horses or cows milked by hand. As in other similar agricultural systems, most of the labor in these small-scale farms was supplied by the household, while cash came from selling surplus to processing companies and, most often, directly to consumers. Scholars who have analyzed these postsocialist changes in land ownership and labor have defined them variously as involution (Burawoy et al. 2000; Humphrey 2000; Zbierski-Salameh 1999), primitivization (Clarke et al. 2000; cf. Ries 2009), repeasantization (Cartwright 2001; Creed 1995; Leonard and Kaneff 2002), and even as a return to feudalism and a medieval existence (Shlapentokh 1996, 2007; see also Verdery 1996). At the other end of the economic spectrum, the emergence of raw milk vending signals the consolidation of ownership, increasing investments in industrialization, access to waged labor, and the relatively unobstructed flow of capital. These are all signs of the liberalization of market economies in the postsocialist region. The introduction of the milk vending machine itself reflects the drive toward higher profitability through investments in technology typical of the treadmill of production economies (Gould et al. 2004; Schnaiberg 1980). One of the central forces behind these changes is the strengthening of state institutions that protect and enforce contracts as well as ensure trust in anonymous economic transactions. Such a move was made possible with Lithuania’s accession to the EU in 2004, when the country’s legislative, policing, and financial systems had to be harmonized with those of the older EU member states. In addition to the legislative structures, accession to the EU also brought an influx of EU funds via the Special Accession Program for Agriculture and Rural Development (SAPARD) and later the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). These financial instruments poured money into the modernization of agricultural production. The dairy processing industry remained relatively stable despite transformations in property regimes, land use patterns, and rural development

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politics that led to the emergence of semisubsistence farming and heavily industrialized production. In contrast to many other food items, industrialized milk did not totally disappear from the shelves of urban stores, as newly privatized milk processing companies continued to collect surplus supplies from farmers and then sold the milk in stores. Milk-collection prices were, however, meager and many farmers looked for ways to eliminate the middleman (that is, the processing industry) in order to sell milk at higher prices directly to consumers. Farmers who lived close to cities looked for opportunities to sell milk to the consumers they already knew in the cities and began delivering milk to urban centers themselves. Since the raw milk that flows through these informal markets is not monitored by the State Food and Veterinary Service, which is responsible for safeguarding the interests of consumers and preventing diseases, it is difficult to calculate its actual market share in Lithuania. As Lithuania was preparing to join the EU, several statistical reports afforded a glimpse into the proportion of milk that flowed outside the processing industry in the mid-2000s. In 2004, 45.6 percent of all the milk produced in Lithuania was claimed to be delivered directly to consumers; the rest was reported as sold to processors. The EU-15 (Western Europe) average was 4.8 percent, and for EU-25 (the enlarged Europe) the proportion was 8 percent. The only EU country whose milk deliveries were comparable to those of Lithuania was neighboring Latvia, where the reported proportion of milk delivered outside of dairies in 2004 was 39 percent. It should also be noted that even with almost half of the milk circulating outside of the industry, dairy processing was still the largest food processing industry in Lithuania with sales worth $472 million in 2004. Even though it is difficult to calculate profits in informal markets, the fact that a little over half of all milk deliveries were adequate to support the country’s largest and most profitable food processing industry implies that informal dairy, too, constituted an important economy in Lithuania’s globalizing markets. Beginning in 2008, the situation in the raw milk markets changed significantly when the State Food and Veterinary Service issued a set of regulations that made it easier for medium-sized and large producers to enter raw milk markets, which until then had been dominated by informal networks. These regulations streamlined the application process for permits and delineated requirements for milk production (Regulation B1–251: No. 56–2138 and No. 145–5860, April 28, 2008). The regulation included: (1)

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livestock health requirements, (2) milk storage and transportation conditions, (3) microbiological contamination limits and information on fat contents, (4) hygienic requirements for dairy processing facilities, (5) staff health requirements, (6) accounting and recordkeeping rules, and (7) laboratory testing schedules. The regulations also established that labels on milk containers had to indicate the permit number, name and address of the farmer, and date of production. Further, regulations stated that it must be clearly marked on the bottle that raw milk had to be pasteurized before consumption. With the introduction of raw milk regulations, it became easier for the Food and Veterinary Service not only to monitor informal dairy producers, but also to punish them for violating food safety requirements on multiple counts. Most importantly, new labeling regulations and certification schemes created conditions for the emergence of qualitatively new economic niches for artisanal and health products sold in supermarkets, shopping centers, health stores, and farmers’ markets. Many consumers who had never before entertained ideas of buying raw milk on the street quickly responded to the “new” milk and praised it as one of the healthiest and most natural products available in Lithuania’s supermarkets. In this respect, it is not surprising that the raw milk vending economy was born in Lithuania in the midst of what Marilyn Strathern calls the thriving “audit culture” (2000) that characterizes the technocratic logic of European governance. The artisanal raw milk produced on the farms that implement the newest monitoring and process-control technologies are the embodiments of the values of safety, productivity, and profitability that the regulators were hoping to see. To understand the ways in which milk is produced and how ethical and moral considerations are mediated on the new type of Lithuanian farms, the following section examines one of the enterprises that introduced the vending machines to Lithuanian supermarkets.

the battle of moral orders One of the companies that introduced vending machines in Lithuanian supermarkets belonged to Jonas, a farmer-entrepreneur from a medium-sized dairy farm who took over his parents’ farm in the early 2000s and transformed it into a local marvel with eighty pure-bred cows and newly built facilities

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wired with process-control software. While Jonas’s family applied for EU funding and received a compensation that eased his parents’ transition to retirement, his case is unusual in that he funded his renovation projects through bank loans, not with the support of the EU farm restructuring programs or with loans from the dairy processors. Jonas sought bank loans primarily because they imposed considerably fewer restrictions on how he managed his farm. When obtaining loans directly from one of the three main dairy processors in Lithuania, farmers commit to selling milk to the processor at a cheap price. Jonas argues that this is a shrewd move on the part of the processors in that they ensured a secure and continuous supply of cheap milk for the largest processors. This strategy leaves medium-sized farmers fully dependent on their lenders and unable to increase the profit margins that they were expecting to achieve after modernizing their farms. Jonas says that since finishing construction and installation of the systems, his work as a farmer has dramatically shifted from looking after cows to analyzing graphs and numbers representing changes in dairy production, animal health, fodder supplies, milk quality, and workers’ performance. Jonas is ambivalent about such a transformation. On the one hand, he welcomes the opportunity to use his training in agriculture and to continue the family tradition by raising it to a new level. On the other hand, the mechanization of dairy farming places new burdens on him. He is now forced to become an expert in dealing with loans and banks, environmental regulations, land use laws, septic systems design, underground water pollution limits, employment, and labor safety laws. He must also deal with the issues that the introduction of computers into the micromanagement of milk production have made visible. As Jonas moved upward in the scales of production, the industrialization of dairy production on his farm brought challenges and uncertainties that he had not experienced as a small-scale farmer. A brief example of how ethics becomes intertwined with life on Jonas’s farm is instructive here. When presented with an opportunity to hire highly regarded foreign experts to help him build new farm facilities, Jonas did not hesitate. He knew the new barn would be expensive, but it was also clear to him that investments in optimal milk production environment would yield high profits in the long run. With new facilities he could compete with European farmers and supply cheaper milk to the local market. The key question discussed in the first meeting with representatives from the agricultural consulting firm was whether cow productivity in Lithuania

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was impacted more negatively by cold or by heat. “How often does it get below –20°C (–4°F) and how often does it get above +20°C (68°F) in any given year?” Jonas recalls being asked. He was quite surprised to realize that even though Lithuania was considered a Northern country, his cows were affected more by heat than by cold. After a more careful examination of local climatic conditions, the blueprints of the barn included large ventilation openings that provided little cover from cold. Despite having doubts about how this would affect his cows, Jonas built the barn according to the design, erecting an impressive structure in a landscape populated by small hamlets and worked by hands and old technologies. And his faith was rewarded. The animals did very well in summers; and even in the coldest winter periods, farm records based on the continuous flow of information from the barn captured only a minute dip in the productivity of the cows. This was no small feat in a dairy economy that is criticized for seasonal swings in milk production in the National Rural Development Plans (Ministry of Agriculture 2003). Yet, despite the obvious financial advantages of the new barn, Jonas received criticism from villagers who were ambivalent about the new ways of keeping animals. When cold fronts engulfed the region drawing in Arctic weather in winter months, villagers found themselves wondering about the well-being of the animals whose nostrils were covered with icicles for weeks on end. In the local cultural context where just a few decades ago farm animals were brought into people’s living quarters to keep them warm, the practice of allowing animals to remain exposed to the cold raised significant moral concerns. While the new construction was justified scientifically, the disapproval in the village reveals the uneasiness with which the logics of efficiency, profit making, technological advancement, and economic success were being superimposed on the existing codes of behavior. In this new economic rationality, animal bodies were stretched to the limits of productivity, and costs were cut by building the most optimal facilities. In Lithuania as elsewhere, the values that undergird the development of the new methods of farming have drawn their legitimacy from hegemonic narratives embracing technological progress as an inevitable part of modernization. Still, the narratives of progress are not without interruptions and contradictions. As noted by scholars writing on alternative food economies in North American and Western European contexts, the idea of industrially produced food conjures images of insensitivity and exploitation and is inextricably linked

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with general riskiness, but also adulteration, contamination, environmental degradation, and social costs (e.g., Guthman 2004; Wales and Mythen 2002). It is because Jonas was aware of these popular concerns that he was careful with how he marketed his milk to the consumers by presenting it as a pure and authentic product. Paradoxically, while the raw milk sold through vending machines was marketed as “natural” and “closest to the animals,” the locals criticized Jonas’s farm for breaching these very values by interrupting nature’s cycles and challenging local codes of behavior toward animals. As the logic of profit making trampled other considerations and established new kinds of relationships among animals, people, and technology, these new developments were greeted with distrust and moral condemnation in the village as well as with health and safety concerns among the urban consumers, even as the market economy had been embraced for more than a decade and industrialization went unquestioned. It should be noted, of course, that the moral claims that villagers made in their critiques of Jonas’s building should not be seen as categorically different from the economic rationalities upon which the new farm was built. If anything, an argument can be made that the motivations for protecting domestic animals, too, were rooted in an economic logic in which the well-being of an animal translated into food and often cash. In famine-plagued times of war and collectivization, animals had been respected and loved as sources of livelihood and means of survival, not as beings in and of themselves. From the perspective of contemporary animal rights movements, whose emphasis on the value of the nonhuman beings leading “quality” lives irrespective of human interests can be traced to Romanticism and the early days of industrialization, the protection from nature’s elements and respect that Lithuania’s peasants exercised in their interactions with domesticated animals may sound too instrumentalist and even exploitative. Yet what matters most here is not what ethical claims can be made in each case, but whose claims become naturalized and accepted as normative. In the context of the dominant market economy and European food politics, the ethics of productivity, efficiency, and profit making takes the upper hand. Indeed, while the villages considered Jonas’s approach to animals as interrupting their moral framework, they did little to challenge him, offering only disapproving headshakes and voicing their criticisms behind his back. The fact that Jonas’s breach of the existing morality went unchallenged suggests that there was an underlying consensus about markets and the new economy that many of the locals accepted as inevitable.

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As numerous scholars have shown (e.g., Fehérváry 2009; Verdery 1996), an almost universal embrace of capitalism in the region in late 1980s and the early 1990s relied on a widely held understanding that socialism was an immoral endeavor and that capitalism provided the only possible path into the future. In her article on consumer culture under socialism and the experiences of socialist consumer goods as inferior to those produced in the West, Krisztina Fehérváry (2009) shows how such experiences of poor quality translated into political critiques of socialism and the definition of socialism as an “inhumane” and morally failed system. Emblematic goods of state-socialist production as well as their settings came to be seen as evidence of the failure of a statesocialist-generated modernity, but more importantly, of the regime’s negligent and even “inhumane” treatment of its subjects. In contrast, select commodities imported from the West (including socialist goods produced solely for export) were encountered as prized valuables and icons of a different world (Fehérváry 2009: 429). While official discourses in late socialism celebrated the socialist person as a moral hero who sacrificed him/herself for the well-being of others, the equally powerful counternarratives painted a different vision in which socialism was linked to neglect and violations of basic human rights and needs. As Fehérváry (2009) suggests, the moral failings of the socialist state were embodied in and reproduced through the socialist material culture that was defined by perennial shortages, the lack of aesthetic pleasures, informal transactions, and the scarcity of goods. Considering the embrace of the morally superiority of the “West,” it is not surprising that the villages did not voice objections against the economic logic that led to placing Jonas’s cows in the cold barn and that trampled their own understandings of morally acceptable behavior. In this sense, the social dynamics between the different moral orders of the village and the new generation of farmers were shaped not only by the recent developments in the postsocialist agrarian sector, but also during the years of late socialism when the socialist states lost their moral grounding.

the ethics of european milk: managing prosperity in a neoliberal world What makes milk produced on Jonas’s farm ethical, even if it is seen by locals as violating their morals? What are the larger structural forces that create the conditions under which Jonas’s farming practices become morally justifiable,

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even desirable? To answer these questions, I will show that the push toward productivity and the intensification of agricultural production that the villagers find so deplorable are linked to European ideals of well-being, social order, and historical justice. Additionally, the particular methods of food and agricultural production governance in Europe are themselves situated in larger global settings and the politics of neoliberalization. In the 1950s and 1960s, as European powerhouses like France and Germany were emerging from the devastation of World War II, their governments defined food security as one of the primary moral commitments and developmental goals on the path to a politically stable and economically prosperous Europe. In addition to feeding hungry cities, governments also sought to provide strong support for agricultural production in Europe to keep rural populations from flocking to the cities and joining the throngs of unemployed workers. Against the backdrop of Cold War politics, the principle of “more cheap food” also operated as a forceful ideological statement against the famine-stricken Soviet Union and against socialism more broadly. Driven by the mix of pragmatic and ideological considerations, the newly founded European Economic Commission introduced several market management and administrative measures that supervised and leveraged their resources to encourage agricultural production, especially in the dairy sector. In 1964, the Commission signed the first agreement (13/64/EEC) that coordinated milk collection prices in Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, and France. In this agreement, the Commission made a commitment to keep dairy prices stable across Europe’s shared markets. Additionally, it increased tariffs on imports and introduced financial support for producers, setting the parameters for the heavily protectionist agrifood sector. The key mechanisms used in the implementation of price stability policies were intervention buyouts. When market prices dropped to the lower threshold, a policy mechanism was triggered to begin buyouts of significant amounts of dairy in the market, effectively keeping the prices from dropping precipitously. And when dairy product prices were climbing due to fluctuations in production or global markets, the state brought back the reserves and dumped them on the markets to keep the prices from climbing. While ensuring stable prices that benefited both producers and consumers, such policies also brought unanticipated consequences, namely the overproduction of milk as materialized in the mountains of dairy powder, stockpiles

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of butter, and rivers of milk poured on roads and fields during the farmers’ protests. By the 1970s, memories of postwar food rations and scarcity had dissipated, and it was plenitude, not scarcity, that became Europe’s political hot potato. To run intervention buyouts required enormous financial resources. Additional costs were incurred by transportation and storage of the butter and milk powder. Despite numerous attempts to limit intervention through butter purchases in the 1970s and early 1980s, the costs of these policies continued to hover at more than 30 percent of the entire European budget. In 1984–85, the Commission introduced a strict quota system that punished member states with heavy levies for exceeding their national quotas. This reform successfully curbed the production of dairy in Europe without totally dismantling the intervention system. But it was only a bandage on the mounting problems of surpluses and overproduction, which were increasingly defined as economically unsustainable, politically threatening, socially unjust, and environmentally problematic. By the time postsocialist countries joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, the GATT Uruguay Round agreements had been signed, pushing Europe further into the embrace of markets. In an attempt to keep political stability and maintain commitments to its farmers, the EU introduced the Single Farm Payment system. The system decoupled production from financial support for farmers by distributing funds to the farmers based on their historical performances rather than on current production levels. As a result of these transformations, the EU, and its dairy sector in particular, have evolved into a complex regulatory system where participating farmers must comply with numerous food safety, hygiene, animal well-being, and environmental protection requirements in order to gain access to funding. Each of these requirements was defined as the outcome of a value-neutral, technocratic decision. In practice, however, they reflected values that were embedded in particular experiences of historical development—those of prosperous Europe. These experiences were far removed from the shortages and subsistence ethics in the postsocialist region. By placing Jonas’s farm into the longer historical trajectory of European efforts to provide food and foster economic prosperity, it becomes clear that his farm embodies the values and moral commitments that the European state is following in its policies. In this respect, the introduction of the new milk production and technologies on Jonas’s farm is a model case for ensuring safety

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at the higher levels of production and in the context of the economies of scale that Europe supports. And his entrepreneurial skills and ability to reap higher profits by selling raw milk to the upper class and elite consumers create new niches for economic prosperity that are seen as crucial sites for building sustainable rural livelihoods. While the EU is still struggling to balance its protectionism and intense regulatory governance with the liberalization of markets and neoliberalization of its politics, Jonas has been able to reconcile the two forces and make a profit while doing so.

rethinking the diversity of ethical projects What emerges from the case study of Jonas’s farm, and the short overview provided above of the broader historical contexts in which the ethics of European agrifood policy evolved, is that there are several ethical orders operating at different scales. Across social sciences there is a growing interest in the diversity of modes of valuation, production, consumption, and distribution, including the work by J. K. Gibson-Graham (2006) on postcapitalism, Anna Tsing’s (2009a, 2009b) analyses of supply chains and ecological standardization, as well as scholarship in biocultural diversity such as writings by Luisa Maffi and Ellen Woodley (2010) and Dan Brockington et al. (2008). Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot (2006) have focused specifically on the diversity of ethical positions and the ways in which they are justified. In their examination of how people understand and articulate the values that undergird their actions, Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) identify six modalities that people use to link values and moral systems, on the one hand, with choices and everyday practices, on the other. To denote these different modalities, they have associated each ethical domain with names of individual thinkers: civic (Rousseau), market (Adam Smith), industrial (Saint-Simon), domestic (Bossuet), inspiration (Augustine), and fame (Hobbes). In addition to identifying and classifying several ethical orders, Boltanski and Thévenot also link them with particular practices and material infrastructures that are coproduced as people follow their values and implement them in real life. From the perspective of this approach, the organization of the two different ethical projects in Lithuania is a perfect example of the coexistence of diverse economies of worth. The focus on the values of safety and technology in the milk vending economy seems to match the market and industrial modes of organizing social and economic relations that are driven by the ideals of

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economic growth and technological progress. Similarly, the ethical claims made by participants in informal markets resonate with the values of the domestic life that are organized around trust, familiarity, and long-term relations. However, the approach to diverse economies of worth developed by Boltanski and Thévenot fails to address how these economies relate to each other, including in contexts of unequal power relations. By contrast, the case of raw milk economies in Lithuania suggests that the introduction of the vending machine economy works as an explicit critique of the semisubsistence agriculture and informal dairy markets, marking them as dirty and disorderly in advertising and the media. In other words, different economic niches do not operate in isolation from each other. Instead, they intersect, compete, and define each other. Additionally, the economies of worth approach assumes the relative stability of economic relations and value systems. If we consider food production under socialism, in the postsocialist 1990s, and under the European regime, we notice that the state institutions, technological infrastructures, and underlying value systems were significantly different in these different periods. Similarly, the ideas and values surrounding the notion of entrepreneurship have shifted significantly from its condemnation as unethical under socialism to its proclamation as an expression of freedom in the 1990s. In other words, the economies of worth approach has so far overlooked how ethical orders are changed, interrupted, unmade, and reorganized, in favor of emphasizing the processes of routinization, normalization, and institutionalization. By contrast, in my analysis here I have grappled with the pressing questions of how certain economies of worth are abandoned, how new modes of valuing people, animals, land, and technologies are introduced, and how these modes of justification compete and are negotiated in particular contexts. More specifically, in the name of protecting public health and managing food risks, the EU has not only supported the consolidation of agriculture and industrialization, but has also introduced a wide range of economic and administrative measures designed to eliminate informal raw milk economies. Armed with the set of new regulations and backed by the EU institutions, Lithuania’s Food and Veterinary Service is now pushing for policing of the streets and the eradication of informal food economies. In these efforts, poverty-driven food economies are constructed as “dangerous” and “corrupt,” while the proliferation of the vending industry accompanied by its claims to

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“quality” and “risk-free” food embodies the formation of a particular set of moral commitments. In this context, the language of uncleanliness and riskiness of the informal economy and the claims to safety of the vending industry in public discourses provide powerful justification for the market economy and its auxiliary moral code.

concluding reflections Throughout this discussion I sought to track the ways in which consumers and producers in Lithuania have carved out different economic niches that relied on and were reproduced through particular sets of values and moral commitments. The consumers participating in informal markets shopped for what could be considered unsafe food in their attempts to mitigate economic risks and serve their families inexpensive and nutritionally rich food. At the same time, the elites bought quality, artisanal food, such as raw milk delivered directly from the farm to the vending machine, as a means of ensuring the safety and healthiness of their foods and cleanliness of their environments. This gulf in consumption patterns was also paralleled by the division in the food production domain where semisubsistence economies were marked as backwards and dangerous, while the new generation of farmer-entrepreneurs was lauded as models of success and economic prowess by the popular media, national government, and European institutions. Yet in the local contexts, where farmers built modern facilities, replaced older mixed breeds with more productive specimens, and introduced technology-centered farming practices, these advancements were often considered to be ruthless and morally suspect by the villagers who, nevertheless, accepted them as inevitable. In the case of raw milk vending, the new barn design challenged locally existing social norms and conventions, even if the locals rarely voiced their concerns. In examining how different ethical considerations intersected in the raw milk vending economy, I suggest that there were several moral orders operating at the same time, and that these orders were organized and reinforced hierarchically. On the one hand, there were ethical concerns of the villagers who were critical of the new methods of farming and models of economic behavior. On the other hand, there was a worldview of the new farmer who mobilized economic, social, and natural resources in order to live the life prescribed by the capitalist market order. Although the new farming practices appeared morally problematic for the villagers, they accepted them as

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inevitable developments in the global economy governed by technical and financial rationalities. It is from the perspective of the supranational European state that these technical and bureaucratic mechanisms carried out the European mission of providing affordable and safe food for its citizens. Embodying the post–World War II commitment to prosperity and public health, technocratic methods designed to tackle illegal economies and clean Lithuania’s streets from unauthorized vendors operate as disciplining tools superimposing their moral order on the lifeworld in Europe’s eastern frontiers. In a broad sense, this chapter is as much about morality and ethics as it is about power. Considering this insight, I would like to suggest that the notion of “ethical food” itself needs to be expanded and revised to include a wide range of practices, actors, narratives, and identities. We tend to think about “ethical food” in terms defined by Western experiences (Freidberg 2004; Guthman 2004; Goodman et al. 2011), including labor conditions, human rights, environmental protection narratives, animal well-being issues, aesthetic appreciation, and Slow Food ideals, among others. From the perspective of postsocialist Lithuania, ideas about what constitutes “ethical food” have not taken into account poverty-driven economies and gray economic zones, even though the language surrounding the people and commodities involved in them is often cast in moral terms. The next step in reconsidering a postsocialist food ethics, therefore, is to move beyond the universalizing language of ethics in order to situate it within specific historical contexts and geopolitical structures.

notes I would like to thank Melissa Caldwell, Yuson Jung, Jacob Klein, and Harry West for their insightful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this paper. I am also deeply grateful to the people whom I encountered in my fieldwork and who taught me about the politics, ethics, and poetics of eating, cooking, and surviving. 1. Notably, in the late 1990s farm sizes in South European countries such as Portugal (10.4 ha), Italy (6.7 ha), and Greece (4.8 ha) were similar to those in the postsocialist region (Eurostat 2006). 2. By comparison, the fruit and vegetable processing industry’s sales were only $11.23 million, while the second largest industry, meat processing, lagged behind the dairy industry with sales of $223.4 million in 2004. All of the percentages were calculated from Euros into U.S. dollars at 2005 exchange rates (Department of Statistics 2006).

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references Boltanski, Luc, and Laurent Thévenot. 2006. On Justification: Economies of Worth. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Brockington, Dan, Rosaleen Duffy, and Jim Ingoe. 2008. Nature Unbound: Conservation, Capitalism and the Future of Protected Areas. London: Earthscan. Burawoy, Michael, Pavel Krotov, and Tatyana Lytkina. 1999. “Involution and Destitution in Capitalist Russia.” Ethnography 1(1): 43–65. Cartwright, Andrew L. 2001. The Return of the Peasant: Land Reform in Post-communist Romania. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Dartmouth. Clarke, Simon, Lena Varshavskaya, Sergei Alasheev, and Marina Karelina. 2000. “The Myth of the Urban Peasant.” Work, Employment, and Society 14(3): 481–99. Creed, Gerald. 1995. “The Politics of Agriculture: Identity and Socialist Sentiment in Bulgaria.” Slavic Review 54(4): 843–68. Department of Statistics, Republic of Lithuania. 2006. Agricultural Product Prices. www.std.lt/lt/pages/view/?id=1238. Eurostat. 2006. Basic Data—Key Agricultural Statistics. http://epp.eurostat. ec.europa.eu/portal/page?_pageid=0,1136206,0_45570467&_dad=portal&_ schema=PORTAL. Fehérváry, Krisztina. 2009. “Goods and States: The Political Logic of State Socialist Material Culture.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 51(2): 426–59. Freidberg, Susanne. 2004. French Beans and Food Scares: Culture and Commerce in an Anxious Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gibson-Graham, J. K. 2006. A Postcapitalist Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Goodman, David, Melanie E. DuPuis, and Michael K. Goodman. 2011. Alternative Food Networks: Knowledge, Practice and Politics. London: Routledge. Gould, Kenneth A., David N. Pellow, and Allan Schnaiberg. 2004. “Interrogating the Treadmill of Production: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Treadmill but Were Afraid to Ask.” Organization and Environment 17(3): 296–316. Guthman, Julie. 2004. Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California. Berkeley: University of California Press. Harboe Knudsen, Ida. 2012. New Lithuania in Old Hands: Effects and Outcomes of Europeanization in Rural Lithuania. London: Anthem. Humphrey, Caroline. 2000. “Subsistence Farming and the Peasantry as an Idea in Contemporary Russia.” In Post-Socialist Peasant? Rural and Urban Constructions of Identity in Eastern Europe, East Asia and the Former Soviet Union, ed. Pamela Leonard and Deema Kaneff, 136–59. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave. Leonard, Pamela, and Deema Kaneff, eds. 2002. Post-Socialist Peasant? Rural and Urban Constructions of Identity in Eastern Europe, East Asia, and the Former Soviet Union. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave. Maffi, Luisa, and Ellen Woodley, eds. 2010. Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook. London: Earthscan.

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Mincyte, Diana. 2012. “How Milk Does the World Good: Vernacular Sustainability and Alternative Food Systems in Post-socialist Europe.” Agriculture and Human Values 29(1): 41–52. Ministry of Agriculture. 2003. Rural Development Plan, 2004–2006. www.nma.lt/index. php?-308898230. [No longer available online] Nicholson, Beryl. 2003. “From Cow to Customer: Informal Marketing of Milk in Albania.” Anthropology of East Europe Review 21(1): 148–58. Ries, Nancy. 2009. “Potato Ontology: Surviving Post-socialism in Russia.” Cultural Anthropology 24(2): 181–212. Schnaiberg, Allan. 1980. The Environment: From Surplus to Scarcity. New York: Oxford University Press. Shlapentokh, Vladimir. 1996. “Early Feudalism: The Best Parallel for Contemporary Russia.” Europe-Asia Studies 48(3): 393–411. . 2007. Contemporary Russia as a Feudal Society: A New Perspective on the Post-Soviet Era. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave. Strathern, Marilyn. 2000. Audit Cultures: Anthropological Sutides in Accountability, Ethics and the Academy. New York: Routledge. Tsing, Anna. 2009a. “Beyond Economic and Ecological Standardisation.” Australian Journal of Anthropology 20(3): 347–68. . 2009b. “Supply Chains and the Human Condition.” Rethinking Marxism 21(2): 148–76. Wales, Corinne, and Mythen, Gabe. 2002. “Risky Discourses: The Politics of GM Foods.” Environmental Politics 11: 121–44. Verdery, Katherine. 1996. What Was Socialism and What Comes Next? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Zbierski-Salameh, Slawomira. 1999. “Polish Peasants in the ‘Valley of Transition’: Responses to Postsocialist Reforms.” In Uncertain Transition: Ethnographies of Change in the Postsocialist World, ed. Michael Burawoy and Katherine Verdery, 189–222. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

chapter 2

The Moral Significance of Food in Reform-Era Rural China ellen oxfeld

In discussions of the food system of contemporary China, many analysts have focused on the rise of fast foods and agribusiness, and the dominance of petrochemicals in agriculture. These developments raise questions for China, as they have elsewhere, about how chemical agricultural inputs, and fast and processed foods, will affect human health and the environment. But, in addition to the environmental and health effects of moving to an industrialized food system, how will these changes transform the role and meaning of food in Chinese culture? Scholars such as Sidney Mintz have long pointed out that “modernity” in food systems—that is, the rationalization of food and its increasing uniformity over vast reaches of time and space—has led to the demise of food as a signifier of daily or seasonal meanings in particular times and spaces. In other words, food is no longer a language in a local symbolic system (Mintz 1985). In this analysis, I question these assumptions about the cultural effects of food industrialization by drawing on recent fieldwork in a village I call Moonshadow Pond. The village is located in Meixian, a Hakka-speaking county in Guangdong Province. In this part of rural China, food continues to constitute a powerful symbolic system, and in particular to work as a moral signifier. Food choices function as responses to perceived moral deficiencies in the market economy and in the industrialized food system itself; food also enacts moral obligations, and is a focus for moral judgments. As such, food embodies messages about the rightness or wrongness of a variety of social relationships and practices. Indeed, the continuing significance of food in a local moral 44

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world in Meixian is a salient window into the way rural Chinese have experienced and responded to the economic, social, and technological transformations of the last half century.

food as a moral signifier It was Mary Douglas who so famously articulated the idea that food was a “system of communication” (Douglas 1982) that encoded messages about social relationships, including degrees of hierarchy, inclusion, and exclusion (Douglas 1975: 249). For example, customs surrounding banqueting can either promote equality among participants (Watson 1987), or reinforce hierarchies among guests and between guests and hosts (Appadurai 1981). Rules prohibiting exchanges of food across caste or class lines can also buttress existing class or caste orders. (It is not a coincidence that one of the first public arenas in which segregation was challenged in the American south was at lunch counters.) Food can also express moral obligations across caste and class lines, such as in food pantries or food stamp programs in the contemporary United States, or in the free grain that landlords were obliged to provide to peasants during scarce years in precolonial India (Patel 2007: 82). Food can therefore articulate a moral message about social relations and social actions. And individuals can be judged morally with respect to their actions surrounding food. In the analysis that follows, I will define “moral” by utilizing the framework of Stephen Parish, who conceptualizes the “moral” in everyday life and in a given cultural context as simply that which is felt as “overriding obligations” (Parish 1994: 285). Says Parish, “ ‘the moral’ identifies the core commitments that define who we are and what we must do, overriding other considerations, at least in our rhetoric of the ideal” (Parish 1994: 284). However, certain moral actions, such as helping people in need, are not obligatory. As such, we will use two additional frameworks for assessing the nature of the “moral” in an ethnographic context. First, Caroline Humphrey goes beyond defining the moral as mere obligation by stating rather succinctly that morality in a given cultural context is “the evaluation of conduct in relation to esteemed or despised human qualities” (Humphrey 1997: 26). Second, in discussing morality, issues of spheres and scale must also be considered, a point raised by Wilson’s discussion of agroecology in Cuba in this volume. For instance, people’s “ideas about moral obligations inherent in market-based

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exchange relationships may be different from those that they would apply to internal familial relations. And, obligations seen as applying to hierarchical or authority relations might not be the same as those applied to relationships amongst equals” (Oxfeld 2010: 29). In the case of rural China, moral judgments pertaining to food certainly apply to a number of different spheres: the role of food in fulfilling moral obligations to family members, ideas about profiteers or merchants who sell adulterated or poor-quality food to the public at large, and judgments about the morality of political leaders and eras as viewed through the lens of food abundance or dearth. Furthermore, as I will show below, the uses and meanings of food are indicative of a thriving “moral economy,” or in other words, an economy based on social obligations. This moral economy thrives despite, or even because of, the expansion of China’s market economy and globalization. Indeed, the idea that the penetration of the market into local life will inevitably lead to a decline in mutuality, or moral ties, may not adequately describe the relationship between market economies and moral economies, especially with respect to food. As Stephen Gudeman points out, the principles of “mutuality” and the “market” underlie two different value realms present in most economic systems. At issue is really the balance between these two principles of economic action. Even in situations where impersonal trade may seem to dominate economic exchanges, the proceeds of such trade can be plowed back into a domain of mutuality, such as a family or community (Gudeman 2009: 24). Thus, as this chapter concludes, it is doubtful that food can ever be emptied of all values save those of the market. Its necessity for human existence and its centrality in familial and other social relations make it impossible to completely detach it from social roles and obligations, the essential grease of moral economies. In considering the role of food as a moral signifier in Moonshadow Pond, I begin with a survey of the local food universe and examine the ways that food-provisioning choices convey implicit and explicit judgments about the morality of the wider food system. I next examine how the exchange of food enacts, expresses, and creates obligations between people. After analyzing the moral dimensions of the production and exchange of food in Moonshadow Pond, I then focus on the discursive domain and examine the ways in which discourse about food expresses judgments about the rightness or wrongness of people’s actions at local and national levels. I conclude by asking how these

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meanings and practices surrounding food help to constitute a moral economy that retains a strong presence in rural life, and which ironically may be assuming an even greater role as the market economy, as well as an industrialized food system, also expands.

moonshadow pond and its food universe: cultivated, foraged, and commodified Since 1993, I have been visiting one village in Meixian, a Hakka area of northeast Guangdong. This village, which I call Moonshadow Pond, has a population of about eight hundred. In 1997, only 10 percent of households earned their living entirely from agriculture, while 14 percent of families did not farm at all. The remainder relied on a mixture of agriculture and wage labor. By 2007 the number of families who did not farm at all had grown to 33 percent, while the number who earned their living only from agriculture had dropped to 6 percent. Many of Moonshadow Pond’s young people have now migrated to large cities for work. By 2007, about 24 percent of all households had one family member who had migrated beyond Meixian for employment. The majority of families still fall between the two options of abandoning agriculture altogether or self-provisioning all one’s own food. They use the land allocated to them to cultivate their own rice and vegetables, but they also rely on wage labor or the small-business activities of some family members to augment their livelihoods. Furthermore, many of the families who no longer grow their own rice, and who do not self-identify as farmers, still maintain a vegetable plot for home consumption. Although vegetables in Moonshadow Pond are not grown as a cash crop, about 17 percent of households in 2007 earned money through some form of agricultural production, such as raising chickens or pigs for sale, cultivating fish, tending fruit trees, or raising goats to produce milk. Some individuals butchered and sold fresh pork or produced value-added agricultural products. In my survey of thirty-five village families conducted in April 2007, I found many commonalities in the way people described their daily diets. Rice remained a staple for all, with wheat noodles playing a significant role as a second grain. Greens and other vegetables, either fresh or dried, were also part of every meal. Despite changes in the economy, only one of the families surveyed bought all their vegetables on the market, while twenty-three families still self-provisioned all of their vegetables.

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Although the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers is now common on rice paddy land, this is not the case for vegetables. As one village resident disparagingly said to me about vegetables in the market, “Those are sold by people who want to earn money, and schoolchildren have been sickened by the poison in these, but we grow our vegetables to eat for ourselves, so we prefer these whenever possible.” Of the thirty-four families who grew at least some of their own vegetables, only five used anything other than fertilizer from their own house (such as from compost and chicken droppings), and none used any kind of pesticide whatsoever. As for the use of nitrogen fertilizer on rice, this seemed to be a concession to the realities that such fertilizers increase productivity. Rice production is primarily the work of middle-aged women who see these fertilizers as a labor saver. Nonetheless, these same women often emphasized that they tried to minimize the use of such chemicals, and I witnessed some use of organic fertilizer on rice paddy fields as well. Meat (pork in this context), poultry, and fish are now daily fare for almost everyone surveyed and are acquired in different ways than vegetables. Pork is purchased primarily from local butchers (there are several in Moonshadow Pond). Village residents usually emphasize that village meat, which is bought from local vendors who sell locally slaughtered pigs, is preferable to the meat available for purchase in city markets, both for reasons of taste and safety. As for poultry, most families raise their own chickens and ducks. But while these animals were almost always slaughtered for special occasions, such as the Lunar New Year, at other times, poultry may be purchased from a vendor. In addition to meat and vegetables, fruit and eggs are now commonly eaten, and milk is beginning to be a more frequent part of the diet in a minority of families. Milk in the diet does not necessarily mean powdered milk (which has been made famous by recent scandals), but rather fluid milk. Local goat milk has recently become popular. Two families in Moonshadow Pond raise goats and deliver milk twice a day, primarily either to families with elderly people who think it buttresses their health or to families with very small children. Older people in the village also have a rich knowledge of the wild environment, and a number of foraged foods are still gathered and eaten. These include wild grasses and twigs that are usually boiled and then used topically or ingested to treat everything from scratchy throats to cuts and abrasions. Wild plants have also found their way into soups and even seasonal treats.

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Among foraged items, water is one item that is worthy of note, and it also provides an interesting example of the ways in which as new food commodities become available, villagers may simultaneously make increased use of foraging as a source of sustenance. Although every villager has access to both running water and well water, the taste of the water is very important for many people. This is true for water used for cooking in general but is especially the case for water used to make tea. Because the market for high-status tea has grown with greater wealth, there is now more attention than ever to the quality of the water used for brewing this tea. Consequently, many village residents will go to great lengths to procure water from natural aquifers. One such place is a rock at a cliff ’s bottom near the village. Villagers travel to this aquifer by motorcycle, or even by car (now that car ownership has begun to spread), in order to collect the water and bring it home in large containers. They then use the water for tea making as well as general cooking. In this case, the growth of the tea market has also led to a new emphasis on finding pure water in the local environment. Additionally, there is a growing concern over water pollution, and this also motivates the search for pure water. One further note concerns food that is produced in the village for the market rather than for domestic consumption. Although Moonshadow Pond residents do not grow vegetables as cash crops, a number of families produce for the market by raising chickens and pigs or tending fishponds or fruit trees. Although this production is certainly for the market, those who are involved in these activities prefer to distinguish their operations from “factory” farms and emphasize that part of what makes their agricultural products appealing is their known village origin. For instance, in describing his business raising chickens, one man told me that one must be careful what one feeds chickens, and that the chickens need room to run around. Using the phrase liangxing xunhuan, which can be translated as either “virtuous circle” or “positive circle,” he emphasized that chicken droppings were sold to local people for cultivating fruit trees so that nothing was wasted. He boasted that although the chickens he raised for sale were not quite as good as those he raised at home, they were certainly much better than “factory chickens” (gongchang ji). Those who raise pigs also often emphasize this “positive circle.” A-Hui, the eldest son of my neighbor in the village, raises pigs, manages a small pomelo orchard, and tends two fishponds. He told me that his pomelo trees were fertilized with pig manure and that the pig manure could also be used to fuel his stove. Like many people, he spoke of the dangers to one’s health from “farm

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chemicals” (nongyao). This situation is different from the situation reported in rural Sichuan by Anna Lora-Wainwright, who found that goods bound for market were treated with the very chemicals farmers deplore on products intended for their own families (Lora-Wainwright 2009). Perhaps one key difference between these two cases is that many of the agricultural products, such as pork, that are produced in Moonshadow Pond are sold within the county or even the village itself, where people can easily gain knowledge about one another’s agricultural practices. This brief summary of Moonshadow Pond’s food universe suggests that the food choices detailed above are not merely economic, but also involve implicit and explicit moral frameworks. Villagers’ distinctions between food sold in the market, which is viewed as more likely to be adulterated by profiteers, and homegrown or gathered foods, which are seen as more reliable, are also implicit moral judgments. Similarly, when local producers boast about the good quality of the food they themselves produce for the market, such as in the statement of the local chicken producer about the “positive circle,” they are also making an implicit moral claim by implying that their own moral framework prevents them from adulterating their produce simply for economic gain.

food as embodied moral obligation Familial Exchanges In many respects the flow of food is the most basic statement of obligation among family members in rural China. The obligation to support family members (yang) implies mutual nourishment (Stafford 2000), while family division is frequently indicated by the end of meal sharing. As families from Moonshadow Pond have dispersed geographically due to the demands of the labor market, it is not always easy to discern which families are still single economic units and which are actually separate. However, villagers assured me that the best way to measure this was to observe labor migrants who returned to their natal village for the Lunar New Year holiday. The family to whom one returns, and with whom one eats on New Year’s Eve, indicates the boundaries of the undivided family. One does not eat a New Year’s meal with a family that has already divided economically. Family division does not entail the end of all obligations, however. Brothers who have divided into separate households continue to have obligations to their aging parents. Historically speaking, the requirements of filiality

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meant that one not only had an obligation to feed one’s aging parents, but also to present sacrifices to one’s ancestors which included the three sacrificial meats—pork, chicken, and fish. In contemporary rural China, following the food trail is a good way of assessing the degree to which offspring feel the pull of these obligations. For instance, lunliu or meal rotation is a common way in which sons divide the responsibility of feeding aging parents in rural China. Parents may take meals with one son in one month and with another son in a different month and so forth. The ethnographic record on this practice suggests varying local responses in terms of how meal rotation is morally framed. In his review of this record, Jun Jing observes that it is seen as routine in some villages and criticized in others (Jing 2004: 56). In Moonshadow Pond, meal rotation is generally viewed as routine. But even here, as we see below, the practice as well as the discourse about this practice often reflects contradictory ideas about the nature of these intergenerational obligations and a lack of unanimity about whether they have changed in the current economic situation. During a recent visit to Meixian, I accompanied my landlady Songling on a visit to her old friend Small Gao. Small Gao’s husband began to talk about a family in which there were four adult sons who had already divided their property and who lived separately. Three sons remained in the village and a fourth son now lived in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong son sent money every month to his mother, and she might normally have spent her time rotating meals among the other three sons. However, none of her three sons in the village ate with her anymore. As we talked about the situation, Songling articulated the traditional view that the woman’s sons, by refusing to feed her, were engaged in the most contemptible lack of filiality. Other stories of elders who were shunned and had to fend for themselves for meals often elicited a similar response. For instance, Meirong was a woman who had suffered terribly during the Cultural Revolution because her family was of a bad class status. (Her husband had been beaten to death by an angry mob.) Nevertheless, she managed to raise two sons, each of whom went on to marry and prosper. By 2007, however, she was making her own meals and eating alone because she did not get along with her daughters-in-law. One villager said to me, “Her story is the most bitter one.” The villager went on to blame the woman’s sons, but especially her daughters-in-law, for the horrible fate of not being able to eat with her family. The daughters-in-law were accused of lacking liangxin (“conscience”) for putting her through this ordeal.

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If abandoning one’s elders to eat alone is usually seen as the most flagrant violation of filial obligations, it is also true that conflicting interpretations of such actions reveal contradictions in contemporary moral attitudes about these duties. On the day that Songling and I visited Small Gao, Songling’s harsh condemnation of the sons who refused to make meals for their mother was not shared by all. Small Gao’s husband countered by saying that the situation was actually quite “complicated” (fuza), and that the old woman’s daughters-in-law refused to cook for her because she was “arrogant” (jiaoao). “If she was really disabled,” he said, “perhaps it might be a different story, but she is able to cook for herself now, so her sons and daughters-in-law should not have to endure her attitudes.” While the flow of food is traditionally supposed to go from parents to children during childhood, and then from children to parents in old age, the changing relationship between the generations is also revealed by the change in this traditional sequence of food exchange. Elders, far from being on the receiving end, often provision their children and grandchildren not only by cooking for them, but also by growing food for them and by taking charge of key food rituals when their adult children may no longer have the time. For instance, Small Gao’s mother Yinzhao is a woman in her late seventies. Her two married sons live in the county capital, and she has two married daughters as well. Yinzhao still plants and harvests rice for both her sons and their families, and during the New Year holiday she makes nianban (New Year’s cakes) for both her sons’ and daughters’ families (more on this below). Because few members of the younger generation are farmers but their families still have land, the elders often farm that land as long as their health holds out and then support their adult children with the proceeds. Many of them explicitly state that they hope this long-lasting flow of food from elder to younger will function as a kind of bankable obligation that will compel their descendants to help them when they are no longer able to work. Indeed, both raw and cooked rice function as a core substance and a symbol of familial food sharing. The distinction between rice and trimmings (fan/ cai) is a basic element of the Chinese dietary regime, especially in southeast China. As Stuart Thompson states, “Rice is the core, the marked element of a meal; the ts’ai [cai] is an extra, a topping, there to make the rice tastier. Rice is also very much the key food substance shared by members of a family. The eating of rice together in a real sense demarcates the family unit and reinforces

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kinship bonds . . . . Rice is ideally not exchanged between families, for it is ‘substance shared’ ” (Thompson 1988: 92). However, the sharing of food among family members is not only about cooking for family members or provisioning them with major staples like rice. It is also enacted through an almost constant flow of very ordinary foodstuffs among family members, especially between women. Exchanging raw vegetables and sometimes uncooked meat is actually quite common in day-to-day interactions among family members who no longer live in the same household. Of course, raw vegetables are completely inappropriate items to bring as gifts on a formal visit or to mark life-cycle or seasonal rites of passage. But greens flowed back and forth between married daughters and their mothers, among other close female kin, and also among neighbors. My landlady Songling and her husband Baoli had two married daughters who lived in town. Whenever Songling or Baoli went into town to visit their daughters, they always placed some fresh vegetables into their bag to take with them. Sometimes they also brought fresh pork from the village. This was always informal and ongoing, rather than marking a particular occasion. Part of the appeal in these cases is the idea that vegetables that are grown in the village and meat that comes from village animals are much healthier—the vegetables are not adulterated with chemicals, and village pigs and chickens eat natural ingredients (cf. Caldwell this volume). The exchange of vegetables and uncooked meat is also related to the closeness of the family members who share these items. In his work on exchange in rural north China, Yunxiang Yan also notes that “garden products, mainly vegetables” may be shared by women with “those who are in one’s social network” (Yan 1996: 65). He continues: “Since the items exchanged are neither purchased nor cooked, these activities are the most common, and therefore the least significant in relation to the expectations of a proper return” (Yan 1996: 65). It makes sense, therefore, that such very common food items would be exchanged by those within one’s personal circle and shared among those who are familiar, intimate, and with whom generalized reciprocity prevails. As such, the exchange of greens between mothers and married daughters can be understood as a way of continuing the intimacy of the family, even after the daughters have long since married out. That this is so can also be seen by exchanges of other kinds of foodstuffs among family members. Family members who live in the county capital may receive fresh products from the village, and they may reciprocate by sending to their village kin different

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kinds of items, such as the wide variety of dumplings, snacks, and local specialties that are sold in the city.

Exchange beyond the Family Food enacts social obligations in exchanges that go beyond the family as well. Such obligations are enacted with less ordinary foods than those exchanged among family. When visiting is more formal, packages of tea, fruit, or factorymade cookies are common and acceptable food gifts. Expensive liquor can also be given, especially if a visitor is trying to make a good impression or gain influence. Both the quantity and quality of what a person brings depend on many things: the nature of the relationship, whether the gift is more “instrumental” (such as a gift to a local official) or “expressive” (as in visiting the family of a longtime friend), and even the resources one can bring to bear on the exchange. Sometimes a high-quality gift like tea need not even be accompanied by a visit, but can simply be sent as a way of saying “thank you” for a previous act. For instance, when I returned to Moonshadow Pond in the spring of 2010, I arrived on the day after the tragic death (from cancer) of Songling’s sworn sister and close friend Xuelan. I did not attend the funeral, but I wanted to pay my respects since Xuelan had helped me in my previous fieldwork. I visited her family a few days later with Songling and her husband Baoli. For this visit, they brought a box of apples and a bag of factory-made candies to give to Xuelan’s family. Songling advised me that after sitting for a while, I should give Xuelan’s husband a red envelope with a symbolic amount of money (200 yuan) in it. When we visited the grieving family we talked about Xuelan, her accomplishments, and how well regarded she was within the community. After an hour had passed, and before we took leave, I attempted to give the red envelope to Xuelan’s widowed husband. After much protestation he accepted, although he repeated many times over that this was not necessary. A few days later, Xuelan’s daughter-in-law visited the store that Songling’s daughter owned in the county capital. With her was a bag filled with several packages of high-quality local tea meant for me. In commenting about the gift of tea, Songling said that Xuelan’s family was embarrassed by the red envelope I gave them. When I called Xuelan’s husband to thank him for the tea, he insisted that through my visit I had demonstrated my care and concern (literally, that I had a lot of “heart/mind,” hen you xin). I protested that my red envelope was just a small token of my

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regard (yidian xinyi). Nonetheless, Xuelan’s husband clearly felt that it was necessary for this token to be reciprocated with a more valuable gift, in this case, good-quality tea. The fact that I am a foreigner and was visiting from so far away may also have played into his estimation that my visit had to be repaid with the tea. These are just a few examples of how the nature of the relationship, the obligation it entails, and its degree of informality or formality are conveyed by the nature of the food item that is exchanged or shared. In the next section, I examine one particular item—New Year treats—as an example of how food exchange communicates and creates obligation in Moonshadow Pond.

New Year Treats In examining the circulation of foodstuffs in Moonshadow Pond, and the way this circulation functions as a language of obligation, New Year treats or nianban are an interesting item. Nianban are deep-fried or steamed, sweet or savory treats made from a number of different local ingredients. Moonshadow Pond residents are busy with many kinds of culinary preparation during the Lunar New Year, and the preparation of nianban always takes the main stage for a few days. In the winters of 1996 and 2007, I was able to enjoy the New Year celebrations in Moonshadow Pond and to observe and participate in the preparations. By definition, the New Year is a time of intensified food consumption. It is remembered as the only time that meat was consumed during less prosperous times, and it is marked by special food items, such as the nianban, that even now are only made and consumed at this time. Making nianban demands several days of work prior to New Year’s Eve, and if prepared properly, the treats do not spoil for about two months. Nianban are anticipated and savored. Once they are made, they are brought out and served with tea during interfamilial visiting during the New Year’s period. As such, they are important in lateral ties between families and neighbors. They are also enthusiastically consumed within the family. During the New Year season, nianban are reheated by steaming and then served with breakfast. This marks breakfasts during the New Year as decidedly different from ordinary breakfasts of congee (rice porridge) and its accompaniments. The preparation of nianban is usually a group project, as dough has to be rolled out, and then the treats are fried in large quantities or steamed (although most are fried). Large quantities of rice, wheat flour, and cooking fuel are needed

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for this process. As such, these treats are best for old-fashioned kitchens, where hefty woks are placed over wood-fired stoves. Newer kitchen arrangements, in which gas is used on ordinary-sized burners, do not function well for such an enormous job. Hence, when it is time to make nianban, people with new kitchens abandon them and cook with wood in their yards or outside the front door of their homes. The ritual of preparing and exchanging these treats now entails generational exchanges. Because younger generations are often busy with wage work, an older or middle-aged woman may find herself making treats for several different families—those of her married daughters as well as her sons and daughters-in-law. Since elders in Moonshadow Pond think their grown children are less reliable than in the past, they endeavor to help both grown sons and daughters in any way they can, in order to create a sense of future obligation. During the preparations for New Year, older women often take charge of the timely preparations of nianban and distribute the end result to several different family subgroups. When I asked Songling about these activities, she said that her daughters no longer had time to engage in this work, but that it would also be unacceptable for them simply to purchase these treats in the county capital. First, she said, there was no comparison between homemade nianban and the nianban that one could buy. The nianban available for sale, she said, would be made with substandard oil and would not be good to digest. In addition to ensuring food safety and taste, making these nianban was another way for Songling to fortify the bonds of obligation with her married daughters. On one morning about a week before New Year in 2007, I visited with Yinzhao (mentioned above). That morning, Yinzhao was joined in making nianban by both of her married daughters, her eldest son’s wife, and two of her granddaughters who were home from college. This was just the first day, and they were planning to spend hours making one of the more popular treats, jianban (or deep-fried sesame seed balls). The preparations were expected to continue for several more days, until most of the varieties of nianban had been made. In the end, Yinzhao was responsible for overseeing the preparation of New Year treats for seven families: those of her two married daughters, her two sons, her older son’s married daughter’s family, and two of her own younger sisters. She also made some for herself, so she would have her own store to take out when people visited their country home in Moonshadow Pond.

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In the making of nianban, we can see the inclusion of many of the themes concerning the circulation of food as a means of expressing obligation. The flow of treats underscores an older woman’s place in a web of relationships and re-creates a set of return obligations from her family members. In making nianban for other family members, she enables them to fulfill their obligations to a wider circle of friends and community members who visit them, and this ensures their further indebtedness to her for helping to make this possible. Of course, this set of exchanges also indicates the relative insecurity of the older generation. In making nianban, these women of the senior generation are creating a sense of obligation on the part of their adult children that they thought was taken for granted in the past. If the exchange of nianban is viewed as a form of communication, it not only creates obligation, but underscores its relative fragility.

food as a focus for moral judgments As might be expected in a culture where food has long played an important symbolic and social role, food has always been a central theme or metaphor in evaluating morality. In Moonshadow Pond, food is used rhetorically to make sense of both the past and the contemporary social world. This includes articulating moral judgments about interpersonal behavior, as well as about past and present political regimes and the social orders they ushered in. Not surprisingly, the relative prosperity of the present is often talked about through food analogies. In comparing their present standard of living with the past, people usually begin by talking about food. For instance, “we only ate congee and vegetables” and “we only ate meat once a year, at New Years” are common ways of speaking about the diet of the collectivized 1960s. In a different tone, as a way of suggesting that change is good, but can only be “stomached” in gradual amounts, one old man said to me, “If we ate what we ate now in the 1960s, we would have gotten diarrhea!” Food analogies and metaphors have also been used by political leaders themselves to establish their moral credentials at various times. Villagers remember that during the Cultural Revolution they were urged to first eat a bitter dish first for the annual family gathering on the eve of the Lunar New Year. Mao’s words, “Remember the bitter before thinking of the sweet” (yiku sitian), were used to rouse people into thinking of their present state (“sweet”) in comparison with that of the old society. The metaphor of the “iron rice bowl”

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is also frequently invoked in references to the collective period. The image conjured up by this metaphor is that there was a guaranteed subsistence, even if the standard of living was very simple. Of course, this metaphor clearly omits the period of the Great Leap Forward (1958–61), a time of mass starvation and food insecurity. These metaphors notwithstanding, most villagers remember the past, both the old society and the collective era, as being much less abundant in food than the present. Only the older residents can recall some of the extreme measures of self-preservation that they took during the Great Leap Forward. For instance, Songling recalled eating virtually “everything” to prevent herself from starving. This included steamed buns made from mixing water with ingredients usually thought to be indigestible, such as the chaff that is removed from rice kernels or the mashed roots of a banana tree, as well as boiled water mixed with potato starch, which would engender a feeling of fullness, despite having no real nutritional value. Elders and even middle-aged people who lived through the collective era now refer to the desperate food situation of the past to goad young children into finishing their rice at mealtimes. They also allude to this past when they express the idea that today’s young people have no appreciation of food. In fact, the “goodness” of a child is not infrequently correlated with how picky he or she is about food. Children who eat all their rice are often praised, while children who do not eat their rice and prefer biscuits and other factory-made snacks are commonly reprimanded. Villagers’ discourse about food during the collective era is not without contradictions. In recalling their memories of the collective era, people may talk about the Great Leap Forward famine or the dearth of food throughout the collective era in general. But they may simultaneously express nostalgia as they recount how meals and mealtimes during the collective era were characterized by a greater sense of social solidarity than in the present. Ailing, a middle-aged woman who was an adolescent in the 1960s, wistfully recalled mealtimes during the collective era; everyone piled some food on top of their rice or congee, took their bowls outside, and ate together while perched on their knees or on door thresholds or benches. It was not abundant, but more communal. “If you did not like the food your family was eating that night, you would go off and eat with someone else,” she reminisced. Food also figures in commentaries about the inequalities of the present era, especially in regard to the differences between rural and urban identities,

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or between ordinary people and officials. A myriad of expressions related to food are used by residents to locate themselves in the contemporary class structure as “peasants” and to contrast their situation with urban dwellers. Although only 6 percent of Moonshadow Pond households earn their income exclusively from farming, the expression qingkunfan or “rice cleared of tiredness and fatigue” is still used by village elders to refer to the rice that educated people eat (in contrast to the rice that village residents eat). Proverbial figures of speech, such as “for every grain of rice, there are three grains of sweat” and “those who till the fields produce for those who sit at wide desks,”5 are also still employed by older villagers to refer to the differences between peasant and urban identities. Ruolan, an urban relative of Songling and Baoli, spent the Cultural Revolution in the village as a sent-down youth. (“Sent-down youth” were urban youths who were sent to live and work in the countryside in order to “learn from the peasants” in the late 1960s to early 1970s.) When Ruolan’s difficulties adjusting to village life were described, villagers often referred to her dietary preferences as urban ones. For instance, people often mentioned that she did not like to eat sweet potato, which at that time was a staple of the rural autumn and winter diet. In addition to food as a marker of urban or rural status, it has increasingly been seen as a marker of class differences in reform-era China, and commentary about this often expresses implicit and explicit moral judgments. For instance, criticism of officials and their lavish habits is often articulated in terms of their extravagant banqueting behavior. As one Moonshadow Pond resident said of the banquet halls, “We villagers do not eat at that kind of place unless there is a wedding or something like that. We eat at home. These kinds of places are for ganbu [cadres], people with a danwei [office work unit], and other people who are not spending their own money.” Another villager told me that banquet halls regularly plied officials with elaborate dishes beyond one’s imagination. In contrast to the critical view of officials revealed in references to their sumptuous banqueting, the virtues of contemporary peasant life are also frequently expressed through food imagery, such as by referencing the ability of rural dwellers to access fresh and unadulterated produce. A moral judgment is implied by villagers’ preferences for their own food. This is the assumption that the village is a place where social relationships are more trustworthy and reliable, and that schemes to adulterate food for profit and gain are urban phenomenon. Many people also note that even though village pork is actually

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more expensive than that sold in the city, buyers are willing to pay more because they can be sure the meat comes from freshly slaughtered animals. Significantly, while eating fresh, local meat is important for Moonshadow Pond residents and is an implicit moral critique of the profiteering schemes of those who adulterate food in urban areas, eating meat itself is not seen as morally questionable. As such, vegetarianism is not seen as a road to establishing one’s moral credentials. Vegetarianism in Buddhist monasteries was a common practice in China by the tenth century (Kieschnick 2005: 201). By the late nineteenth century, Buddhist redemptive societies, which were based on a congregational model similar to that of Christianity, began to advocate vegetarianism as a moral path for lay people as well (Goossaert and Palmer 2011: 137). In contemporary China, vegetarian restaurants have become popular in urban areas (similar to the phenomenon in Vietnam described by Avieli in this volume). Many of these restaurants distribute Buddhist-inspired literature and morality books and attract urban residents and recent migrants in search of a moral system (Goossaert and Palmer 2011: 286). But it is important to recognize that in China, vegetarianism as a moral practice has always conflicted with other moral demands—most importantly, the moral requirement of filiality, which obligates one to nourish one’s elders and ancestors, and certainly in Moonshadow Pond meat is seen as important component of an adequately nourished diet.

The Rightness or Wrongness of Social Relationships Aside from using food to comment on the morality of different political and social orders, villagers also use food as either a metaphor or concrete example of the rightness or wrongness of different social interactions. For instance, food scarcities in the past might be used to explain and even excuse behavior that might normally be viewed as immoral, or in other words, as violating basic obligations. The extreme behaviors recorded in other parts of China during the Great Leap Forward famine, including a breakdown in many family relationships (Yan 1996: 227–28) and even cannibalism (Becker 1996), were not recounted by my informants in Meixian, although extreme hunger and edema were reported for that time. (Care packets from overseas relatives may have helped keep the ravages of the famine under control in Meixian as compared to other parts of China.) Nonetheless, villagers still recite stories about how this famine changed social relationships and people’s ability to fulfill basic obligations. One of the

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most famous of these stories relates to three brothers. Their mother was widowed during the time of the Great Leap Forward, and her economic situation combined with the food situation made it impossible for her to feed her three sons. In response to these pressures, she gave two of her sons away in adoption to families in the Chaozhou area, a region of Guangdong Province that had a better food situation than Meixian. One of the sons remained with his adoptive family, although he reconnected with his biological family as an adult. The other son returned home when the food situation improved. In fact, two women from the village went to Chaozhou and secretly abducted him in order to bring him back to his biological mother. While neither of these actions—giving a son away or secretly abducting him to get him back—would have met with approval in normal circumstances, older villagers who recounted the story a half century later used the situation of food scarcity to explain and excuse both of these actions. A number of phrases also use food analogies to invoke moral obligations. For instance, the phrase “when you drink water, remember the source” (yin shui si yuan) is a common way to reference the importance of remembering one’s moral debt to people who have provided help. And the phrase “when a person leaves, the tea turns cold” is used to criticize the ease with which people forget others and their obligations. The exchange of food is also referred to when describing the situation of those who violate social and moral expectations. In discussing a woman who had a bad relationship with her husband and was having an affair with another man, a villager illustrated the community’s disapproval of her by saying, “When she goes to buy pork, no one will sell it to her!” And in describing a cadre of the past who was not well regarded, my neighbor said, “When he went to someone’s house and asked for water, they replied, ‘You can find it in the river.’ ” Even the verb “to eat” (chi) can be used as a metaphor to stand for the violation of proper social relationships and therefore social obligations. For instance, to say that a person has “eaten” someone else’s money is to say that they have swindled them.

food and moral economy in contemporary meixian In his famous essay on eighteenth-century food rioters in England, E. P. Thompson pointed out that it took several centuries for the logic of the political economy of the free market to break down an earlier logic characterized

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by what he called the “moral economy of provision” (Thompson 1971: 136). The moral economy that Thompson wrote about was marked by substantive obligations and reciprocities within an admittedly paternalistic and hierarchical set of relations. Nonetheless, it was sharply differentiated from an emerging “political economy,” as articulated by thinkers such as Adam Smith, which was “disinvested of intrusive moral imperatives” (Thompson 1971: 90) and in which the laws of supply and demand were supposed to operate unimpeded by moral obligations. In theory, this free market political economy would work through its own motions to create an outcome for the greater good. Thompson focused on food riots, a not insignificant point. For food is certainly a most fundamental need, and it makes sense that even when other items have worked their way into the commodity economy, it is in food and through food that we might see the most resistance to the logic of pure political economy as opposed to “moral economy.” For instance, the exchange of food within the immediate family is almost always based on the logic of a moral economy, even in the most capitalist of societies. It would be hard to find a society where the logic of provision based on moral obligation did not apply within the family—at least to children at a minimum. As such, contrary to the expectations of Sidney Mintz as described at the beginning of this discussion, the rationalization of modern food production cannot empty food of all local symbolic content. Even in the most highly rationalized and commoditized food systems, the exchange of food is never based solely on market principles. Food still enacts and expresses some meanings that are embedded in particular times and places, minimally expressing the fulfillment of obligations to specific family members at certain points of the life cycle and the calendar year. Certainly, as I have shown in the specific case of contemporary Moonshadow Pond, much of the food that is consumed within the family is not even acquired from the market but is self-provisioned. That the exchange of food within rural Chinese families, and also within a wider circle of kin and community, both enacts and communicates moral obligation makes perfect sense in light of this context. As I have shown in this discussion, beyond its enactment of obligations in everyday life, the image of food has great discursive power in judgments about the morality of individuals and regimes. However, there is also a twist when considering the issue of food as part of a moral economy in contemporary rural China. While the “moral economy” and “capitalist political economy” may be seen as alternative domains here, it

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is important not to forget that the current system of smallholder agriculture (the responsibility system implemented after 1978) was itself a response to the failure of an earlier “moral economy” of the collectives. Although this collective system failed spectacularly in the late 1950s and was reorganized into a less draconian and more workable model during the late 1960s and 1970s, the current system has reintroduced the market and gradually reduced (to zero at this point) the state’s role in extracting food from villagers. According to Chris Hann (2009), the transition from the collective era to the current market economy in China has ironically ushered in a new “moral economy.” Hann argues that it was actually the collective regime that obstructed villagers’ attempts to fulfill basic moral obligations to kin, lineage mates, and ancestors. And, he points out that it is the reform-era “market economy” that has enabled villagers in many areas to revive traditional rituals of reciprocity (Hann 2009). As Ralph Thaxton has written, the Great Leap Forward and Maoism in its most extreme collectivist form were seen by peasants as “a threat to long-standing household entitlements” (Thaxton 2008: 335). Villagers’ ideas about these past and present regimes certainly contain contradictions. Nonetheless, in all cases food is an important lens through which villagers assess how and whether basic obligations have been met by the state, as well as by family members, kin, and wider social networks. In Moonshadow Pond, therefore, food powerfully communicates and fulfills moral obligations and is also a potent symbol that is used to judge morality in others. Further, villagers’ stated preferences for their own food are articulated not simply through an economic rationale, but also through an attention to concerns such as health and the safety, reliability, and taste of foodstuffs. Villagers find all of these in short supply in the wider marketplace because of profiteering, adulteration, and the industrialized process of food production itself. This is in itself an implicit moral critique of the current food system. While food is undoubtedly a commodity in rural China, its meanings are too rich to be contained only by its value as a commodity. Its moral significance resonates on many levels.

notes A huge debt of thanks is owed to the editors of this volume for their unceasing work in organizing the initial conference for which this paper was initially written, and for their

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continuing labors in putting this volume together. Many thanks to Middlebury College for faculty development support and sabbatical leaves in 2006–07 and 2012–13. Thanks also to the Fulbright Foundation for their grant in 2007, as well as to the Hakka Research Institute, Jiaying University, Meizhou, and the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences for their institutional support and colleagueship during all my trips to China. Finally, and always, my gratitude to the residents of Moonshadow Pond who are always more than generous with their time and hospitality during all my research trips. 1. For an in-depth discussion of the rise in petrochemicals in agriculture in China see Vaclav Smil (2005). An interesting analysis of economic relationships between peasants and agribusiness in China can be found in Zhang and Donaldson (2008). The growth of fast food in China has been the focus of many studies including Jing (2000) and Watson (1997). The spread of fast food is part of a larger picture of dietary transition characterized by the rapid rise in consumption of meat, fat, sugars, and processed and refined foods (Millstone and Lang 2008: 83). Still, while the total power of agricultural machinery has increased more than threefold between 1980 and 2002 (Hemelryk and Benewick 2005: 41), China’s agriculture is still low on the mechanization scale compared to the United States (Millstone and Lang 2008: 35). Agricultural workers are almost half the population in China compared to fewer than 10 percent in the United States (Hemelryk and Benewick 2005: 51). 2. David Sutton addresses this issue in his study of food and memory in Greece. He points out, in reference to the standardization of food: “Commodity fetishism is the process by which objects are compared based on a price derived from their market value rather than on the history of labor relations that went into producing them . . . a purposeful forgetting of the pasts that went into the making of the present” (Sutton 2001: 64). Sutton’s discussion also references Carole Counihan’s work on rural Sardinia, where she recounts the ways in which the standardization of food and the decline of self-provisioning means that the exchange of products individually made or grown declines, and with this, not only the social relations created by the exchange, but the association of these food products with particular times and places (Sutton 2001: 60). 3. Examples include rules surrounding caste rank and food transactions in India (Dumont 1980; Marriott 1968). 4. In his work on Greece, Sutton points out that while the introduction of processed commodities may destroy some of the local meanings that went into making and exchanging local foods (2001: 64), it is also the case that foreign foods may be locally processed and reinvested with new meanings when they are exchanged (2001: 66). 5. I first arrived in Moonshadow Pond in the summer of 1993, and returned for several stays thereafter. I lived there from 1995–96, during the summers of 1997 and 2006, and for five months in the spring of 2007, and made return visits in May/June 2010, and again in September/October 2012. 6. In my surveys of the village, “farming” was identified as geng tian, which local residents identified as referring to those who still grow their own rice. 7. Regular cooked rice was consumed by all families for almost all meals, and rice congee was still consumed at least once a day by all but five of these families (mainly

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for breakfast). Rice is also seen as a part of “Hakka” identity. My landlady Songling often stated, for instance, that part of being a “real Hakka” was to desire and eat rice. Clear soups, made from a combination of one’s own and purchased ingredients, were like rice a seemingly nonnegotiable part of meals, consumed every day by all the families in the survey. 8. While drying and preserving vegetables is still practiced in the village, dried and preserved vegetables are no longer central to the diet. This is a key difference between the prosperity of the present and the difficult conditions of the past when dried vegetables played a much more central role. Nowadays, dried vegetables are more likely to show up as an optional condiment with congee for the morning meal, or as an ingredient in one particularly famous Hakka dish, consisting of braised pork and dried vegetables (meicai kourou). 9. Anna Lora-Wainwright (2009: 65) observed the same issue in a village in Sichuan that she studied. She notes that nitrogen-fertilized paddy fields create a cancer risk if they are too close to wells. Nonetheless, while locals in the village she studied also expressed negative attitudes about farm chemicals, “these substances were not condemned outright.” She notes that chemicals were popular for two reasons. They “produce literally spotless food” for the market, and they made “the workload lighter” for the elders, who were usually the farmers since younger villagers had migrated to urban areas to work. 10. I asked families to record what they ate for four days in a row in April 2007, choosing April because it was a time of year well beyond the New Year (when people ate more abundantly). In this way, I hoped to get a sense of the structure and substance of people’s everyday diets. In twenty-seven of the thirty-five families, meat was eaten every day. There were an additional five families that ate meat in three out of the four days, and only two families that ate no meat at all. This is significant, as stated, because the survey was not taken during a festival time when meat consumption would be expected to be higher than usual. 11. Indeed, among the thirty-five families surveyed, there was only one family that was entirely self-provisioning in the domain of meat, poultry, and fish. 12. Twenty-seven families reported eating fruit over a four-day period. Twenty-four out of thirty-five families surveyed consumed eggs, and ten of these thirty-five families consumed milk. 13. See Chee-Beng Tan and Ding Yuling (2010) for an insightful analysis of the promotion of fine tea drinking as an “invented tradition” in South China during the reform era. 14. “Sworn sisters” (jiebai jiemei) are very close friends, bound by oath. This relationship does not imply any particular obligations, but does imply a commitment to lifelong friendship. 15. Zhong tian de ren zuo gei zuo hengzhuo de ren chi. 16. Increased meat consumption in Moonshadow Pond is also associated with the relatively more prosperous times of the reform era in contrast to the collective era. In addition to the much more frequent consumption of meat in daily diets in Moonshadow Pond, it is also an important component of banquets, and therefore a key ingredient

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in social relations. The association of meat with the good life has a long history in China. Indeed, in ancient China, the expression “meat eaters” (roushizhe) was associated with the ruling class, whereas the expression which referred to vegetarianism literally means “plain eating” (sushi) (Kieschnick 2005: 193). The philosopher Mencius even went as far as to say that making sure the elderly could eat meat was an obligation of government (Sterckx 2005: 39). 17. Dan Robotham points out that in Moral Sentiments Adam Smith contended that the free market would free people by liberating them from local parochialisms (Robotham 2009: 280).

references Appadurai, Arjun. 1981. “Gastro-politics in Hindu South Asia.” American Ethnologist 8(3): 494–511. Becker, Jasper. 1996. Hungry Ghosts: Mao’s Secret Famine. New York: Free Press. Douglas, Mary. 1975. “Deciphering a Meal.” In Implicit Meanings: Essays in Anthropology, 249–75. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Douglas, Mary. 1982. “Food as a System of Communication.” In In the Active Voice, 82–104. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Dumont, Louis. 1980. Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and Its Implications. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Goossaert, Vincent, and David Palmer. 2011. The Religious Question in Modern China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Gudeman, Stephen. 2009. “Necessity or Contingency: Mutuality and Market.” In Market and Society: The Great Transformation Today, ed. Christ Hann and Keith Hart, 17–37. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hann, Chris. 2009. “Embedded Socialism? Land, Labor and Money in Eastern Xinjiang.” In Market and Society: The Great Transformation Today, ed. Chris Hann and Keith Hart, 256–71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hemelryk, Stephanie, and Donald Robert Benewick. 2005. The State of China Atlas. Berkeley: University of California Press. Humphrey, Caroline. 1997. “Exemplars and Rules: Aspects of the Discourse of Moralities.” In The Ethnography of Moralities, ed. Signe Howell, 25–48. London: Routledge. Jing, Jun, ed. 2000. Feeding China’s Little Emperors: Food, Children and Social Change. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Jing, Jun. 2004. “Meal Rotation and Filial Piety” In Filial Piety: Practice and Discourse in Contemporary China, ed. Charlotte Ikels, 53–62. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004. Kieschnick, John. 2005. “Buddhist Vegetarianism in China.” In Of Tripod and Palate: Food, Politics, and Religion in Traditional China, ed. Roel Sterckx, 186–212. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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Lora-Wainwright, Anna. 2009. “Of Farming-Chemicals and Cancer Deaths: The Politics of Health in Contemporary Rural China.” Social Anthropology 17(1): 56–73. Marriott, McKim. 1968. “Caste-ranking and Food Transactions: A Matrix Analysis.” In Structure and Change in Indian Society, ed. Milton Singer and Bernard S. Cohn, 133–71. Chicago: Aldine. Millstone, Erik, and Tim Lang. 2008. The Atlas of Food: Who Eats What, Where, and Why. Berkeley: University of California Press. Mintz, Sidney. 1985. Sweetness and Power. New York: Viking. Oxfeld, Ellen. 2010. Drink Water, but Remember the Source: Moral Discourse in a Chinese Village. Berkeley: University of California Press. Parish, Steven. 1994. Moral Knowing in a Hindu Sacred City: An Exploration of Mind, Emotion, and Self. New York: Columbia University Press. Patel, Raj. 2007. Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House. Robotham, Dan. 2009. “Afterword.” In Market and Society: The Great Transformation Today, ed. Christ Hann and Keith Hart, 272–83. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Smil, Vaclav. 2005. China’s Past, China’s Future: Energy, Food, Environment. New York: Routledge Curzon. Stafford, Charles. 2000. “Chinese Patriliny and the Cycles of Yang and Laiwang.” In Cultures of Relatedness, ed. Janet Carsten, 37–54. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sterckx, Roel. 2005. “Food and Philosophy in Early China.” In Of Tripod and Palate: Food, Politics, and Religion in Traditional China, ed. Roel Sterckx, 34–61. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Sutton, David. 2001. Remembrance of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory. New York: Berg. Tan, Chee-Beng, and Ding Yuling. 2010. “The Promotion of Tea in South China: Re-Inventing Tradition in an Old Industry.” Food and Foodways 18: 121–44. Thaxton, Ralph A., Jr. 2008. Catastrophe and Contention in Rural China: Mao’s Great Leap Forward Famine and the Origins of Righteous Resistance in Da Fo Village. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Thompson, E. P. 1971. “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century.” Past and Present 50: 76–136. Thompson, Stuart. 1988. “Death, Food, and Fertility.” In Death Ritual in Late Imperial and Modern China, ed. James L. Watson and Evelyn Rawski, 71–108. Berkeley: University of California Press. Watson, James L. 1987. “From the Common Pot: Feasting with Equals in Chinese Society.” Anthropos 82: 389–401. . (ed.) 1997. Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

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Yan, Yunxiang. 1996. The Flow of Gifts: Reciprocity and Social Networks in a Chinese Village. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Zhang, Qian Forrest, and John A. Donaldson. 2008. “The Rise of Agrarian Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics: Agricultural Modernization, Agribusiness and Collective Land Rights.” China Journal 60: 25–47.

chapter 3

Placing Alternative Food Networks Farmers’ Markets in Post-Soviet Vilnius, Lithuania renata blumberg This morning the market is slower than usual, but there is a steady flow of customers. A middle-aged woman takes her time examining the tomatoes at a stand. She comments that the tomatoes look beautiful and that her grandchildren would surely like to have some. The seller (a farmer) shows no response to the customer’s attempt at ingratiation, but answers clearly when the customer asks for the price of the tomatoes. “Five litas per kilo,” she says. The customer replies: “How expensive!” After a few moments of silence, the customer attempts to negotiate a lower price, but the seller won’t decrease it. No sale is made. —Field notes, farmers’ market in Vilnius, August 18, 2010

Farmers’ markets have experienced growing popularity in Europe and North America in recent years, in many ways becoming emblematic of new trends to foster alternatives to industrially produced, processed, and marketed food. Activists and scholars alike imagine farmers’ markets as ideal places for reconnection in a system that has historically produced greater and more sophisticated degrees of disconnection between producers and consumers of food. Farmers’ markets serve as meeting points for “alternative” food networks, supply chains that circumvent conventional modes of distribution and that often operate under an alternative logic (Watts et al. 2005). Markets are also places with their own cultures that develop within various geopolitical economic contexts, a factor that may influence the extent to which markets as places can bridge divides between the rural and urban, and consumers and producers. The short description of a typical and mundane interaction at a farmers’ market in Vilnius with which I begin this chapter reveals some of the dynamics 69

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and complexity of making connections and forging mutually beneficial linkages between two opposed positions: those of buyer and seller of a commodity. In addition, the vignette highlights how going to the market is a social practice that is embedded within cultural meanings and negotiations. In Lithuania, the market is one of the only places where bargaining over produce is an acceptable, and even expected, practice. Yet despite the significance of markets as social and economic spaces, predominant scholarly accounts of farmers’ markets, which have typically been centered in North America and Western Europe, have not sufficiently taken into account how different histories of production and consumption influence the emergence and practices of farmers’ markets. I argue that the recent notable growth of farmers’ markets in Lithuania needs to be understood in its cultural and spatial context. In my examination of the new farmers’ markets in Vilnius, Lithuania, I elucidate the kind of connections that are being forged and the ways in which social and spatial histories and practices of consumption and production influence those connections. In so doing, I highlight the ongoing importance of economic and social transformations in post-Soviet space. Beginning with a critique of existing literature on farmers’ markets, I then propose a relational understanding of place that can improve our understanding of farmers’ markets in different sociospatial contexts. I analyze this perspective first by considering trajectories of food production and consumption in Lithuania and then by situating those trajectories in relation to the rapid development of new food retail spaces over the past twenty years. Finally, I focus on the making of “new” spaces for “local” food, including farmers’ markets, which I argue must be analyzed in relation to existing retail spaces, especially regular markets, where certain kinds of social practices and spatial narratives have emerged and solidified. My analysis is based on seven months of fieldwork in Lithuania between 2009 and 2011, and draws on structured and semi-structured interviews with farmers and consumers in alternative food networks, interviews with policy makers, participant observation, and discourse analysis of media and texts.

spatialities of farmers’ markets Much research has analyzed the recent emergence and growth of farmers’ markets in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe (Åsebø et al. 2007; Connell et al. 2008; Hinrichs 2000; Holloway and Kneafsey 2000; Kirwan

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2004; Sage 2003). In the United Kingdom’s landscapes of consumption, farmers’ markets “represent a new and distinctive dimension” (Holloway and Kneafsey 2000: 286) that owe their emergence and success to consumer awareness and interest in healthy and ecological consumption. Although markets have always existed, and the post–World War II dominance of supermarkets may be a historical anomaly, new farmers’ markets are distinguished from their traditional antecedents by their emphasis on such notions as quality, locality, organics, specialty goods, and premium prices. Significantly, scholars have found that consumers ascribe qualities such as freshness to produce available at the farmers’ market simply because of its spatial context (Holloway and Kneafsey 2000). Yet research has also shown that the very characteristics designed to carve out an exclusive space for farmers’ markets, such as claims to “local” produce, quality, and authenticity, are less clear and even contentious (Smithers and Joseph 2010). What constitutes the “local” area of any given market can be variously defined and interpreted, and “localism” can cover a broad range of convictions (Born and Purcell 2006; DuPuis and Goodman 2005). Indeed, even though local farmers’ markets are often touted as “alternative” and progressive by their supporters, they can also foster conservative and nativist sentiments (Holloway and Kneafsey 2000). Recognizing the multivalent characteristics of farmers’ markets, Smithers et al. argue that farmers’ markets should be seen as “several co-existing spaces in which diverse groups of consumers and producers express a wide range of beliefs and behaviors” (2008: 349). The finding that places like farmers’ markets are not homogeneous or static entities is not a novel revelation. Theorists of spatialities, such as those who analyze place, have long emphasized the social construction of the spatial: places are not empty and static containers but products of relations (Massey 1994, 2005). Places, such as markets, are also historically and culturally embedded. Thus, while the aforementioned literature on farmers’ markets in Western Europe and the United States is useful in a comparative sense, the emergence of farmers’ markets in post-Soviet Lithuania must be analyzed with attention to the multiple historical trajectories of post-Soviet changes in consumption and production that forge farmers’ markets as places. Theorists have developed various conceptualizations to understand space and place as products of processes that interconnect social practices with physical settings. Setha Low (1996) emphasizes the need to examine both the social construction and social production of space by combining phenomenological with more materialist theoretical perspectives and analyses. Marxist

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thinkers, such as Henri Lefebvre (1991) and David Harvey (2006), have focused on the influence of capitalist logic in the social production of urban space, resulting in scholarly literature that prioritizes the study of class-based conflicts, capitalist urbanization, and most broadly, the political economic formation of the material landscape. While Low (1996) argues that the resulting insights on the social production of space are useful, they are limited in their ability to “account either for the agency of the individual actor or for the details of how spatial structures influence human behavior, and conversely, how behavior influences the experience, utilization, and allocation of space” (Low 1996: 862). Instead of abandoning the study of the social production of space, Low proposes combining it with the analysis of the social construction of space, which “is the actual transformation of space—through people’s social exchanges, memories, images, and daily use of the material setting—into scenes and actions that convey symbolic meaning” (Low 1996: 862). A combined emphasis on the social construction and production of space allows Low to shed light on conflicts over urban space. By paying attention to how political economic processes shape physical landscapes as well as people’s experiences, Low provides a multidimensional theoretical approach with significant methodological implications for ethnographic work. I build upon her insights by employing Doreen Massey’s work on relational understandings of place, as well as putting a greater emphasis on the role of nonhuman elements in constituting places. Relational approaches toward space underscore that places are produced through their relations with other places (Massey 1994, 2005). Because places are constituted relationally, they should not be viewed as enclosed, static, and reactive essences (Amin 2002, 2004; Massey 2005). The various social, cultural, natural, economic, and political interrelationships that forge space necessitate an understanding of places as heterogeneous multiplicities that bring together various material and even immaterial elements. According to Doreen Massey, places are forged through multiple trajectories, “where spatial narratives meet up” and “where the successions of meetings, the accumulation of weavings and encounters build up a history” (2005: 139). By using the term “trajectory,” Massey emphasizes the spatial and temporal “process of change in a phenomenon,” whether it is a “living thing, a scientific attitude, a collectivity, a social convention, a geological formation” (2005: 12). In my discussion here, I use this term to refer to the changes in production and consumption practices that are relevant to the formation of farmers’ markets. As I demonstrate in

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my analysis, the transformation of primarily rural working agricultural landscapes and urban consumption practices forms particular trajectories that meet together in the place of the farmers’ market. Because places are also always in process, farmers’ markets should not be expected to represent certain and stable kinds of values and attitudes that are held by everyone equally. Instead, a relational approach to place reveals the multiple histories, narratives, and practices that constitute places such as farmers’ markets and that connect different places, bringing together consumers and producers in potentially beneficial but also possibly antagonistic or indifferent relationships. Furthermore, this conceptualization of place disallows penetrating accounts of the local by the global, because it foregrounds that places are relationally constituted with each other, and not by placeless forces. Farmers’ markets are relationally constituted in part by the alternative food networks that link the rural and the urban, and producers and consumers, through food. They are also produced in relation to other retail places. For example, in Western Europe and the United States, many consumers approach farmers’ markets in search of the personal contact with producers that is lacking in supermarkets (Sage 2003). In part, these desires help forge farmers’ markets as new and exciting places for consumers, and hopeful places for activists and researchers. Likewise, farmers’ markets provide an outlet for producers who have been marginalized by conventional supply chains. This making of place through the coming together of multiple narratives, subjects, and materialities is a result of a particular historical trajectory of consumption and production that differs remarkably from that of other regions, even in Europe. In the following section I highlight these interrelated trajectories of food production and consumption, and then employ a relational understanding of place to examine how these trajectories “meet up” to form places of consumption (Massey 2005). This forms a critical background for my subsequent discussion of the emergence of multiple places of local food, including farmers’ markets.

trajectories of food production and consumption through post-soviet change The dramatic changes of the post-Soviet period transformed food production systems through the dismantling of collective farms and the privatization of

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property (Verdery 2003). In Lithuania, decollectivization followed a top-down approach and was informed by a radical policy of family farm and market fundamentalism (Juska et al. 2005). Guided by recommendations from the World Bank, IMF, and other international organizations, national leaders implemented decollectivization swiftly after Lithuania gained its independence in the 1990s, and largely without considering the perspectives of the rural population (Alanen 2004). The result was an agricultural sector dominated by a large number of small-scale subsistence-oriented family farms that possessed few assets, received little state support, and could not compete with the imports entering the market through the liberalization of trade. Analyzing the outcomes of rural changes in the 1990s, Alanen argues that the “family farm project thus turned not only into a plot farm project, but also or at the same time into a poverty production project” (2004: 49). Agricultural production and productivity recovered to some extent in the late 1990s. EU integration brought promised subsidies, but farmers also faced new challenges with the enforcement of strict food safety standards, which increasingly encouraged marginalized producers to sell their products in nonregulated, informal networks (Mincyte 2011). The restructuring of supply chains and increasing degrees of vertical coordination, both of which favored large farms, also marginalized small-scale producers. Programs initiated to support rural development, such as EU accession programs, disproportionately favored large-scale producers. Other factors, such as increases in competition and dwindling profits, have led to an overall decline in the number of farms. Yet a surprising number of small-scale farmers remain and are able to make a living through their direct access to consumers, especially in markets. Selling directly has become an established, if not always institutionally supported, practice that is even utilized by some mid-scale and large-scale farmers. One farmer, Ona, provides a typical illustration of this “transition” process in agriculture. Together with her husband and four children, she started a small-scale private farm in the early 1990s. Although she intended to specialize at some point, the instability of the 1990s encouraged her to maintain diverse production. Currently she keeps eight dairy cows and farms about two hectares in vegetables. Most of the milk goes to a processor, with the remaining milk and all of the vegetables sold directly to consumers or at seasonal farmers’ markets. She admitted to me in an interview that selling directly is a tiresome process, but it has its advantages, and, in any case, she does not have another choice. Ona explained that dealing with supermarkets is risky:

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she has heard that her neighbors have been fined for late deliveries and for substandard produce. She added that she would not be able to produce enough and that the prices are too low. Ona’s story is one small part of a complex trajectory of change in food production and distribution since the early 1990s. For the purposes of this analysis, the most relevant dimension of this trajectory is that the changes of the 1990s led to the creation of an agricultural sector dominated by numerous small-scale farms, which have cultivated alternative food networks as a significant, if sometimes questionably legal (Mincyte 2011), distribution mechanism. At the same time, involvement in conventional supply chains (mostly in the milk sector, but also in grain and meat production) is also part of farmers’ livelihoods. Despite this diversification and high degree of adaptability, the number of small-scale farmers continues to decline. Facing retirement and receipt of a small pension, and realizing that prices do not adequately cover costs, Ona herself contemplated scaling down production so that she would only produce enough for her family’s needs. Although none of Ona’s children engages in farming themselves, they do value her food, particularly because it fits their understanding of “natural.” In general, Lithuanian consumers place importance on natural food, which is understood “as coming from nature, as unindustrialized and self-made” and also “acquired from a trusted farmer” (Klumbytė 2009: 139). Lithuanian consumption practices and attitudes toward food are also animated by underlying spatial imaginaries. Local food (vietinis maistas) is associated with Lithuanian national territorial space, and it is largely contrasted with and preferred over “imported” food. This association exists even in cities and towns adjacent to other neighboring countries, such as Poland or Belarus. Imported foods from Poland and Belarus in particular are associated with inferior quality: food from Poland is associated with industrial production and the heavy use of pesticides, even though the Polish region adjacent to Lithuania is not a center of industrial agriculture, while in the case of Belarus, which is a much less dominant importer, there are still clear associations with Chernobyl and its aftermath. Thus, short distances do not necessarily engender favorable dispositions, and in fact may do the opposite. Although largely taken for granted by consumers, the territorial preference for food from Lithuania reveals the link between food and notions of identity. Ethnographic research in the post-Soviet region demonstrates how food and consumption practices and values are interwoven with political history, and

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with past and present geopolitical economic orders (Caldwell 2007; Klumbytė 2009). In Russia, Caldwell demonstrates that “the importance of natural foods for crafting a sense of identity, community, and spirituality has been amplified in the post-Soviet period” (2007: 64). In the face of anonymous and impersonal market relations, the community forged by natural foods is not only interpersonal, but also one between people and nature, and between Russians and their soil (Caldwell 2007). The association of Russian soil with the production of “ecologically clean” food, and even national taste preferences, what Caldwell (2007) labels as “geographic nationalism,” is intimately related with concerns about changing national values brought by the transition to a capitalist market economy. Throughout the transition processes, food has become a site that reflects changing values, as certain categories such as “local” and “natural” gain new meanings and heightened importance. Another informant, Miglė, explained that recently there has been more and more news coverage related to the harmful preservatives in industrially processed food, which has increased her awareness as well as her anxiety. Miglė reflected that “before,” food was more natural and that she did not have to worry about these things. Miglė struggled to define exactly when this “before” time was, but it is clear for her that now she goes to extra efforts to try to obtain natural foods for herself and her family. Although there are still producers like Ona, from whom Miglė would like to get her produce, in many cases their prices are higher than in the supermarket. Although Miglė’s salary is considered average, she still spends about one-half of her monthly income on food-related expenses. Managing her family’s food consumption thus requires navigating multiple places, including supermarkets, stores, and markets, where linkages between producers and consumers are made. What makes these places unique are the relationalities at play: they are relationally constituted in part by each other, in part by diverse trajectories of consumption and production. Places of retail, such as markets, where local produce is available, are defined by the connections with producers that are available there and unavailable in large supermarkets. These relationalities are also always in process, and can therefore be also challenged and remade.

trajectories making places In contemporary Vilnius, supermarkets are prominent features of the urban landscape. Even new and prestigious shopping malls, with boutiques catering

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to the elite, offer consumers the possibility of doing their food shopping at the supermarkets of dominant chains such as Maxima and Rimi. As in other countries of the postsocialist bloc, however, the appearance of supermarkets is a relatively recent phenomenon (Kreja 2004), and their rapid expansion since the 1990s symbolized the new opportunities for consumption brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to Czepczyński (2008), after experiencing chronic shortages, these societies welcomed such developments, which evoked promises for a new lifestyle with easy and reliable access to imported and previously hard to find goods. Self-service shopping became the norm for stores, mostly replacing shops that had showcased products behind the counter and necessitated service by cashiers. Supermarkets were admired not only for their novelty and the freedom they espoused, but also because they represented a relational and supposedly growing connection with the West. At the same time, the development of new retail spaces in the 1990s also produced a sense of ambivalence and even exclusion, as social inequalities grew and purchasing power for most declined (Rausing 2002; Stenning 2005). As supermarkets became the norm, and fierce competition between retailers ensued, these places quickly lost their early appeal. In contrast to the shiny new shopping malls and supermarkets, the more significant consumption spaces in the 1990s were those dominated by small-scale traders, including street vendors, kiosks, and open-air markets (Mažeikis 2004). Although these no longer hold the prominence they did in the 1990s, they are still important places for consumers to purchase food, especially local food sold directly from farmers and smallscale processors. According to a recent study, 77 percent of Lithuanian residents shop at open-air, city markets for food (Mikelionytė et al. 2010). In Lithuanian, turgus is the word used for markets, which are either privately or publicly owned and offer a range of goods, from food to manufactured goods. Many of the producers I interviewed can only sell a small fraction of their produce over the Internet, at “ecological shops,” or in supermarkets. Ecological shops are a new phenomenon, but they mostly carry imported cosmetic and household supplies. Especially for organic farmers, markets remain an important place to sell the bulk of their produce. But markets are more than just points of sale; they are also heterogeneous places where diverging and sometimes conflicting cultural and historical trajectories intersect. Much scholarly attention has been devoted to the study of open-air markets (henceforth, “city markets”) and market culture in Central and Eastern Europe

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(Aidis 2003; Hohnen 2001, 2003; Mandel and Humphrey 2002; Sik and Wallace 1999). These markets have been labeled as “open-air” markets because many developed in the open air, but they also included established city markets that have both permanent buildings and open-air trading areas. Although city markets existed in the Soviet era, during the 1990s informal trading flourished in these markets as border controls loosened and suitcase traders were able to import goods. As the state retail sector was privatized and organized bilateral trade between former socialist countries disappeared, open borders positioned small-scale traders favorably to acquire and supply products to the growing consumer culture (Sik and Wallace 1999). Before the establishment and dominance of a Western-style retail sector with its own logistics and supply chains, these traders could provide highly valued consumer goods in an expedited fashion. But these markets were also perceived to be risky and lawless spaces, where the boundaries between licit and illicit trading were blurred (Aidis 2003; Hohnen 2003). For example, one could find stolen merchandise, pirated CDs, poor quality products, and rotten food, as well as highly coveted items. Therefore, it was especially important for consumers to develop relationships with sellers. In the absence of any other quality assurance, relationships with sellers enabled consumers to get preferential access and special deals. In this sense the city markets in Vilnius resemble more closely the bazaars famously described by Geertz (1978) than the more recent farmers’ markets of the United States and Western Europe. What Geertz calls “clientelization,” or the tendency for buyers to continuously purchase from the same sellers, provides a certain structure in the otherwise chaotic bazaar where information about such details as product quality is both lacking and highly coveted. In their interactions, buyer and seller become “intimate antagonists” at once both “coupled and opposed” (Geertz 1978: 32). Yet while city markets may share certain similarities with bazaars worldwide, Sik and Wallace (1999) highlight the path-dependent development of city markets in the Soviet and post-Soviet era. The particular development of city markets in this space is related to deficiencies in the centrally planned economy, and subsequently in the postSoviet era to the opening of borders, the undeveloped formal retail sector, and the expanded possibilities for consumption. Moreover, another legacy from the Soviet era manifested itself in the widespread notion that trading was not considered a productive activity, and was therefore morally stigmatized, as were the market spaces associated with trading (Hohnen 2003; Mandel and

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Humphrey 2002). But this negative connotation was not universal: for many, the market was and still is “a place of survival and an island of hope” (Mažeikis 2004: 66). Although the prominence of city markets has faded since the 1990s, they still remain significant places for consumers to purchase food, and especially fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, city markets have outlived predictions of their demise, despite fierce competition from powerful retailers. The two biggest markets in Vilnius are Kalvarijų Turgus, located in the Šnipiškės district, a short bus ride from the center, and Halės Turgus, located in the old town and close to the train and bus stations. Both markets offer consumer goods, as well as food, but the product variety at Kalvarijų Turgus is more diverse, ranging from furniture to antiques and used goods. In the warmer months especially, both markets exceed their spatial boundaries, as mostly elderly women line up outside the market to offer such items as vegetables, berries, and preserves in limited quantities. Even though Halės market has recently been reconstructed, both Halės and Kalvarijų city markets still appear chaotic and improvised, with permanent stalls next to makeshift stalls. This feeling is heightened by the olfactory onslaught of the fish and meat sections especially, and the audible economies that feature a greater degree of mixture of various Slavic languages with Lithuanian than is usual in other retail spaces. Although both city markets advertise that they offer fresh and local produce, local farmers complain about the difficulty of getting into these markets and the competition they face from sellers who claim to be farmers but are actually resellers who buy from wholesalers or other farmers, or shuttle in imports from neighboring countries. This problem seems to be especially acute in Vilnius, where prices are generally higher. Consumers who want to buy local food are thus confronted with a frustrating situation in which they make conscious choices to buy local food but may very well end up buying the opposite. “It takes time to establish trust in who you are buying from at the market,” my neighbor Kotryna instructed me. “The market is a tricky place,” she continued, “and it is important to be careful about your choices, to guard your wallet against pickpockets, and not to believe any old ladies or certificates.” Certificates proving that the seller is actually a farmer are not to be trusted because they could be fake, or obtained through bribes. For consumers, legitimacy at the city market is not bestowed upon sellers who display the right paperwork. Kotryna goes on to detail how for several years she has gone

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to buy from the same sellers— some farmers, others not. Sometimes she is disappointed with the produce she buys, but she knows that she can always go back and bring up her issues directly to the seller. The only products that have consistently met her expectations come from a farmer who makes his own sausages. When I asked his name, she said that she did not know it, but she did remember some details about his family and where his stall is located in the city market. Another friend, Agnė, provided more detail about the difficulty in finding local food at city markets, or more precisely, trusting that food labeled as local is actually from Lithuania. Her neighborhood has a small market, which is dominated by resellers. She has established relationships with a few resellers who profess to buy a portion of their fruits and vegetables locally. Agnė acknowledged that she paid a little bit more for the local apples and was confident that they looked local, but she can never be completely sure. Besides, she added, one cannot buy these kinds of apples, small and a little bit dirty, at the supermarket. The lack of trust, and in general, the perception of possible cheating, such as through faulty scales, is a persistent concern, even when cheating may actually take place less frequently than is believed. Nevertheless, this perception is part of the spatial narrative that constitutes city markets as places. In the past twenty years, retail spaces in Vilnius have changed dramatically. New shopping malls dot the landscape, but as in other places in Eastern Europe, the predicted eradication of markets has not occurred alongside the rise of these new retails spaces (Kreja 2004). For consumers who navigate these spaces, the food retail sector itself has become more competitive, and cheaper prices at city markets are not guaranteed. But even as city markets are teeming with imported and tropical produce, much like in the supermarkets, city markets are still perceived as places that offer a greater opportunity to find fresh, local, and more natural produce from the Lithuanian countryside. They are places where cultivating personal relationships with sellers may be needed to receive a discount or access to the freshest fruit. They are also places where bargaining is acceptable, and where caution is urged. In other words, for consumers, they are a place that is constituted by a multiplicity of trajectories, but one of which may include favored relations with rural Lithuania, and small-scale producers like Ona with her vegetables. In contrast, supermarkets are constructed by different narratives and by distant and more obviously transnational spatial relationships with large-scale suppliers providing standardized products. This holds true even in sectors such as dairy,

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where small-scale producers have not been excluded by supermarkets. For consumers, the processed milk products on the supermarket shelves bear little resemblance to the raw milk and cheese sold directly by farmers (see Mincyte, this volume).

multiple places of local food The city market’s position as the most prominent location to buy local food has recently been challenged in Lithuania. Since 2008 the number of retail spaces in Vilnius that claim to offer local, natural food and to reconnect farmers and consumers has multiplied. From the perspectives of consumers, the appearance of these places parallels and is associated with the beginnings of the financial crisis in late 2008 and early 2009. However, the creation of these retail spaces was preceded by changes in regulations in 2008 that made it easier for farmers to process and sell their products to the local market. These changes in regulations coincided with a crisis in the milk sector, which featured protests by dairy farmers in multiple cities. The protests were particularly popular and drew many supporters because farmers organized to give away free milk. Possibly more troubling for state authorities was the growing trend of mid-sized dairy farmers marketing raw milk directly to consumers, a practice that had been dominated by small-scale farmers (Mincyte 2011). The State Food and Veterinary Service formulated and finally issued regulations for the sale of raw milk and other dairy products directly from the farmer. Incidentally, these regulations (B1–251) were passed on April 24, 2008, the day after dairy farmers declared a protest in which they would give away free milk to the public. These events created an opening for producer and consumer organizations to hold several meetings with the State Food and Veterinary Service over the course of 2008 to create new and simpler regulations for home processing and direct marketing of all food products. In effect, a set of regulations was articulated exclusively for production and sale of limited quantities within the local (i.e., national) market. For example, the limit for dairy producers was set at 1000 kg of milk per day, a limitation that has not hindered the sales of raw milk. Taking advantage of these changes in regulations and the increased offering of local food that now met hygiene standards, one new store offering products such as raw milk opened its doors in the old town of Vilnius in

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January 2009. Significantly, this store featured only Lithuanian, certified organic food. On my first visit to this bright and welcoming shop, one of the owners claimed that her store could be distinguished from other similar, small ecological shops because those stores tended to offer few products made in Lithuania. She emphasized that her clientele are mostly people with higher education and families with children, although few people were in the store when I visited. Although the nonperishable goods on display were abundant, the refrigerator was sparsely stocked with some farmers’ cheeses, yogurts, smoked meats, sausages, and goat’s milk. Most of the items were minimally packaged, and the slightly different shapes of the cheeses gave them the appearance of being homemade. The owner added that they buy directly from farmers who are trustworthy and reliable, and who produce delicious, quality food. However, the market for local food is a competitive terrain: when I returned to this store in September 2010, I found that it was closed. My subsequent emails to the owners were not answered. In the meantime, over the summer of 2010, a major supermarket chain, Rimi, introduced its own ūkininkų krautuvė (farmers’ shop, or stand) called “Vikis” (referring to the plant, vetch). After the opening of the first Vikis, the General Director of Rimi Lithuania, Tony Holmberg, informed the press: “In opening this ‘store in a store,’ in particular, we seek to contribute to the encouragement of consumption of local products, made by small and medium-scale producers, while better meeting the needs of our customers to purchase natural, local, farmer-produced or grown, quality and exceptional products” (Alfa 2010). Although located in Rimi’s vegetable and fruit section, Vikis is run by a separate company, which has its own personnel who wear Vikis-labeled aprons and assist customers. Vikis consultants also know the farmers personally and are constantly in contact with them, thus providing the consumer with some kind of a connection with the farmer. Mirroring the consistent layout of Rimi supermarkets, the design of Vikis is mostly identical in different stores. The presentation and selection of foods emphasize what is considered traditional Lithuanian food of smoked and cured meats, preserves, root vegetables, rye breads, farmers’ cheeses, raw milk, and other products. These items are also packaged in simple containers with minimal labeling. The vegetable display is adorned with baskets, sacks, and other decorations that evoke the Lithuanian countryside. Hanging above the produce shelves is a large sign that declares: “Vikis: Prepared for You in Lithuania.”

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Other supermarkets have also been claiming an interest in increasing their share of food sourced directly from farmers, thus ensuring their influence in the ongoing construction and formation of “local” food. However, the “local” food at the supermarket is generally more expensive than that found in city markets, and suspicion about whether or not this food actually is local still prevails for many consumers who do not associate supermarket food with fresh, local, and natural qualities. This mirrors Jung’s findings (this volume) on Bulgarian consumers’ distrust of certified organic produce in stores, and their overall preference to buy produce from elderly women in the city markets. In Lithuania, despite the proliferation of local food spaces, city markets still remain the most significant spaces for the procurement of local food, but new farmers’ markets have also been gaining in popularity with a mission to differentiate themselves from the already existing markets. In the following section I show how farmers’ markets are constituted by similar sociospatial practices and trajectories as are city markets, despite efforts to create the former as more trusted and reliable places.

making space for farmers’ markets The farmers’ markets that began to be organized in 2008 were enthusiastically welcomed by many participating producers and consumers alike. These markets differ from city markets because in most cases only farmers with the appropriate certification or other certified processing enterprises are allowed to participate. In fact, market organizers make a significant effort to differentiate the farmers’ markets from regular city markets and to ensure the trust of the consumers by emphasizing accountability. Most of Vilnius’s farmers’ markets are run by a farmers’ cooperative entitled “Lithuanian Farm Quality,” which spearheaded the creation of multiple farmers’ markets first in Vilnius and then in Kaunas. The official goals of the cooperative are: “the popularization of the Lithuanian countryside and farm quality in cities, the strengthening of the connection between the city and the country, the popularization of natural food, the production of food that satisfies safety requirements for consumers, the encouragement of connections between the consumer and producer” (LRZUR 2011). After conducting a feasibility study, the cooperative agreed that the best way to realize its goals was to form farmers’ markets. Organizers planned that these markets would become crucial places to reconnect farmers and consumers in new networks.

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Instead of building a permanent market like Halės and Kalvarijų Turgus, an organizer who had spent time living in Ireland introduced the idea of “mobile markets,” mirroring the temporary market spaces created for weekly farmers’ markets in Ireland. The first market opened in January of 2009, and following its success new markets were organized and more farmers joined the cooperative. Today there are more than forty such markets on different days of the week in different, mostly residential, neighborhoods of Vilnius and Kaunas. The cooperative has grown to include more than two hundred members, about sixty of whom sell their products throughout the year, while the rest sell seasonally. The organizers are conscientious about following all sanitary and administrative regulations and ensuring that only the designated vendors sell at the markets. Interestingly, many of these markets are situated next to supermarkets and only one is close to a small city market. The farmers’ markets are arranged so that each one has at least one vendor offering meat, fish, dairy products, honey, and, when available, fruits and vegetables. According to the cooperative, on offer are “traditional products exclusively from the Lithuanian countryside” (Verslo Banga 2010). Thus, in addition to milk, farmers’ cheese, and apples, one can find the popular lašiniai (a type of salt pork or white bacon) and different types of rye bread, all of which have been state-certified through the Lithuanian Heritage program. However, there is no requirement exerted upon farmers to sell exclusively what are imagined as traditional Lithuanian products. Many farmers have sought out old recipes for meat and dairy processing, as well as experimented with new recipes and adding in “foreign” ingredients. For example, I have seen farmers’ cheese coated with different spices, including curry. Overall, though, the offerings at the different farmers’ markets are very similar, as most of the markets cater to customers residing in the neighborhood. Although the cooperative claims to offer natural food, only a few of its farmers are actually certified organic. The claim about natural food is less about specific agricultural practices and more about the perception that the product is homemade and lacks chemical additives or preservatives (Klumbytė 2009). The success of the farmers’ market model in Vilnius is not due to the potential widespread applicability of the model of mobile markets from Ireland. Rather, farmers’ markets are successful because they create places for wellestablished production and consumption trajectories. In Lithuania, the city market was already the most appropriate place to find “local” food. Even with

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its own brand and logo attempting to assure customers, its publicized efforts in working with the State Food and Veterinary Service, and its spatial strategy of separation from existing city markets, customers still approach these farmers’ markets with the same sort of skepticism and precaution they employ in city markets. In other words, they forge these new marketplaces with the same cultural practices used in city markets. For example, consumers are mostly skeptical about certificates and labels and place greater importance on developing relationships with farmers and vendors. Producers seem to respond by placing little importance on advertising the farmers’ market as a farmers’ market or marketing with the cooperative’s logo. Although the food is similar to that which is sold in the Vikis store, there are no decorations representing the Lithuanian countryside. Vendors sell mostly from their vans or cars (occasionally retrofitted with windows), tents, or refrigerated vans. Despite these required investments, joining the cooperative and gaining a place in a market does not in itself ensure success, nor does it ensure that consumers will believe that they are actually buying quality, local food. This was emphasized to me by a fish vendor in a farmers’ market in a residential area on the outskirts of Vilnius. She recalled that there was once another dairy farmer in the farmers’ market, but he only lasted for a few months because his products were nekokybiški (without quality). She did not seem concerned that the reputation of that one farmer would be cast upon the whole farmers’ market because customers approached each vendor individually. Although she admitted that consumers are interested in buying food grown and produced in Lithuania, ask questions about the origin of the fish, and are even willing to pay a little more for local food, she reinforced the importance of offering a fresh, quality, and tasty product. She then pointed out one of the freshest pieces of smoked fish, took it, and cut off a sample for me to try for myself. The experience of the farmers’ market is very visceral in this sense (HayesConroy and Hayes-Conroy 2008). Even in the cold winter, when temperatures are around minus ten degrees Celsius, snow is falling, and sidewalks and roads are covered with ice, customers take their time examining produce in a careful and discerning manner, tasting available samples, or requesting to taste samples before they make purchases. During one such bitterly cold January morning, lines formed at several vendors at the farmers’ market right outside the Ministry of Agriculture in the center of Vilnius. The customers waiting to purchase poultry were grumbling about how slow the line was moving, but

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no one walked away. When I asked the woman in front of me why so many people were waiting to buy this poultry, she responded with a simple statement: “Taste it, and you’ll see.” Of course, taste is not a stable phenomenon and tastes vary. At another farmers’ market, I spoke with two pensioners who were actually not shopping at the market, but were taking advantage of the sunny spring weather to socialize outside. One claimed to have once bought some meat at the farmers’ market, but she said that there was too much fat and she could not eat it. She was not regretful about this, though. She simply said that after years of eating processed food from the store, she could not digest this natural food. Similarly, my neighbor, Kotryna, described how she previously ate natural and kaimiškas (countryside/rural) food when she spent many summers in the countryside as a child, but now she laments that she cannot handle eating it as much. She claimed that her body has gotten too accustomed to sanitized and industrial food. Even in the countryside, one dairy farmer’s adult daughter who does not plan to farm herself warned me against eating her mother’s butter because it might “taste like the barn.” Thus, evoking taste and the relationship between food and the body is one way some consumers distance themselves from the imagined Lithuanian countryside, and explain their acceptance of industrially processed food. Taste is closely related to the elusive concept of kokybė (quality). Many consumers with whom I spoke defined quality as primarily related to freshness and tastiness. Significant, but secondary, have been other characteristics such as naturalness and the limited use of chemicals in production and processing. Satisfaction with the quality of food at farmers’ markets was not always evident, as I witnessed several cases when customers complained to the vendors. On one cold January morning, one elderly woman complained for several minutes about the quality of the liver she had bought from that vendor the week before. She claimed that there was something wrong with it. She said: “I was thinking about bringing it back, but . . . but well, I fried it and ate it. What else should I do?” The vendor replied that mistakes do occur, but she did not apologize. Then that same customer proceeded to buy another piece of liver. From the perspective of vendors, spending several hours in cold weather and addressing these particular concerns of customers can be a tiring process. Although many of the seasonal vendors are farmers themselves, the farmers with bigger businesses and those who sell year round mostly tend to hire

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employees to do the vending. Some farmers have their names on their vans, but others do not have any identification besides a hanging certificate or a small label when required. A typical white van selling dairy products includes the required refrigerator, but there are no other embellishments. In fact, excessive packaging would seem to distract from the primary motivation that brings consumers to the market: to obtain fresh, high-quality, local, and natural food (which is minimally processed) at a reasonable or possibly negotiable price. Several of the consumers with whom I spoke also mentioned their desire to support local farmers, as well as their dismay that Lithuanian farmers receive one of the lowest rates of subsidies per hectare in the European Union. However, few customers considered that their practice of making purchases at farmers’ markets could be an important way to support local farmers. A problem discussed in the media has been that nonregistered vendors appear to sell at these “farmers’ markets.” Again the strategy of organizers to cultivate the positively perceived aspects of market culture in the farmers’ markets collides precisely with that very market’s spatial unruliness. The process of opening up a place for farmers’ markets also opens the door for anyone who has something to sell, including those who lack permission from the state to do so. One sunny spring day, I sat down on a large concrete bench to write field notes about my observations made at an adjacent farmers’ market, and I noticed that the elderly women sitting nearby had set up small displays of various items all around them. One had different types of herbs and teas, another jars of preserves, and yet another had a few scallions. The last one pleaded with me to purchase her last bunch of scallions, which she allegedly had grown on her balcony. I politely declined, but as I was looking up I noticed that all the women were repeatedly glancing with worry at the police car parked about one hundred meters down the street. But the car did not move, and eventually someone did come and buy my neighbor’s “last” bunch of scallions. Only a few minutes later, a middle-aged woman emerged from the nearby parking lot and gave my neighbor another bunch of scallions to sell. My interest piqued, I observed that none of the other informal vendors seemed to be working in such a team. In the farmers’ markets run by Lithuanian Farm Quality the vendors themselves are responsible for monitoring whether resellers or noncertified vendors appear in the markets. However, few seem to take any active stance, and many are ambivalent because resellers tend to focus on vegetables,

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precisely what is lacking in many of the farmers’ markets. On one sunny Saturday morning in May 2011, a farmers’ market near an “Iki” supermarket had more than one table with tomatoes and other fruit and vegetables that were not yet in season in Lithuania. A throng of customers had assembled. None of the vendors or the customers was concerned about the breach of farmers’ market rules. For these consumers, enforcing the farmers’ market as an exclusive place for farmers with food grown in Lithuania was evidently not a concern; as one vendor selling imported produce told me, “people just want tomatoes.” Whether in a farmers’ market or a regular market, consumers put priority on the freshness and quality of the product, and on forging relationships with vendors whose produce is most trusted. Less attention is given to the regulation that defines the marketplace. In other instances, the press has reported that noncertified sellers have marketed their produce on a larger scale, even posing as farmers who are part of the market (Murauskaitė 2010). This reveals the difficulty in governing the market, but it also provides reasons for competing supermarkets to berate the farmers’ markets and portray them as potentially untrustworthy, unsanitary places that serve to create unfair competition (Murauskaitė 2010). In this sense, the relationality of retail spaces is clearly evident through derogatory discourses and competitive practices. Even as supermarkets increasingly attempt to cater to the growing popularity of natural, Lithuanian food, “made like ‘at grandmother’s in the countryside’ ” (Šimulynaitė 2009), and stock their shelves with the same kind of products that are available at farmers’ markets, farmers’ markets still offer some advantages. For farmers producing food that can easily rot or go bad, selling at the farmers’ market provides them with greater control over their own products. For example, they can monitor expiration dates more effectively. Several farmers with whom I spoke claimed that the small ecological shops were especially unreliable in this respect, and that they also have a bad record of paying on time (or at all) for delivered produce. This is yet another advantage of the market: cash in hand. Thus, the farmers’ markets offer a place of limited but meaningful autonomy for producers (see Mincyte 2011 on autonomous farmers). From the consumer perspective, farmers’ markets are heterogeneous places that offer potentially the best financial deal for buying fresh, natural, and local food, but also invite the opposite possibility in which, for example, nonlocal food masquerades as local. Although this may not be a frequent occurrence,

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it is certainly a widely imagined prospect. Similarly, although the cooperative’s name includes the word “quality,” and all sanitary standards have been met, this does not ensure that quality is achieved in the eyes of consumers. Like in markets, consumers approach farmers’ markets with a degree of caution, building trust in certain vendors over time.

thinking through markets as places Encouraged by changes in regulations on hygiene and direct marketing of food beginning in 2008, alternative food networks in Lithuania have grown in importance as a livelihood strategy for farmers as well as an outlet for consumers seeking valued, local food. In Vilnius, the increasing importance of alternative food networks is symbolized by the growth in farmers’ markets, in particular those run by Lithuanian Farm Quality. While similar in some ways to farmers’ markets in North America and Western Europe, they are not identical and must be understood as emerging within both a very specific set of relationships to post-Soviet histories of production, consumption, and distribution, and a particular history in post-Soviet space that informs market practices even in new farmers’ markets. More broadly, traveling ideas related to the “alternative food” movement need to be understood as always interacting with existing historical and cultural values (Klein, this volume). This is true also for existing sociospatial practices, which produce “new” places in “old” ways. In Vilnius, farmers’ markets have been created as exclusive places for the sale of local products, but consumers still approach them with the same sort of multivalent cultural and spatial practices deployed at regular markets. Farmers’ market organizers try to differentiate the farmers’ markets from regular city markets, for example, by emphasizing adherence to hygiene regulations and publicizing that these markets are only for local food. Thus, like in other farmers’ markets in Western Europe and North America, organizers try to assert the market as a legitimate farmers’ market. However, legitimacy is not guaranteed or even expected, even in farmers’ markets with no obvious resellers. The market is a place where obtaining quality products and natural, local food is possible but not automatic. Trust in products cannot be totally assured by labels or brand names, but by the relationships forged between consumers and “known” sources. The idea that farmers’ markets are places of reconnection between producers and consumers, between the rural and urban, does not fully account for

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the complexity of the consumer/producer relationships in Vilnius. Farmers’ markets in Vilnius are certainly not places where reconnection is guaranteed, but it may be cultivated over time. I have argued that this form of reconnection mirrors the relationships at city markets between vendors and customers, rather than being a form of reconnection that entails that consumers prioritize supporting local farmers. This does not mean that consumers do not care about the plight of local farmers, but that they place less confidence in their ability as consumers to meaningfully support local farmers. By viewing farmers’ markets, city markets, and other retail places in dynamic relation with each other, I argue that significant insights can be gained on the nature of connections being made between producers and consumers.

note This research was made possible by grants from the International Research and Exchanges Board and the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies. I would like to thank Eric Sheppard and Helga Leitner, as well as the editors, Melissa Caldwell, Yuson Jung, and Jakob Klein, for their comments and encouragement.

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chapter 4

Ambivalent Consumers and the Limits of Certification Organic Foods in Postsocialist Bulgaria yuson jung

In the summer of 2012, I accompanied an old friend to a large and crowded supermarket in the basement of a new shopping mall in Sofia, Bulgaria. The supermarket was owned by a French corporation specializing in wholesale goods, and it had a large section devoted to organic products. This was marked by green-colored shelves and signs hanging from the ceiling displaying “bio” in Latin letters as well as in Cyrillic. Noting the difference from previous years where one could only find a small section for organic products in select supermarkets across the city, I asked my friend whether organics had become more popular in the last couple of years. My friend grinned and shook her head. She said that these were imported organics and therefore expensive. The majority of Bulgarians were still price-conscious. She whispered, “Look. We are the only ones even paying attention to these aisles.” Some of those products might be of higher quality, she added, but when it came to fresh produce and dairy products, many Bulgarians did not think that imported foods could taste better than those that came from Bulgarian soil. She continued that nothing could beat the quality of produce from the villages where things were grown naturally without chemicals. My friend’s commentary resonated with many of the Bulgarian perceptions of natural foods, which I have encountered during fieldwork in Bulgaria since 1999. In Bulgaria, organic foods were often understood and referred to as “natural” foods, that is, foods that are grown naturally without chemicals. In the Bulgarian marketplace, organic products bore the prefi x “bio” (an abbreviation of the Bulgarian word for organic), “eko” (from ecological), or the 93

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descriptors “organic” (adopted from the English word), “from an ecologically clean region,” “ecologically clean product,” or “ecological/organic product.” When asked about “organic foods” most informants, like my old friend, pointed to the high quality of produce that was grown from Bulgarian soil and cultivated without pesticides and other chemical additives. Traditionally, Bulgarians have considered their soil as a rare gift from God and insisted that their native fruits and vegetables were full of flavor thanks to their rich soil (bogata zemiya). Thus, the sudden influx of cheaper and often “tasteless” imported agricultural products as well as food fraud scandals associated with unhealthy and “fake” (mente) foods in the aftermath of socialism caused much anxiety and frustration concerning everyday food provisioning. Both consumers and farmers were dismayed at the rampant capitalist developments where moral standards of everyday foods did not seem to matter: harmful pesticides and chemical additives seemed to be the norm. During socialism, some Bulgarians remarked, there was little money for chemicals and thus the produce from the countryside was grown naturally and had “real” flavor. These experiences reinforced the public’s strong moral support for Bulgarian agricultural products and the protection of Bulgaria’s natural environment. They also informed Bulgarian understandings of “ethical” foods, which are not limited to foods labeled as certified organics, local food, or Fair Trade, even though these labels are how “ethical foods” are often identified in many advanced capitalist societies. One aspect of strong public moral support for Bulgarian agriculture was articulated in 2010, when Bulgaria introduced some of the strictest regulations against GMO farming in the world. Many Bulgarians protested over several months against attempts by the ruling party (GERP) to lift the ban on growing genetically modified crops in Bulgaria. Media coverage suggested that those who did not participate in the street protests still sympathized with the wider public opinion that GMOs should be banned. Ultimately, the Bulgarian parliament not only rejected the proposal but increased the stringent anti-GMO regulations. This incident had two implications for ordinary Bulgarians who were wary of food safety and keen on consuming what were termed “real” (as opposed to tasteless or fake) foods. First, it suggested that whatever is grown domestically is GMO-free. Second, it also meant that in order to find GMO-free products in the Bulgarian marketplace (including imported products), consumers had to look for organic foods because only the certified organics

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guaranteed GMO-free products. The GMO controversy therefore was not only indicative of the nascent organic movement in Bulgaria, but it was also telling in terms of how Bulgarians embedded their agricultural tradition and historical experience of farming and consuming “natural” foods within the rapidly changing global economy. By “nascent organic movement,” I refer to organized efforts by activists as well as deliberate efforts by Bulgarian consumers and producers to support the values of organics. The latter operated on multiple levels: for the taste and health of the nation, for the health of the Bulgarian rural landscape and agriculture, and for the Bulgarian natural environment. Within this context, everyday consumption of naturally grown foods from the Bulgarian soil was also a public debate about how to reinstate moral standards in food production and consumption in the era of globalization and rampant neoliberal capitalist developments. Given all this, why is it that, despite their increasing visibility in various marketplaces, certified organic products in Bulgaria are not very popular among ordinary consumers? One obvious reason is the price factor but, as I discuss in the following, there are other reasons related to how Bulgarian consumers understand and value “organic foods.” In this discussion, I examine the perceptions and practices around organics in Bulgaria to show what they suggest about people’s attitudes toward the state, the market, and morality in the aftermath of state socialism. In particular, I focus on two intersecting issues pertaining to the perceptions and practices of organic foods in postsocialist Bulgaria: first, ideas and meanings of “voluntary product certification” for consumers, and second, how perceptions about certification shape practices of social trust and social responsibility. Voluntary product certification is the conventional process of certifying products through third-party private agencies in a capitalist market system. Most of my Bulgarian informants did not know that “certification” was voluntary; although organics producers had the option to obtain certification, this step was not obligatory. Bulgaria’s numerous food fraud scandals, especially those having to do with “fake” foods, have greatly contributed to consumers’ diminishing social trust vis-à-vis producers, merchants, and the state (Jung 2009). Within this context, the question of who did the certifying became important among Bulgarian consumers who placed ethics at the center of everyday food provisioning. Debates on social trust and social responsibility (or the lack thereof) point to

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the particular contexts that animate the practice of moral economies. They also show how ordinary consumers seek alternatives against unreliable and often unethical corporate and state practices. The discourse and practices around organic foods in Bulgaria ultimately raise questions about the moral and the political in emerging market economies, and thereby offer different ways to view the relationship between economy and society through ethical consumption (e.g., Carrier and Luetchford 2012). The postsocialist context is important here because it highlights consumers’ fundamental shift in relating to society and engaging with moral economies. In the following, I first discuss the meaning of ethical consumption and social trust in the postsocialist setting. Scholarly discussions on moral discourse and ethical consumption thus far have not focused extensively on the complex perceptions and relationships that consumers have vis-à-vis voluntary certification and regulatory processes, which mediate organic products in the global marketplace (cf. Klein 2009; for discussions on producers‘ relationships to certification, see Grasseni 2012; Guthman 2004, 2007; Vankeerberghen 2012). Even less attention has been given to the role of the state in regulatory processes, because discussions of ethical consumption tend to be deeply embedded in neoliberal ideas of what Carrier (1997) calls the “Market” (Besky 2008; Carrier and Luetchford 2012; De Neve et al. 2008; Dolan 2005; Harrison et al. 2005). I suggest that the postsocialist setting provides a productive vantage point from which to think about these regulatory processes of voluntary product certification that are implemented currently by thirdparty, nonstate actors. These practices have significant bearings on consumers’ attitudes and shopping for organic foods. I then examine the history and practice of organic production and consumption in Bulgaria and discuss ideas of control and social trust by focusing on issues of certification schemes, which pose problems for Bulgaria’s organic movement. On the one hand, there is a strong recognition among the wider Bulgarian public that organically grown foods are good. On the other hand, many Bulgarian consumers feel ambivalent about trusting what is “certified” as organics in the marketplace, a hesitation that is further troubled by the higher prices of these items (oftentimes 60–85 percent more than conventional products). This prompts many difficulties for Bulgarian organic producers, who want to sell in the domestic market and expand their production. In conclusion, I discuss what organic foods mean in the Bulgarian context, and how the Bulgarian example illustrates that “ethical” food consumption

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practices cannot be understood merely within the context of “immoral” capitalist market exchanges. Rather, how consumers view the role of the state affects the way they understand and consume organic foods. Bulgarians’ experiences of socialism and postsocialism inform such understandings, and the Bulgarian example highlights how issues of ethical foods are deeply related to Bulgarians’ expectations of the state.

“ethical” consumption, social trust, and governance Scholarly discussions of ethical consumption are often premised upon the relationships of producers and consumers in the industrialized market economy, where producers and consumers have become increasingly disconnected in the process of commodity circulation (e.g., De Neve et al. 2008; Harrison et al. 2005; Lewis and Potter 2010). This disconnect causes tensions in social relations, and questions how values are created and how such globalized markets are regulated under those circumstances (De Neve et al. 2008). Scholars have argued that the ethical consumer, under these circumstances, prefers objects that are produced more responsibly (socially as well as environmentally) (Carrier and Luetchford 2012), and seeks to reconnect with the producers through caring and responsible behaviors (Harrison et al. 2005). Do ethically motivated consumption practices, however, always assume a disconnected relationship between the producer and consumer? Could ethical consumption also be a critical reaction against a highly deregulated market and the failure of the state to perform its moral obligations to its citizens by offering a sense of safety and social trust in the commodities that are being circulated and offered in globalized markets? Recent scholarly studies on the organic movement have often engaged with the idea of ethical consumption. These studies discuss, for example, discourses of morality and economy under neoliberal globalization (e.g., De Neve et al. 2008; Mandel and Humphrey 2002), notions of community, locality, and values (Pratt 2008), and “alternative” or “counter-hegemonic” economic practices, networks, and ideologies (Caldwell 2007; Guthman 2004; Vankeerberghen 2012). The majority of these studies are anchored in the advanced capitalist systems where scholars have not looked as much at the issues of control and trust of the ethical product when discussing and practicing ethical consumerism (e.g., Harrison et al. 2005; Maclachlan 2006; cf. Caldwell

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2007; Luetchford and Pratt 2011). In other words, they do not address the question of whether consumers actually ask who does the certifying (for example, private agencies or government agencies?). According to Maclachlan (2006), who compared consumers’ attitudes toward GMOs and organics, average consumers in the United States and Japan consider a certified organic stamp on the commodities sufficient for consumers to trust the authenticity of organics (non-GMO products). While informed consumers in these places may actually question the authority and standards for certified labels, the general public will assume that such labels can be trusted. Rather than practiced by the state agencies themselves, however, the certification process is often transferred to a third party in the neoliberal market environment. Organic certification in the U.S. and Bulgaria, for instance, is processed by private agencies which are designated and approved by the state. In a way, neoliberalizing principles have led to the proliferation of regulation, not all of which is governed by the state. This means that consumers are faced with more individual choices and responsibilities for their own well-being. The complex relationship between attitudes toward “certification” (as a necessary component to be identified as “organic” or “Fair Trade” in the modern marketplace, for instance), its process, and authority provide meaningful insights into an emerging organic movement in postsocialist settings. For example, in Bulgaria ethically motivated critiques of global trade regimes are based on citizens’ traditionally tight relationships to rural communities. It is very common to hear comments such as, “In my father’s village, the peppers are just fantastic—they are real. They have flavor.” While rapid urbanization occurred under state socialism, many Bulgarians continued to spend summers in the native villages of their parents and grandparents and maintained relationships with relatives who remained in the villages. In fact, during the uncertain times in the early years of transition to market economy when food shortages hit urban areas, urbanites with rural ties survived with the help of foods supplied by relatives in the villages. Those who did not have any rural ties (which was uncommon) were considered to be “punished” by rural people who would not sell foods to them (rural people argued that they did not even have enough for themselves and their relatives). Consequently, these urbanites had a considerably harder time procuring basic foods. Additionally, with the collapse of the socialist regime the whole country was subjected to the land restitution process, which returned small pieces of land to the original owners and their descendants of the precommunist era. Positive sentimental ties to

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the rural communities, therefore, are commonly expressed among many Bulgarians (cf. Klein’s case in China, this volume). Bulgarians’ sense of social trust and social responsibility, which relies on alternative moral perceptions of the economy, can also be understood in regards to this traditional rural connection. As I will examine below, the complex and often contradictory perceptions of and reactions to “certification” by Bulgarian consumers result in locally meaningful alternative practices of “organic” foods. The Bulgarian case stands in contrast to other ethnographic case studies in postsocialist settings, where practices of ethical food consumption revolve around notions of modernity and the emulation of “Western” lifestyles (e.g., Dombos 2008). The organic movement in Bulgaria seems to have two dimensions. Ideologically, as seen in popular anti-GMO protests, Bulgarians embrace Western-inspired discourses of organics with their emphasis on ecological sustainability, health concerns, and land stewardship. On the experiential level, Bulgarians’ practices of organic food consumption are driven by desires to protect themselves from “crooks” and the untrustworthy state actors who create consumer anxiety with unregulated “fake” foods. These practices further Bulgarian consumers’ support for poor villagers and their critique of the changes from socialism to capitalism, which left villagers in dire conditions (Creed 2011). The meanings of ethical consumption, therefore, are based on diverse sociocultural circumstances and should not be taken for granted. In other words, whereas “ethical” within the hegemonic discourses of the “Global North” may often be thought of in terms of the standards of labor rights, working conditions of the workers, or animal welfare arising from the risks and excesses of capitalist system–driven lifestyles (Besky 2008; Lewis and Potter 2010; Nutzenadel and Trentmann 2008), the parameters of what constitutes “ethical” can differ in diverse settings. Similarly, ethical standards cannot be disembedded from the sociocultural contexts in which they are located. As De Neve et al. (2008: 20) point out, “labels, certificates, as standardized markers of value, . . . risk dis-embedding human relationships in ways similar to money.” To understand the organic movement in postsocialist Bulgaria, it is imperative that we take heed of the local meanings of “ethical” and “ethical standards.” Thus, taking the Bulgarian case to examine the meaning of “ethical” and understand the parameters of “ethical standards” in a postsocialist context expands current debates on ethical consumption and social responsibility. Furthermore, I suggest that the role of state actors in the neoliberal

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market system should not be undermined or dismissed in understanding current ethical food movements. Postsocialist critiques of the contemporary global food systems are not simply driven by antimarket sentiments. Rather, they point to profit-only driven economic behaviors, which destabilize existing moral standards. For many postsocialist consumers, the state remains a meaningful social category and reference point in reinstalling such standards in the so-called self-regulating market economy.

the organic fair: the current state of the bulgarian organic movement During my fieldwork in Bulgaria in November 2008, Nikolai, the leader of the consumer organization BNCA (Bulgarian National Consumer Association, officially renamed Active Consumers as of January 2010), texted me saying I should visit the “organic (product) fair” in the newly established industrial complex in Sofia. BNCA had recently completed a project (sponsored by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) in collaboration with the organic farming NGO Bioselena on monitoring “fake” (mente) organic products in the domestic market and educating consumers about organic products to protect the organic producers and ultimately contribute to the development of organic agriculture. While organic products had become more popular among Bulgarians in the past few years, the proliferation and undiscriminating usage of the food label “organic” had been associated with the latest food-related fraud scandals in Bulgaria. There had been a growing awareness about environmental pollution around the world, the overuse of “chemicals” (pesticides) in industrial farming, and the poorly regulated, and what many Bulgarians called “immoral,” rural development led by capitalist “crooks” (moshenitzi). As has been noted in some consumer markets, consumers’ fear and distrust of “fake products” were considered both the motivation and limitation for alternative food movements (Jung n.d.; Lin n.d.). The project diagnosed that the biggest hurdle to the development of the Bulgarian organic food industry and agriculture was the abuse of “organic/natural/ ecological” labels in various products in the domestic market. Not only were they misleading, thus manipulating consumers, but they were also highly discouraging for “real” organic producers. The latter bore the higher production costs (including the certification cost) of organic products, making it difficult for them to compete with purveyors of the “fake” organic products

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often offered at a cheaper price point than the “real” ones. The project also found out that such abuses were caused primarily by insufficient knowledge of organic labeling rules in which certification remained a key concept. The organic fair, in its second year, aimed at popularizing the organic movement. There were about twenty booths indoors and some ten booths outdoors. The outdoor booths offered mostly domestic organic food items and the indoor booths exhibited organic food (cheese, yogurt, cereal, cold cuts), wine, essential oil, and clothes, both from Bulgaria and foreign countries such as Italy and Austria. They also included booths of a Bulgarian organic certification agency (Biocert) and the consumer organization (BNCA), which were there to inform consumers how to recognize and differentiate “real” organic products. In the midmorning of a weekday, the fair was not very crowded in the sleek, modern-looking exhibition hall of a new office building complex, but a number of interested consumers seemed to enjoy exploring one booth after another, tasting samples and chatting with the producers. During my three-hour stay at the fair, the most common reaction that I heard from the visiting crowd was “very nice, but a little expensive” (mnogo hubavo, no skupichko). The producers then would start explaining what “organic” products entailed, including an overview of the production and certification processes that all factored into the final cost of the product. One cheese producer, for instance, emphasized how their products tasted “authentic” and actually had a “taste” thanks to the organic production methods, which were more costly than conventional mass production. Organic methods, he continued, yielded high-quality products that were inevitably more expensive. One of the most interesting observations I made was at the booths of the organic certification agency and the consumer organization. The former had two large, colorful charts on the table that showed the certification process of organic products and the credentials of the agency including the seal of approval from the EU. The latter displayed different food items easily found in the market that bore the common, misleading labels of “bio” and “eko” without having a proper certification stamp or logo of the certification and control agencies. In accordance with EU regulations operating in Bulgaria, all organic products must be certified by private agencies that are approved by state authorities to provide such certifications. Many consumers gave out a knowing, cynical smile when they realized that some of the familiar items in the supermarkets described as “organic” were in fact mente (fake). It is not surprising, therefore, that many Bulgarians had ambivalent attitudes toward the

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consumption of organic products. This inevitably impacted the organic production for the domestic market. According to my informants, only a handful of people with economic means or those who were exposed to Western organics discourses, commonly referred to as “elites” in Bulgaria, would buy imported organic food products. As my close friend Maria told me: “At least in the Western [European] countries, when it says organic, it is organic. You trust they are not mente, as in our country.” In contrast, many ordinary consumers who referred to themselves as “normal people” (indicating their limited financial resources—this applies to full-time employees as well as pensioners) repeatedly told me that they would be hesitant to pay a price premium for organic products, especially those that are domestically produced. They explained that unlike in the more developed West, the “control” of real organic products is unreliable in Bulgaria. “In this country,” Valya, another friend and a sympathetic consumer of organic food products, continued, “there are too many moshenitzi (swindlers/crooks).” When I reacted by saying that there are also EU-approved certification agencies in Bulgaria and if one knows how to recognize their certified products, they ought not to be mente, my informants and friends cast a suspicious look at me for my naïveté. At the same time, it is interesting to note how strongly ordinary Bulgarians feel about the relevance of organic agriculture for the future of Bulgaria’s economic and rural development and for their own well-being. Recalling the surprisingly active and persistent public participation at the anti-GMO protest in 2010 regarding the future of Bulgaria’s agricultural development, I observed comparable attitudes at the organic fair while talking to some organic producers and NGO activists/experts of organic farming. They emphasized how organic farming provided an effective niche for Bulgaria’s agricultural export sector. The problem was that the state had not given out any subsidies or come up with a system that would benefit small-scale organic farmers. Organic farming was still practiced by mostly small-scale farmers and it was difficult for them to go through the rigorous and costly organic certification process needed for export. For many organic producers, the margins of profit from exports appear larger, and they consider the Western consumer market easier to deal with thanks to the more established clientele and better understanding of certified organic products. In the domestic market, they have to convince the skeptical consumers, compete with “fake” organic producers, and contend with the unreliable regulatory authority of the state.

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“grab the niche opportunity!”: organic farming Organic agriculture in Bulgaria has more than twenty years of history. In 1987, a group of researchers from the Agriculture University in Plovdiv5 established the Agroecological Center, where they demonstrated one of the first organic farms. Vegetables produced in this farm were sold at a stand in the Thursday Market in Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, in the 1990s. Although these vegetables were organically produced, they were not certified as such. The first Bulgarian certified organic products entered the market in 2001, coincident with the Bulgarian government’s announcement to prioritize organic farming, relying on the argument that Bulgaria’s farmland was suitable for organic agriculture. The organic products farmed in the Bulgarian soil would prove to be highly competitive in the global market. After all, the government emphasized, Bulgarian produce had a taste. A leading organic farming expert and activist with Bioselena, Stefan, also confirmed the public sentiment that Bulgarian organic products were valued in the export market because people there (in Western Europe) recognized “taste” and “quality.” Despite the state’s active promotion and promise for organic agricultural developments as well as the Bulgarian pride in their fresh produce, the number of certified organic farms in Bulgaria has risen only very slowly. And those farms are largely export-oriented, which explains the relatively nascent state of the organic movement in Bulgaria. The public GMO debate in 2010 provided a more pronounced awareness of the organics alternative, but it did not prove to be as influential in spreading certified organics as a wider social movement. One of the major obstacles for these developments, I suggest, is related to Bulgarian perceptions of certification. For many Bulgarian organic producers, the idea and process of voluntary certification for organics was difficult to deal with. Both the socialist and postsocialist experiences taught them that everything involving bureaucracy was doomed to include unpleasant encounters and was often not simply a matter of objective “scientific” examination. In many Bulgarians’ historical consciousness, special social relations with authority have always played a role in the end result. The popular perception was that if during socialism it was reciprocal favors that shaped social relations (Ledeneva 2006; Verdery 1996), in the postsocialist era there was often an added monetary transaction involved. In plain language, “certification” now could be bought. This kind of social distrust regarding certification was furthered when the Ministry of Agriculture and Food suddenly

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approved four more certification agencies in 2006 right before Bulgaria’s official joining of the EU in 2007. In preparation for the EU integration, Bulgaria had initially approved one nonprofit certification agency that had been recognized by Western importers, which played a crucial role in the first wave of export of legally certified Bulgarian organic products. It was already challenging for organic producers to understand that certification agencies were private entities approved by the state. In other words, the state did not directly “certify” and regulate their products. Having now five choices to seek certification made many of the organic producers more confused than relieved, despite the potential for competition among the agencies, which could be beneficial for the producers. Certification was a major production cost, which provided compelling reasons for the need for state-managed EU subsidies. It was extremely difficult for a small-scale organic farmer to afford a rigid and costly certification process (e.g., Guthman 2004). Unlike in the domestic market, where consumers were yet to be educated and informed about the importance of “certified” organic products, the organic farmers would not be able to sell their products in the Western market without proper certification. While Bulgarian organic agriculture is developing with difficulties, market research suggests that more organic products are being sold in the Bulgarian market nowadays. According to an estimate by Bioselena, the leading NGO for organic agriculture, in 2009 only 7.6 percent of the organic products sold in Bulgaria were actually produced in Bulgaria, indicating that the majority of organic product sales were from imports. Among the fifty-four certified Bulgarian organic products in the domestic market, thirteen of them were fresh products (milk, yogurt, cheese, bread, salami, sausages, cucumbers, and tomatoes) and the rest were canned goods as well as honey and dried herbs. A more recent media report in 2012, as well as a report by the Bulgarian Agricultural Academy in 2011, suggested that Bulgaria ranked last (although the consumption is increasing) among EU member states in terms of the consumption of organics. For example, a Bulgarian consumer had nearly no expenditure on organic products per year, whereas a Danish consumer spent 140 Euro on organics. Interestingly, while these reports suggest that Bulgarians are not avid consumers of “organic” products, my Bulgarian friends and informants insist otherwise. They contend that whenever they can, they try to buy and consume naturally produced products that taste like the ones from their families’ villages. In the following section, I will examine the local meaning of ethical food consumption through Bulgarians’ engagement with “organic” food.

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“only grannies sell ‘real’ organic food— everything else is fake”: organic food consumption In several open-air markets around Sofia, Bulgaria, where fresh produce is sold, one can easily find elderly women (babi) and men (dyadovtsi) from the nearby villages who sell their garden produce in corners of the markets. They often have an unofficially designated place to sell their produce, located a little off the main stalls of these markets or sometimes in a nearby side street or alley. Savvy consumers, such as my Bulgarian friends, always urged me to shop from these babi to buy the real stuff—“natural” produce without any chemical additives, food that actually had a “taste.” As Zvetelina, an enthusiastic consumer of “organic” foods, mentioned to me in one of our grocery trips together, “If you want real bio-hrana (organic food), you have to buy it from the grannies [from the village].” In other words, I would be able to buy “organic” produce from these villagers, because in the local context “organic” entailed foremost something produced naturally as they did in their fathers’ villages, without chemical additives in the farming process. In Sofia’s open-air produce markets, it is not uncommon to see consumers bending down to examine vegetables, fruits, herbs, and honey in the flimsylooking mini-stands where the villagers display their produce. My 30-year-old friend Irene was disappointed one day when she could not find her “grannies” in the market to buy some tomatoes and corn from them. She heard that the police were controlling unlicensed vendors and the villagers had taken off earlier than usual. Very likely, she added, they will not be in the market for a few days. Such controls did not happen often, as the presence of these grannies was not in direct competition with the market vendors (the quantity and variety sold by the grannies were very limited), and the police mostly seemed to turn a blind eye. Official control, however, did happen once in a while. Because the grannies could not bring a huge quantity of produce, their items usually sold out quickly. For example, I learned that in the early morning they harvested their produce grown mostly in their gardens and small plots in their villages, arrived in the market late morning, and were usually gone by 4 p.m. or so. In addition to the quality of the produce approved by the consumers themselves, Sofia urbanites were also showing their moral support for the grannies. Such consumer practices of buying from them also reflected consumers’ moral critique of the state and of the social changes that had left these grannies to rely on the sales of their garden produce for survival and created the

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destitute situations of rural communities. My informants frequently remarked that they would rather buy from these poor grannies than from the merchants in the open-air markets. In my informants’ eyes, the grannies were not driven for profit like the merchants, but simply needed to sell their produce to survive. While some informants recalled occasions where they felt the grannies were trying to sneak some bad-quality produce in their sales, generally they did not feel that the grannies were cheating them (cf. Blumberg, this volume). The produce that the grannies sold looked “natural,” by which, my informants explained, they meant that unlike produce sold by the merchants, the goods that the grannies sold often looked ugly and withered or perished more quickly, this being indicative of the lack of chemicals. A similar tendency for equating natural/tasty produce with organic produce could also be found at a popular restaurant in Sofia. Focusing on simple, comforting “grilled” food and salads, commonly perceived as Bulgaria’s culinary staples, the owners proudly emphasized in the menu that many of their food items, and especially the daily specials, used the freshest and most natural ingredients bought from the “grannies” across the restaurant by the Boulevard Madrid. Mitko, one of the owners as well as an established restaurateur in Sofia, told me that these grannies provided tasty, naturally produced ingredients, which was important for the food in his restaurant because he wanted customers to enjoy the authentic taste of his food. He emphasized that he was not using the grannies or the description of “natural” food as marketing tools. When I asked whether he would buy “organic” products from the stores, he looked at me wide-eyed: “What for? I don’t see any reason why those bio products taste any better and whether they are actually different from the ‘normal’ [conventional] ones. Do you know that many of them are actually mente?” Similar to my other friends’ remarks, the meaning of “organic” in the local context made more sense in terms of “taste” and “naturalness,” which they often contrasted to the imported produce available in the markets. In the words of a 50-year-old informant, Nadja: “You know those nice and fresh-looking tomatoes? But they are tasteless. They have no flavor. Besides, they do not even go bad for a long time because of the preservatives—they have lots of chemicals.” When discussions about fresh produce start in Bulgaria, they are often accompanied by a comment about the difference between the “artificial”/ “unnatural” products in the market and the “real” products that can be found in one’s grandfather’s (grandmother’s/father’s/mother’s) village. For instance, several common standards were mentioned to differentiate the two: taste/

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flavor, appearance (“real,” “natural” items look aesthetically less appealing), and perishability. Even for those rare multiple-generation Sofians with few rural ties, fresh produce from the villages evokes nostalgic sentiments about the natural and the authentic. When I asked my friends how they knew for sure that the grannies’ veggies and fruits or the ones from the villages were actually organically produced, they replied while gesturing with their hands out of frustration to my seemingly “naive” question: “Look, Bulgarian villagers are too poor even to afford fertilizer, so rest assured that whatever is produced in the Bulgarian soil by those grannies is ecologically clean and actually the real bio-hrana [organic food].” I pointed out that certified commercial organic products were also ecologically clean, natural, and organic. “Maybe,” suggested Ilian, a friend in his late forties who remained unconvinced of the higher price-premium for organic products, “but, girl, what does it mean ‘certified’—who is certifying what, based on what kind of standards? And how can we trust it is not mente? These private certification agencies—it is just another scam to make money off the poor farmers and consumers.” Given those perceptions of “natural” foodstuffs and distrust of the legal and bureaucratic process of “certification,” it is not surprising to see Bulgarian consumers reacting suspiciously toward commercial organic products in the stores. Similar skepticism was demonstrated by my 78-year-old landlady, Ina, when I brought home a certified organic yogurt produced in Bulgaria from the supermarket. This particular yogurt was produced by a Swiss-Bulgarian couple who obtained one of the first organic certifications in Bulgaria for their commercial food products including yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs, and bread. During my fieldwork in 2008 and 2009, they opened their direct sales stores in two Sofia neighborhoods with a higher than average income and education level. They had also been actively promoting their products in big supermarket chains. Their products were recommended by several informants, and when I saw their yogurt in the grocery store one day, I grabbed a couple of small pots to share with my landlady. When we first tasted the yogurt, Ina smiled and nodded approvingly. “The taste is very good—(it) tastes ‘real’ [istinsko] and ‘natural’ [naturalno], like in the old days. Perhaps, it is worth the extra money. But, let me do an experiment with it. I will put a spoonful in the fresh milk I buy from the farmer. If the milk turns into yogurt, it means it is a real and natural one. If not, well—it is mente, regardless of what the [certification] stamp here tells you.” We waited a couple of days to see the result of Ina’s experiment. To our dismay, the milk never turned into yogurt.

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Regardless of the actual science behind this kind of consumer experiment, what is illustrative here are the perceptions of “organic” that make sense locally. To Ina, the fact that the yogurt did not turn the milk into yogurt indicated that the so-called organic-certified yogurt (it cost twice as much as the conventional equivalents) did not contain “real” (natural/live) bacteria, which suggested that it was mente bio-produkt. She had experimented before with a yogurt that her son brought from a village and it had worked. While she t old me this story, she looked at me and triumphantly said: “See, real, natural food can only be obtained from the village. Everything else in the market these days is not real. How can it be? There are only crooks and no control! Do not waste your money on bio-produkti (organic products) from the stores.”

the certification conundrum in postsocialist context: the “fuzzy” role of the state The skeptical consumer sentiments of my friends and informants on certified organic food products did not seem exaggerated. As mentioned before, the consumer organization that I had been working with for over a decade uncovered in 2007 that more than fifty commercial “organic-labeled” products in the market were in fact not properly certified. The printed symbols on the labels had nothing to do with the official seal of certification and provided misleading information to consumers. Product testing also confirmed that these organic food products contained GMOs above the permitted level. Yet they were proudly labeled “organic.” My friend Petr, a staff member and product testing expert from the consumer organization, mentioned that many of the mente organic products were often innocently labeled with such prefixes because the producers were not aware of regulations on the labeling of organic products. And this was not only the case in Bulgaria, he commented. In many Western countries, there were misleading and uncertified “organic” labels, too. Some of the innocent (or ignorant) producers removed the prefixes after they were notified by the consumer organization of their legal violation. Many others, however, had not taken any action. The consumer organization prepared legal actions to protect consumers and disseminated more information on the legal terms of “organic” to the public. What was interesting about the project result was that consumers, upon hearing about yet another mente case in their marketplace, remained disenchanted by the idea of discerning “real” certified labels from “fake” ones.

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Once again, their social distrust vis-à-vis the producers and the state for not removing the falsely labeled ones prevented them from seeking out and buying organic-labeled products. Rather than trying to remember the “real” brands/makers, they avoided purchasing products with descriptive labels of “bio” and “natural.” They shopped for food that tasted good based on their own trial-and-error experiences. In other words, many ordinary consumers, while supporting the idea of developing organic agriculture in Bulgaria, were not yet ready to pay for the price premium that came with a system of regulation and labeling that made products officially “organic” in legitimate marketplaces (De Neve et al. 2008: 23–24). Nor did they initiate discussions on the need for alternative eco-labeling (e.g., Besky 2008; Guthman 2007) as means of differentiation from industrialized organic producers, who also bear the voluntary labels of certification. In this regard, consumer choices by ordinary Bulgarians relied heavily on “consumer competence,” that is, their ability to discern products in the marketplace based primarily on their own experiences and those of their immediate social network (Jung 2009; Mincyte 2009). For now, buying from the grannies was their way of participating in the social movement for buying organics. In the current Bulgarian context, trust in the “organic” nature of a product was produced not through a bureaucratized system of certification, but through buying from the people and villages one knew (or imagined one knew). The common argument was that one knew who produced the fresh produce and that they did not use chemicals because one knew that they were also eating what they sold you (cf. Caplan 2000). Bulgarian organic producers, certification agencies, and the Bulgarian state would have to think about ways to earn the social trust of the consumers to sell the certified products. To what extent then is the idea of voluntary organic certification meaningful in the Bulgarian context? Interestingly, skepticism toward voluntary certification seems to be applied more to domestic products than imported ones. In fact, while many consumers articulated the distrust for certified Bulgarian products, they suggested the opposite regarding the imported organic products. For example, 44-year-old Tanya, a consumer who tried to buy organic milk for her children, told me that she looked for the imported Western brands that had the official EU certification logo. Her reasoning echoed other Bulgarian consumers discussed earlier; namely, the regulatory process in “normal” countries was reliable. Yan’s (2009: 286–87) observation on contemporary

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China is insightful here. He points out how social trust has declined with the rapidly developing market economy in China. The social distrust in this context encompasses the market (due to bad-quality products and poor services), strangers, friends, sometimes even relatives, law enforcement officers, legal institutions, and basic moral values. This, he argues, leads one to trust only those individuals in one’s personal networks and engenders behaviors with a particularistic morality. The institutions’ inability to provide the key to safeguarding social trust ultimately contributes to what Yan describes as the “individualization” of Chinese society. I would further add that the double standards for certified organic products articulated by Bulgarian consumers point to the importance of reembedding social relations not only between producers and consumers, but also in regards to the state because it is a meaningful safeguard of social trust. Certification is often considered to be a form of a market-based, voluntary corporate accountability (e.g., Prakash and Potoski 2006). The voluntary labeling and certification that result from such a process can be seen as novel technologies of governance (Guthman 2007). In postsocialist Bulgaria the development of “certification” or certified goods is limited because the verification process is not considered reliable. Under such circumstances consumers remain highly vulnerable. Certification therefore becomes meaningful only in those social contexts in which a shared level of social trust is believed to be maintained.

concluding remarks: social distrust and social control in organic food consumption At the organic fair in Sofia I briefly encountered the mayor of Smilyan, a small village in southeast Bulgaria. He said: “Bulgaria is very rich in native agricultural varieties. Look at our Smilyan beans—they really taste different from any beans anywhere. They are very flavorful. You can see an even bigger difference if you compare them to imported GM crops which are mass produced and economically more advantageous. Once you have GM crops, you know our native Smilyan beans will be gone. Without a total ban [against GMOs], it will not be possible to preserve our biodiversity.” His comment resonated strongly with the sentiment of social distrust and social control embedded in the Bulgarian discourse and practice of organic food consumption. It is deeply ironic that despite the constant skepticism of the state’s authority to ensure

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food safety to its citizens, a state-enforced total ban is accepted without much doubt as the only viable solution. The success of the anti-GMO protest in Bulgaria can be understood in this light. A complete ban was perceived as the only alternative to ensure the development of organic agriculture and increase the consumption of organic food products because both producers and consumers did not completely trust the control and authority involved in the idea and process of certification. While certification is absolutely necessary to engage in the global organic trade, the Bulgarian case shows the complex aspects of the popularizing global organic movement in the local context. What is it, then, that makes moral discussions in a postsocialist context different from other capitalist environments? I suggest that the implication of the Bulgarian alternative food practices, as reflected in the practices of buying from the grannies, is that the “social distrust” such practices have engendered is shaped by Bulgarians’ historical experiences. This offers new insights into understanding the contemporary dynamics of producers, consumers, the state, and global trade regimes. The postsocialist transitional economies represent a sudden shift from a regime of regulation to a regime of deregulation while simultaneously adopting another kind of regulatory system. This requires a process of disembedding and reembedding the moral and the political in economic practices. Unlike the hegemonic discourse and debates on ethical consumption, however, the reembedding process also includes the reestablishment of social relations with the postsocialist state. In other words, the organic movement offers an example for understanding how postsocialist citizens in Bulgaria struggle to create “moral” relationships among consumers and producers, as well as state actors, which are meaningful in their local contexts given their traditional relationship to rural communities and the natural environment. While “alternative” in postsocialist contexts can easily be understood as “antimarket,” or even back to the communist regime of control, one should remember that Bulgarians’ moral perspectives on the organic movement ultimately ask the question of what is a “right” or “wrong” form of economic behavior, and who is accountable in the everyday practice of food and environment. In the present, ordinary Bulgarians’ engagement with the grannies, rather than buying certified organic food, appears to provide answers to such a question. The development and success of an organic movement in Bulgaria will not simply depend on subsidies from the EU, but on finding measures to overcome the

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negative public perception of “certification,” thereby regaining social trust in commercial organic food products. Finally, then, how can social trust be regenerated? In Bulgaria, social trust appears to be based on an imagined and normalized system of regulation (as in what Bulgarians call “the West” or “normal countries”), as well as through the reaffirmation of personalized relations with producers like grannies from the villages. The Bulgarian case is instructive for how ethical consumption practices are not only about reembedding the social relations of production and exchange in goods, but also about reembedding relations in the state, which manages social order and partakes in the maintenance of social justice. The postsocialist setting, therefore, offers a critique of the current scholarly debates on ethical consumption, where there is a surprising silence on the role of the state. Given the historical experiences under socialism when consumption, production, and distribution were heavily mediated and regulated by the state, attention to the roles of both the state and the market in the transitioning economies illuminates how the state at the experiential level continues to be a meaningful reference point for consumers dealing with the daily anxieties of food safety and everyday food provisioning. Thinking in terms of the state may stimulate further insights into “ethical standards” in modern consumption practices.

notes An earlier version of this chapter was presented at “Ethical Foods and Food Movements in Postsocialist Settings,” held at SOAS, University of London, May 2011, and jointly sponsored by SOAS and the National Science Foundation. The chapter derives from a larger research project in Bulgaria over the past ten years, and has been generously supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Krupps Foundation (Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies), Kathryn W. and Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Russian Studies, and the Department of Anthropology, all at Harvard University. Followup research in 2012 was funded by Wayne State University. I have greatly benefited from the lively discussion with the workshop participants, and thank especially Peter Luetchford for his generous and stimulating comments and suggestions. It has been an immense pleasure and privilege to collaborate with Lissa Caldwell and Jakob Klein as colleagues and friends, and I would like to express my special gratitude for their very careful readings of my chapter. To my Bulgarian friends and informants who have been sharing their insights and experiences with me, I remain indebted and grateful. 1. This chapter is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Bulgaria between 1999 and 2012, with supplementary data collection from popular media reports and communications over the Internet with Bulgarian informants involved in the anti-GMO protest

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in 2010. Fieldwork was carried out in the summers of 1999 and 2000, and over thirteen months in 2001–2, three weeks in 2007, five months in 2008, and in the summers of 2009 and 2012. This project has particularly benefited from my long-term involvement with a consumer rights advocacy organization and its staff members, an organic farming NGO, especially its leader, as well as ordinary consumers, most of whom I have known since I first set foot in Bulgaria in 1999. 2. The EU officially allows two types of GM maize (corn) and one type of potato to be farmed in EU territory. There are five EU member states where they grow GM crops: Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Portugal, and Spain. In all of these countries, the production of GMOs has been in decline (www.bnr.bg/sites/en/Lifestyle/ BGEU/Pages/2104MEPsagainstGMO.aspx). 3. See Luetchford and Pratt (2011) and Luetchford, Pratt, and Montiel (2010) for a discussion of changing attitudes toward certification from the organic farmers’ perspectives. Some farmers in Spain, for example, have grown skeptical of mainstream certification (which many view as watered-down) and seek alternative “certification” mechanisms. Also, see Kjaernes, Harvey, and Warde (2007) for a discussion on how differences in national institutional contexts shape different consumer attitudes regarding trust of food in Western Europe. 4. Mente (fake stuff) in Bulgarian refers broadly to “fake(ness)” that includes both things and people that are not original, not real, or not authentic. Literally, it comes from the old Bulgarian word “to lie” (menta) and is used as both a noun and adjective. It is widely brought up in everyday conversation about consumption practices in postsocialist Bulgaria. It encompasses a range of meanings such as “unnatural,” “abnormal,” “inauthentic,” “unoriginal,” and “untrustworthy.” While it often refers to counterfeit products, it is not limited to them. 5. The Agriculture University in Plovdiv has been one of the central institutions specializing in agricultural research since the socialist era. Many of the new crop experiments were initiated by the Agriculture University. 6. Currently, only 0.5 percent of the Bulgarian farmland practices organic farming. The national goal is to increase it to 8 percent by 2013 (www.bnr.bg/sites/en/Lifestyle/ BGEU/Pages/2104MEPsagainstGMO.aspx). Countries with the highest percentage of certified organic land (from the total agricultural land) are Austria (13.4 percent) and Switzerland (11 percent). 7. www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id = 143640; http://agris.fao.org/agrissearch/search/display.do?f = 20122FBG2FBG1202.xml3BBG2012000066.

references Besky, Sarah. 2008. “Can a Plantation be Fair? Paradoxes and Possibilities in Fair Trade Darjeeling Tea Certification.” Anthropology of Work Review 29(1): 1–9. Caldwell, Melissa L. 2007. “Feeding the Body and Nourishing the Soul: Natural Foods in Postsocialist Russia.” Food, Culture & Society 10(1): 43–69.

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Caldwell, Melissa L., ed. 2009. Food and Everyday Life in the Postsocialist World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press Caplan, Pat. 2000. “Eating British Beef with Confidence: A Consideration of Consumers’ Responses to BSE in Britain.” In Risk Revisited, ed. Pat Caplan, 184–203. London: Pluto Press. Carrier, James, ed. 1997. Meanings of the Market: The Free Market in Western Culture. Oxford: Berg. Carrier, James, and Peter Luetchford, eds. 2012. Ethical Consumption: Social Value and Economic Practice. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books. Creed, Gerald. 2011. Masquerade and Postsocialism: Ritual and Cultural Dispossession in Bulgaria. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Dolan, Catherine. 2005. “Fields of Obligation: Rooting Ethical Consumption in Kenyan Horticulture.” Journal of Consumer Culture 5: 365–89. De Neve, Geert, Peter Luetchford, Jeffrey Pratt, and Donald C. Wood, eds. 2008. Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility (Research in Economic Anthropology, vol. 28). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group. Dombos, Tamas. 2008. “Longing for the ‘West’: The Geo-Symbols of the Ethical Consumption Discourse in Hungary.” In Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility, ed. Geert De Neve, Peter Luetchford, Jeffrey Pratt, and Donald C. Wood, 123–41. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group. Grasseni, Cristina. 2012. “Re-inventing Food: The Ethics of Developing Local Food.” In Ethical Consumption: Social Value and Economic Practice, ed. James Carrier and Peter Luetchford, 198–216. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books. Guthman, Julie. 2004. Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California. Berkeley: University of California Press. Guthman, Julie. 2007. “The Polanyian Way? Voluntary Food Labels as Neoliberal Governance.” Antipode 39(3): 456–78. Harrison, Rob, Terry Newholm, and Deirdre Shaw, eds. 2005. The Ethical Consumer. London: Sage. Jung, Yuson. 2009. “From Canned Food to Canny Consumers: Cultural Competence in the Age of Mechanical Production.” In Food and Everyday Life in the Postsocialist World, ed. Melissa L. Caldwell, 29–56. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Jung, Yuson. n.d. “ ‘Made in China’ and ‘Mente’ [Fake Stuff]: Postsocialist Insights on Purchasing Power and Product Safety.” Unpublished manuscript, presented at AAA 2010 Annual Meetings, November 2010, New Orleans, LA. Kjærnes, Unni, Mark Harvey, and Alan Warde. 2007. Trust in Food: A Comparative and Institutional Analysis. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Klein, Jakob A. 2009. “Creating Ethical Food Consumers? Promoting Organic Foods in Urban Southwest China.” Social Anthropology 17(1): 74–89. Ledeneva, Alena V. 2006. How Russia Really Works: The Informal Practices That Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

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Lewis, Tania, and Emily Potter, eds. 2010. Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction. London and New York: Routledge. Lin, Yi-Chieh. n.d. “The Normalcy of Fakes: Food Safety and Corporate Social Responsibility in Taiwan.” Unpublished manuscript. Luetchford, Peter, and Jeff Pratt. 2011. “Values and Markets: An Analysis of Organic Farming Initiatives in Andalusia.” Journal of Agrarian Change 11(1): 87–103. Luetchford, Peter, Jeff Pratt, and Marta Soler Montiel. 2010. “Struggling for Autonomy: From Estate Labourers to Organic Farmers in Andalusia.” Critique of Anthropology 30(3): 313–21. Maclachlan, Patricia L. 2006. “Global Trends vs. Local Traditions: Genetically Modified Foods and Contemporary Consumerism in the United States, Japan, and Britain.” In The Ambivalent Consumer: Questioning Consumption in East Asia and the West, ed. Sheldon Garon and Patricia L. Machlachlan, 236–59. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Mandel, Ruth, and Caroline Humphrey, eds. 2002. Markets and Moralities: Ethnographies of Postsocialism. Oxford and New York: Berg. Mincyte, Diana. 2009.“Self-Made Women: Informal Dairy Markets in Europeanizing Lithuania.” In Food and Everyday Life in the Postsocialist World, ed. Melissa L. Caldwell, 78–100. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Nutzenadel, Alexander, and Frank Trentmann, eds. 2008. Food and Globalization: Consumption, Markets and Politics in the Modern World. Oxford and New York: Berg. Prakash, Aseem, and Matthew Potoski. 2006. “Racing to the Bottom? Trade, Environmental Governance, and ISO 14001.” American Journal of Political Science 50(2): 350–64. Pratt, Jeffrey. 2008. “Food Values: The Local and the Authentic.” In Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility, ed. Geert De Neve, Peter Luetchford, Jeffrey Pratt, and Donald C. Wood, 53–70. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group. Sheldon, Garon, and Patricia L. Machlachlan, eds. 2006. The Ambivalent Consumer: Questioning Consumption in East Asia and the West. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Vankeerberghen, Audrey. 2012. “ ‘Today, One Can Farm Organic Without Living Organic’: Belgian Farmers and Recent Changes in Organic Farming.” In Ethical Consumption: Social Value and Economic Practice, ed. James Carrier and Peter Luetchford, 99–117. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books. Verdery, Katherine. 1996. What Was Socialism and What Comes Next? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Yan, Yunxiang. 2009. The Individualization of Chinese Society. London: Berg.

chapter 5

Connecting with the Countryside? “Alternative” Food Movements with Chinese Characteristics jakob a. klein

In March 2012 a friend took me for a meal at The Earthbound Restaurant (Tusheng Shiguan). Opened the previous month in a former factory building on the outskirts of downtown Kunming, the restaurant reminded me of many of the other country-style eating places that were popular in the Yunnanese provincial capital. It served country fare typical of this part of Southwest China, including potatoes with pickled cabbage (suancai yangyu), red-cooked pork (hongshaorou), stewed chicken (huangmenji), bacon (larou), fermented tofu (lufu), and distilled maize liquor (baogujiu). Ordering was done from the kitchen as there were no menus, and dried chilies and folksy red paper cuts hung from the brick walls. Liquor was served from rustic-looking earthenware jugs with hand-painted labels, and rice was cooked in a bamboo steamer. Yet several markers also served to distinguish this establishment from other country-style eateries in the city. These included the name of the restaurant, Tusheng, which literally means “earth born” (Earthbound is my translation). The core meaning of tu is “earth” or “soil.” In a derogatory sense it is used to describe a person or practice as “simple,” “rural,” or “rustic.” A tu person is a bumpkin. But for urban Kunmingers tu also has more positive connotations of “local,” “native,” and “traditional,” and also of “pure,” “uncontaminated,” and “natural.” This restaurant was embracing several of the meanings of tu. A sign explained that they used only tu methods of growing and cooking food, by which they meant simple and unadorned. Other posters further clarified their meaning of tu, proclaiming that the vegetables were grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, that the food was cooked without MSG or chicken 116

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stock powder, and that the pork they used was from “earth pigs” (tuzhu), meaning in this context that the pigs were both raised under “free range” conditions and came from a native, heirloom variety. The restaurant’s philosophy of tu clearly celebrated ideas of “the “local” and the “rural.” Inside, leaflets and brochures explained that the establishment was run along the principles of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)—a statement that was written in English and with the English acronym and also translated into Chinese as shequ zhichi nongye. This meant, according to one brochure, that the restaurant was run in cooperation with farmers in order to protect farmers’ livelihoods, their traditional knowledge, their local varieties of crops and livestock, and the rural environment from the threats posed by industrialized agriculture and the global food trade. A slogan on the wall read: “From field to table, closing the gap between the city and the country. CSA makes food visible” (Cong tianye dao canzhuo, lajin cheng-xiang juli. CSA rang shiwu kandejian). Earthbound was the first eatery in Kunming that claimed to be run entirely along CSA principles. It was part of a growing number of businesses and other organizations in the city that encouraged people to consume food “ethically,” in the sense of “bas[ing] their purchasing decisions on their moral evaluation of objects for sale” (Carrier 2008: 31–32), and that catered to demands for “ethical foods.” The appearance of Earthbound on Kunming’s restaurant scene was a response to the widely observed concerns with food safety and dietary health in China in the wake of recurrent scandals and intensified food production (Klein 2009, 2013; Lora-Wainwright 2009; Wang et al. 2008; Yan 2012b). Arguably, it also reflected and contributed to a growing interest among urban Chinese in the welfare of people living in the countryside. William Jankowiak points to the rise since the 1990s of environmental activism, charitable donations, and volunteerism as evidence of an expansion of the “moral horizons” of urban Chinese, involving “even a newfound empathy for the hardship of the country’s farmers” (2004: 169). Jankowiak argues that despite the Maoist rhetoric of self-sacrifice, the cellular structures created under the radical socialism of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s in fact fostered inward-looking social groups. By contrast, the increased geographic mobility and social interaction encouraged by market reforms since the 1980s have produced a growing sense among urban residents that they belong to the same national community as people in the countryside.

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For Jankowiak, the expanding market economy has fostered a greater social awareness among urban Chinese. By contrast, in many scholarly accounts of “alternative” food movements in the advanced capitalist economies, the market instead obscures from consumers the social and environmental conditions of production. In this literature, “alternative” food movements attempt to make visible these conditions and thereby raise consumers’ awareness of producers’ situations. Such movements are described as advocating different forms of “connection” or “reconnection” between consumers and producers of food in response to the disconnection of the worlds of consumption and production produced by the dominant profit-driven, capitalist “agro-industrial food system” (DeLind 2003; Gross 2009; Watts et al. 2005; Kneafsey et al. 2008; Pratt 2007). In some versions of the argument, reconnection involves not simply the encouragement of “ethical” food choices, but in fact fosters a stronger sense of shared community among producers and consumers (Gross 2009; Kneafsey et al. 2008). Whether one follows the literature that presents “alternative” food movements as critical reactions to market-driven food economies, or Jankowiak’s argument that the emergence of such movements in China is a reflection of a greater sense of national community under the market economy, it is tempting to conclude that the growth of an “alternative” food movement in Kunming is driven by the desire to “connect” urban consumers with rural producers within the context of an expanding market economy. Critical analyses have highlighted many of the shortcomings and contradictions of “alternative” food movements in the Global North, including the tendencies toward social elitism and “capture” by agribusiness corporations, which may undermine projects of reconnection (Guthman 2004, 2008; Laudan 2004). Such critiques are not without relevance to the Kunming and broader Chinese contexts (Klein forthcoming). In this chapter, however, I do not directly address the potential for Kunming’s “alternative” food movement to realize its social and environmental goals. Instead, I am interested here in visions of the emerging movement and what these might tell us about changing urban-rural relations in China under “market” or “reform” socialism (Hann and Hart 2011: 137–39), what in the rhetoric of the Party-State is called “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” In particular, I am concerned with the ways in which activists and consumers articulated “alternative” practices of food consumption with primary producers and the extent to which this involved visions of “connection” or even “community” with the countryside. Should

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this movement be viewed as an attempt, drawing on globalized models of ethical food movements, to further city people’s awareness of the countryside, and connect producers and consumers of food? Is this movement emerging from and contributing to what Jankowiak describes as urban China’s “expanding moral horizons”? The chapter draws on four months of field research, which I carried out between 2006 and 2009 among activists, entrepreneurs, market traders, and consumers in Kunming, and on follow-up observations from 2012 made during the course of a separate research project. I will show that discourses of rural-urban connection were indeed becoming increasingly important to the city’s emerging “alternative” food movement, and that the movement to an extent could be described as part of an expansion of “moral horizons” among at least some urban Chinese. However, while Kunming’s food-focused groups clearly drew inspiration and ideas from movements that had originated in advanced capitalist economies, the historical experiences of radical state socialism and market-oriented reform profoundly shaped the concerns of activists and consumers, including their visions of what connection between city and country might entail. Rather than seeing the movement simply as evidence of Chinese urbanites’ growing concern for the welfare of their rural compatriots, I consider the ways in which activist groups both challenged and were shaped by a rural-urban divide that was solidified under radical state socialism, and which has continued profoundly to shape Chinese society under reform socialism (Whyte 2010). In doing so, this chapter illustrates and develops the volume’s broader claim that contemporary, global ethical food movements need to be understood not simply as critiques of a monolithic “capitalist agrifood system,” but also as critical conversations with state socialism and the particular food economies and social divisions it has fostered.

kunming’s urban-rural divide and its food supply Once considered a quiet provincial backwater, since the mid-1990s Kunming has emerged as a major hub of domestic and international tourism and trade, particularly trade with Southeast Asia. While friends in Kunming expressed an acute sense of being looked down upon by people from China’s economically more prosperous eastern seaboard, Kunming has nonetheless been described both in China and abroad as a rapid modernizer, an up-and-coming metropolis in an impoverished inland region. For instance, the lifestyle magazine

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Monocle recently described the city as “the next Shanghai” (Fullbrook 2009). Much of the old city center has been demolished in the last decade-and-a-half, with new roads, shopping malls, and office blocks emerging in its place. The population of the urban area has more than doubled since the early 1990s to exceed three million. Social disparities have also deepened. While garden-style residential complexes are constructed for the new middle class, the growth of the city into the nearby countryside has provoked angry responses from farmers over lost land and lack of compensation, while the destruction of old residential neighborhoods has led to protests by working-class Kunmingers (van Rooij 2007; Zhang 2004, 2006, 2010). Yet despite the recent transformation of Kunming, in this section I will argue that the relationship between the city and the surrounding rural areas, and between urban and rural residents, must also be understood against the backdrop of more radical socialist times. Further, I will show that food has played an important part in shaping the rural-urban divide under both radical and reform socialism, albeit in ways that have differed in certain respects from the dividing effects often attributed to capitalist food systems. These differences, as will be shown in subsequent sections, are important for understanding the discourses and practices of “alternative” food in Kunming. From the late 1950s to the 1980s, urban residents in Kunming and other Chinese cities were organized into work units, through which they were guaranteed employment, housing, education, and other services. A comprehensive rationing system ensured them a minimum level of food security. Rural residents, by contrast, received few services or guarantees from the state. With land and other means of production collectivized, much of the food they produced was extracted by the state for redistribution. In Yunnan, the forced requisitioning of grain to feed the urban population and the military began prior to the collectivization of land. It was one of the first acts, in 1950, of the province’s new, communist government. In some parts of the province this provoked violent resistance to the new regime, and an even more violent suppression (Mueggler 2001: 163–64). Following collectivization in the 1950s, “peasants” themselves were re-allocated grain only in accordance with what they had produced. The consequences of inadequate production of grain and other foods were borne by local-level collectives and households. This policy had particularly disastrous effects during the nationwide Great Leap Forward famine of 1959–61, which devastated much of the Chinese countryside (Mueggler 2001; Thaxton 2008).

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Indeed, although it came to power on the back of a rural revolution, the Chinese Communist Party shared with Marx and with communist parties elsewhere a deep ambivalence toward the countryside and the “peasant” (Thaxton 2008; Williams 1993: 302–4). Mobility, and especially rural-to-urban migration, was tightly controlled through a household registration system, which tied people to their registered places of residence by closely linking residence to the distribution of grain and other rations. A two-tiered society was solidified along urban-rural lines (Potter and Potter 1990). The divide was not only economic but also cultural. While urbanites increasingly practiced the new, socialist life-cycle rituals, rural people remained “more attuned to presocialist popular culture” (Watson 1992: 77). In Kunming, this cultural division was exacerbated by a long-standing divide between the Handominated city, and the ethnically and linguistically more diverse Yunnan countryside (Blum 2001). For many urban Chinese growing up during the revolutionary period their main experiences of the countryside were as sent-down “educated youth” (zhiqing) in the 1960s and 1970s. These experiences often reaffirmed their feelings of difference and their views of the countryside as a place of misery. Two middle-aged married couples who in the late 1960s had been “sent down” to a poor production brigade in northeast Yunnan depicted their hardships to me in terms of a hierarchy of staple foods. As urban residents they had enjoyed a diet based on rice. In the countryside, they recalled with horror, villagers ate only two meals a day and subsisted on maize and potatoes, with rice eaten only at the Chinese New Year. Ms. Hu, although aware that some urban people of her generation enjoyed the nostalgic consumption of “Cultural Revolution foods” (Hubbert 2007), declared that, having been compelled to eat maize meal (baogufan) every day for two years, she and her husband would now never go near it. In some respects, the last three decades have seen a blurring of rural-urban divisions. Reforms of the late 1970s and 1980s, including the decollectivization of land usage rights and the reemergence of food markets, created incentives and made it possible for rural residents to trade or seek more-or-less temporary employment in the cities. Meanwhile, reforms in the cities, especially since the 1990s, have led to the loss of job security and have decentralized the role of the work unit, making urban citizens increasingly responsible for acquiring not only their own food but also housing, education, medical care, and other services. Being an urban resident no longer automatically signifies privilege.

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Culturally, small towns and villages have increasingly adopted urban styles (Guldin 2001), while some successful rural migrants in the cities have been able to use their purchasing power to renegotiate their status vis-à-vis urban residents (Zhang 2001). In other respects, however, disparities have grown. While Kunming has been transformed into a metropolitan center with a wealthy elite and a new middle class, rural Yunnan has lagged behind. In some places, new economic opportunities have emerged in tourism (Notar 2006) or in specialized farming contracts with agribusiness corporations (Zhang and Donaldson 2008). Meanwhile, Kunming and other cities continue to attract large numbers of rural migrants who are in search of opportunities to improve their livelihoods or, perhaps, are driven by the desire to partake in China’s consumerist modernity (H. Yan 2009). Following the decline of rationing and the growth of markets in the 1980s, migrants are now legally able to acquire food in the city. However, the reformed household registration system still restricts their access to education, health care, and other services. Like media reports of “blind flows” of migration and the Kunming government’s drive to regulate urban space, the system contributes to the definition of migrants as outsiders and threats to urban stability (Zhang 2001, 2006). The association of the “peasant” with “backwardness,” which emerged in the early decades of the twentieth century (Cohen 1993), is now being deployed to new effects in a context of blurred boundaries and growing competition for scarce resources (Guang 2003; Pun 1999). China’s market reforms have brought about a reimagining of the relationship between “country” and “city” (Williams 1993), in which the “peasant” is both vilified as a cause of underdevelopment and disorder, and romanticized as the bearer of Chinese tradition and values (Oakes 2000; Schein 2001). As I have indicated, the unequal allocation of food resources played an important part in defining the rural-urban divide during the revolutionary years. But the role of the food system in shaping the relationship between country and city has been different from capitalist contexts. In much of the literature on the capitalist “agro-industrial food system” and its alternatives, the disconnection between producers and consumers is described as an effect of the lengthening of food chains and the attendant decoupling of the food consumption of a locality from its food production (Kneafsey et al. 2008; Mintz 2006; Pratt 2007). In Kunming, by contrast, the separation of producers from consumers and the disconnection of urban residents from what some

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(e.g., Gross 2009; Kloppenburg et al. 1996) might call the local “foodshed,” have to some extent been separate processes. Thus, despite the deep urbanrural divide of the revolutionary years, during this period Kunming and other Chinese cities were to a great degree integrated into the food production cycles of the surrounding countryside. Not only national but also local food selfsufficiency was a cornerstone of China’s food policy, particularly after the nationwide Great Leap Forward famine (Ash 2006). As far as possible, localities were to be self-sufficient in both grain staples and supplementary foods. This included the cities, which were expected to supply their own food from within their larger municipalities, and which apparently often were selfsufficient in vegetables (Skinner 1981). The Kunming area enjoys a mild climate and abundant rainfall, and has long had a reliable year-round production of green vegetables, fruit, nuts, and tobacco. However, the extent of Kunming’s self-sufficiency in food before and during the revolutionary years is debatable. Although it does grow a variety of grains, including the special rice varieties used to make popular local specialties such as pounded rice cakes (er’kuai) and rice noodles (mixian), Kunming has not produced sufficient grain to support the nonagricultural population. Since the eighteenth century it had depended on a far-flung network of grain markets (Lee 1982: 741). Under communist party policies of self-sufficiency, grain was ideally to be procured from within the province, but despite the country’s grain-first policy, mountainous Yunnan frequently had to rely on imports from other provinces. Several Kunmingers described to me with disgust the coarse and foul-tasting “Guangxi rice” they often had to eat in the 1960s and 1970s. But the city was apparently self-sufficient in vegetables, and possibly also in meat. The now-defunct Kunming City Vegetable Company (Kunming Shi Shucai Gongsi) had been the sole legitimate supplier of vegetables to the city’s “vegetable stations” (shucai zhan) under the planned economy. According to the late Mr. Yang, who had been a buyer for the City Vegetable Company during the 1960s, the company procured all of its goods through contracts with nearby rural people’s communes. Other interviewees recalled how pork and other meats, although rare luxuries under the planned economy, invariably came from within the local area. Kunming’s reliance on foods from the immediately surrounding countryside was not initially affected by the introduction of reforms. On the contrary, the “free market places” (ziyou shichang) that opened up in the city in the late 1970s and early 1980s allowed nearby farmers to sell their surplus directly to

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urban residents. While grain staples remained rationed for several years into the reform era, Kunmingers recalled with fondness the newfound abundance of vegetables and fruits available in the thriving free markets. Increasingly, however, with improvements in infrastructure and the abandonment at the central government level of the policy of local self-sufficiency in favor of one of regional agricultural specialization and interregional competition (albeit with a continued emphasis on national self-sufficiency in grain), Kunmingers were introduced to foods that had traveled much greater distances, including nonseasonal vegetables from around the province or from even further afield. In the 1990s food vendors were increasingly likely to be not primary producers from periurban villages, but specialized retailers who bought their goods from one of the city’s many wholesale markets. International supermarket chains arrived at the turn of the twenty-first century and provided increased access to packaged and fresh foods from around the country and from abroad. During the Maoist era, policies of local self-sufficiency had reinforced Kunming’s long-standing if partial dependence on local agriculture and seasonal cycles. However, this dependence involved not direct links with primary producers through farmers’ markets but mediated ones via city government– run food companies, markets and shops, work units and work unit canteens, and other bureaucratic state institutions involved with food distribution (Croll 1983). Indeed, the division between urban and rural residents was solidified during this same period. Seen against this background, in contrast to many accounts of “alternative” food movements in the advanced capitalist economies, the connection of people with local foods does not need to involve direct or even imagined ties between producers and consumers. This is significant for understanding Kunming’s recent “alternative” food consumption. As I will demonstrate in the following section, many of the discourses and practices surrounding “ecological” foods in the city in fact obscured the role of primary food producers.

country and city in contemporary kunming foodways A network of environmental activists and activist-entrepreneurs committed to “ecological” foods emerged in Kunming during the first decade of the twenty-first century. But these groups did not introduce concepts of “ecological” foods in the city, and they were not the first to articulate “country”

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and “city” through food. As I will show in the following section, the practices and discourses of Kunming’s “alternative” food movement were shaped by popular concerns about the quality and safety of the food supply, and by widespread representations and understandings of the “rural” and the “local,” not least as expressed in local foodways and markets. It is these concerns, representations, and understandings that are the focus of the current section. As I will argue here, many of the concerns surrounding food were new and had emerged with the expanding role of the market principles in the food economy. However, popular food values and notions of the “country” and the “local” articulated in response to these concerns were the products of much longer histories, including the experiences of radical state socialism discussed in the last section. Kunmingers with whom I spoke, especially those who could remember the scarcity of the Mao years, were highly positive about the diversity and abundance of foods now available to them in markets and restaurants. Nevertheless, there was a widespread ambivalence about the food supply under market socialism. In interviews, people of different age groups, genders, and economic means frequently complained about what they perceived to be the deteriorating quality of food, particularly since the second half of the 1990s. Poultry, pork, and eggs no longer had any flavor, I was told many times. Green vegetables looked pretty but would not become soft when boiled (zhubupa in the Kunming dialect). Kunmingers often referred to the new foods as “unnatural” (bu ziran) and “contaminated” (wuran), by which they could mean several things, and often a combination of these: that the foods were supplied from distant places and independent of local seasonal cycles; that agrichemicals (including chemical fertilizer, pesticides, and growth hormones) and industrial feed (siliao) had been used in their production; that they had been grown in plastic greenhouses. These new foods were not only thought to be less tasty and healthy than the foods enjoyed until the 1990s, they were also often described to me as harmful. People attributed their own headaches or nausea and perceived increases of cancers and other illnesses in the city to “unnatural” food production. Such anxieties were exacerbated by frequent media reports of discoveries in the province of adulterated foods and vegetables sold with unlawful amounts pesticide residues, not to mention the several national-level scandals surrounding food safety and animal-borne diseases that had plagued China since the 1990s (Yan 2012b).

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In response to these concerns, in the early 2000s Kunming’s new supermarkets began to stock vegetables, meats, and dried goods variously certified as “organics” (youji shipin), “green foods” (lüse shipin), or “no public harm” (wugonghai shipin). Although technically these foods were produced according to different regulatory standards, with “organic” representing the highest level of ecological standards (Sanders 2006), both supermarkets and consumers tended to lump them together in categories such as “green foods” or “ecological foods” (shengtai shipin). They were certified by state-backed certification schemes and supplied by often state-supported agribusinesses operating in the province or elsewhere in China. Indeed, while the reform socialist state promoted the “modernization” of agriculture through chemical intensification and market competition, state bodies also played a leading role in developing and promoting these chemically reduced foods (Sanders 2006; Thiers 2005). Carefully wrapped in “hygienic” plastic and carrying labels describing them as “natural” and “healthy,” these foods were targeted at shoppers willing and able to pay a premium for food safety. Buyers of these packaged, certified “ecological” foods were perceived by Kunmingers to be relatively small in number, and some working-class acquaintances referred to such products as “aristocrats’ foods” (guizu shipin). Indeed, as recently as 2012 one consultant to the Chinese government’s main certifier of “organic” foods estimated that certified “organics” accounted for much less than 1 percent of China’s domestic food market (Zhou 2012). Yet already by the mid-2000s, if not earlier, some vegetable vendors in the covered and outdoor markets, where most Kunmingers did their daily food shopping, were claiming that the foods they sold were produced “without chemical fertilizer or pesticides.” By 2008, vendors and shoppers in the vegetable markets were using the terms “ecological foods” or “green foods” to describe noncertified but supposedly chemical-free produce. This reflected the extent to which such terms and the broader concerns around food safety and quality they indexed had become a part of everyday discourse in the city, not only an elite preoccupation (Klein forthcoming). Few of the nonactivist consumers of “organic” and other certified and noncertified “ecological” foods with whom I spoke justified their consumption in terms of “connecting” with rural residents, or even in terms of the benefits their purchases might have for the countryside. Instead, people tended to motivate their consumption on the basis of taste, health, and food safety. That being said, various conceptualizations of the “rural” did play important parts

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in Kunmingers’ consumption and conceptualization of “ecological” or “green” foods. First, parallel to the discourse on “ecological” foods, since the late 1990s there had emerged in the city a trend for consuming country- or farmhousestyle foods (Wang 1998). The trend, mentioned in the introduction in my discussion of The Earthbound Restaurant, included country-style eateries located in the city itself. These were often called “straw seat houses” (caodunwu) after the low stools and tables that furnished these places, a style found in many parts of the Yunnan countryside. The trend for farmhouse food also involved different forms of what was called “ecological tourism” (shengtai lüyou), including “farmhouse fun” (nongjiale). The latter involved visiting farms, which offered eating facilities and often allowed visitors to pick fruit and vegetables and fish in their ponds. Some farms also provided overnight accommodation, mahjong tables, and karaoke sets. These establishments frequently advertised themselves as being “ecological” and serving “natural” foods. “Farmhouse fun” and “straw seat houses” clearly involved a romanticization of the rural, which was valued precisely because it was perceived to be “rustic” or “earthy”—tu—and therefore “natural.” Master Liu was a 50-year-old chef who had lived all his life in Kunming. When I interviewed him in 2008 he had recently become concerned about his health. He had given up drinking and smoking and had taken to visiting the countryside with his friends to enjoy clean air and food. He told me: “When we go out [of the city] to eat, we like to eat farmhouse food (chi nongjiale). Although the farmhouse food is coarse (cuzao) and simple (jiandan), yet, to use our words it is ecological (shengtai) . . . . Exactly what dishes they serve I do not know, but we definitely feel that these foods of theirs are definitely more ecological, more natural (ziran) things. When we go out [of the city] to eat we like to eat simple foods, nothing too rich (fengfu) or abundant (fengsheng).” In these practices, simplicity was associated with natural, healthy foods. Similarly, many people in Kunming had taken to visiting rural markets to find food produced “by farmers themselves” (nongmin ziji zhong de). When possible, they would seek out markets in what they considered to be the most remote (pianpi), mountainous, and backward (luohou) parts of the municipality where, they reasoned, farmers would be too poor to afford the use of pesticides (a logic also found in Bulgaria, as Jung describes in this volume). An important sign of this “backwardness” was the ethnic makeup of the

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population. As the retired couple, Mr. Yang and Ms. Li, assured me on our way to a rural periodic market north of Kunming, the food there would be “natural” because it was in a “mountain area, with lots of minority nationality people.” Kunmingers’ perceptions of the relationship between “nature” and good food was thus somewhat similar to Russian and Lithuanian notions of “natural foods” described, respectively, by Caldwell (this volume, 2007) and Blumberg (this volume), in that the healthfulness of foods was perceived to be linked to ideas of “nature” and “purity.” However, whereas Russians and Lithuanians held ideas of the purifying power of the national soil, in Kunming such understandings were much more specific to particular places, as was evident in Yang and Li’s association of “ecological” foods with identifiably “backward” areas populated by supposedly “primitive” ethnic minority peoples (cf. Blum 2001). “Locality” was invoked in popular Kunming discourses on “ecological” foods in at least two other ways. First, certain localities in the municipality and province, as elsewhere throughout China, had long been renowned for their “local specialty” foods (difang techan) (Swislocki 2009: 12–14). Recently, these reputations had sometimes become articulated with notions of “green” or “ecological” foods. For example, Xuanwei in northeast Yunnan has long been famous for the quality of its ham and other pork products, but the region was also associated with economic underdevelopment. In Kunming markets, some butchers specialized in fresh and cured pork from Xuanwei, which they now advertised in the markets, albeit without certification, as being “ecological” products from remote mountain areas of Xuanwei. A further sense of locality was voiced most articulately by my older informants, but was also implied in comments made by younger Kunming acquaintances. This was the notion, sometimes summed up by them in the word shuitu or “water and earth,” or less frequently fengtu or “wind and earth” (Swislocki 2009: 14–15), that there existed correspondences between the soils and climate of a particular locality, its foods, and the people who were raised there. Human health was at the center of this. Local cooking methods and flavors had adapted over time to help maintain a balance in the body between “heating” and “cooling,” “dampness” and “dryness,” in accordance with the climatic conditions and seasonal changes of that locality. Similarly, the different crops of a locality that became ready for harvest at a particular time could help maintain bodily balance. In order to maintain health, it was therefore important to eat

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foods as they came into season. Thus, for many Kunmingers, especially elderly people, the blurring of seasons in the Kunming food markets had effects on the human body. It is in this sense that the use of plastic greenhouses was deemed to be “unnatural”: even if agrichemicals were not being used, the crops would ripen at the wrong time. In these various articulations of “ecological” foods with the “rural,” there was little sense among Kunming consumers of any notions of building up communities across the rural-urban divide that had become so entrenched under state socialism. Discussions of the significance to health of eating according to local seasonal cycles did not draw attention to the work of farmers in production. The use of poverty and “backwardness” as signs of the “naturalness” of foods cast “peasants” and “minority nationalities” as primitive Others to the progress and modernity associated with the city (Schein 2001). That said, there was a growing significance attached to “trust” (xinren) between food sellers and buyers. As I discuss elsewhere in greater detail (Klein 2013), in a context where consumers had little faith either in the quality and safety of foods in the market or in the state-backed certification schemes, food shoppers were increasingly seeking to forge ties with specific vendors in the markets, and often with vendors from places that were perceived to produce “natural” foods. Such ties of trust across the rural-urban divide were difficult to build, however. Kunmingers often viewed even vendors they knew well with a degree of suspicion. On a trip to a rural market with the retired Kunming couple Mr. Yang and Ms. Li, they told me that they would be buying tuji—chickens of a nonbroiler variety that were raised in free-range conditions—from a farmer they had known for years. Yet when we got there, Mr. Yang checked every chicken very carefully, and returned several which, he later told me, he did not believe to be true tuji. Clearly, even long-standing ties between producers and consumers could be fraught with mistrust and anxiety. Thus, in the various ways through which Kunmingers articulated “ecological” foods with the “rural” and the “local,” there was little sense of an attempt to build up communities across rural-urban divides. Even as they enjoyed “having fun” in the countryside and seeking out the “natural” foods associated with “backward” regions, what Kunmingers expressed a desire for was access to safe, tasty foods embedded in local, seasonal cycles, not a better lot for farmers or a sense of rural-urban community. As in more radical socialist times, the consumption of local foods and relations with the people who produced them could be understood somewhat independently of each other.

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This is not to suggest that in North America or Western Europe consumers of organic or Fair Trade foods or even CSA members necessarily have strong commitments to improving rural environments and farmer welfare or to building consumer-producers ties (DeLind 2003). But in the advanced capitalist economies such messages have been common to the rhetoric of both activists and consumers involved in ethical food movements, and idealized images and descriptions of often individualized small-scale farmers and artisan food producers have been crucial to marking a food product or consumption site as being “ethical” (Coles and Crang 2011; Luetchford 2012). In Kunming, by contrast, these themes did not figure in consumers’ discourses or in marketing. Food shoppers hoped that by buying foods from farmers hailing from supposedly “backward” areas they would be getting healthier, more “natural” foods, but they did not claim that by buying directly from these people they would contribute to their welfare. In the supermarkets, packages containing “organic” and other certified “ecological” foods and in-store advertising for these products rarely made references to farmers at all. Instead, they carried images of pristine environments and scientific procedures. In the few cases where in-store posters from the suppliers included images of people, these were never of farmers but of technicians and packers wearing white lab coats and face masks in an effort to convince consumers of the purity of their goods through an emphasis on “hygienic modernity” (Rogaski 2004). In fact, on the rare occasions when I encountered consumers and marketers who expressed desires to develop the countryside through promoting “ecological” foods, these expressions could be seen as expressions of fear of the countryside and its people. These fears were linked to the reform era’s growing competition for scarce resources between rural and urban residents. During a meeting I attended in a Kunming office block in July 2008, a company attempted to persuade the mostly elderly residents it had assembled there to invest in their “ecological agriculture” (shengtai nongye) enterprise. In his lecture, the company’s general manager argued that “ecological agriculture” was the key to developing the countryside. “What do the peasants’ problems have to do with you?” he asked. “If the countryside is not developed,” he claimed, “the farmers will flood into the cities. They will not grow enough food, leading to further rises in food prices.” At this point he reminded the audience that pork prices had doubled in the last year. He continued: “If they [i.e., farmers] do not find jobs in the cities, they will turn to crime. And they

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will be competing for jobs with your grandchildren, who will lose out because they will not be willing to accept the kinds of conditions and low pay that the rural youth will accept. And then who will look after you? You will have to look after them [your grandchildren]! They will depend on you.” At this, members of the audience laughed and nodded to each other in a knowing way.

promoting the country in the city through food The first activist organization specifically to further “ecological” food consumption in Kunming was the Pesticides Eco-Alternative Centre (PEAC), which began doing this in 2003 (Klein 2009). By 2009 there were approximately ten groups doing this kind of promotional work, including several NGOs and the Haobaoqing “organic” farm. The latter was a private company operated by a charismatic entrepreneur with a strong commitment to “organic” farming and close ties with several environmental NGOs. It was located just outside the city and was certified “organic” in 2005. As with many other Chinese environmental NGOs (Weller 2006), some of the groups in Kunming were organized by university students and faculty, while others relied heavily on universities for recruitment of volunteers and staff. They often drew inspiration from organizations in other mainland Chinese cities, particularly Chengdu and Beijing, which were described by activists as having particularly vibrant “ecological” food scenes. Some groups had ties with organizations based in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia, as well as in Europe and North America. Activists were often familiar with and inspired by the ethical food debates and movements going on in these places. Activist groups in Kunming knew each other and sometimes collaborated. They also had close links to the many other environmental NGOs in the city, which were sympathetic although they did not themselves run these kinds of projects. Kunming’s growing number of Buddhist vegetarian restaurants and organizations discussed elsewhere (Klein n.d.) espoused similar food ethics, and some had ties with non-Buddhist organizations. This network of organizations might be described as an emerging “alternative” food movement in that the groups involved attempted to reveal and critique aspects of the “mainstream” production processes behind foods available in contemporary urban food markets. However, as in the Lithuanian cases discussed by Mincyte (this volume) and Blumberg (this volume), there

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were often significant overlaps between the city’s more “mainstream” food supply chains and the “alternatives” championed by these groups. In some cases the latter in fact openly furthered the interests of major supermarkets and agribusinesses by promoting “organic” and other ecologically certified foods. Moreover, the influence of Kunming’s ethical food movement was largely limited to the city’s middle class and educated elites. The organizations I encountered all specifically targeted Kunming people they described with terms such as “wealthy” (youqian) or “middle stratum” (zhongchan), under the assumption that these groups would be most likely to pay premiums on the kinds of foods they were promoting. Well-to-do, well-educated people whom I knew in Kunming were often aware that such groups were operating in the city, while other Kunmingers I met tended not to be. In other words, while most of these groups had explicit social agendas including the improvement of rural livelihoods and the health of urban consumers, little attempt was made to include the urban working classes or the poor in their ethical food programs. Activist groups’ attempts to further rural issues in the city were profoundly shaped by the sensibilities of urban consumers, including the latter’s feelings of separation from and mistrust of “peasants” that had been cultivated under radical socialism and often reinforced in the reform era. These attempts also need to be understood in the context of Kunming’s popular foodways, in which the “rural” and the “local” figured centrally in ideas about health, taste, and quality, and in practices aimed at coping with the changing food supply. The Mao-era socialist state had combined policies of local self-sufficiency with a “caste-like” division (Potter and Potter 1990) between rural peasants and urban workers. As a result, in the contemporary period, urban Kunmingers similarly perceived no contradiction between consuming local foods, on the one hand, and maintaining social distinctions toward “peasants,” on the other. Promotional activities of Kunming’s “alternative” food groups in the 2000s often reflected a wariness of raising rural issues with consumers in the city. PEAC, mentioned above, was an officially registered NGO and part of the international Pesticide Action Network. The health of rural farmers was central to its agenda, and the NGO was dedicated to reducing the use of pesticides in the Yunnan countryside. Although most of PEAC’s projects were rural based, the organization also ran campaigns in shopping centers and workshops that were aimed at convincing Kunmingers to purchase certified

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“organic” foods from the city’s supermarkets. Echoing the health and food safety messages in the supermarkets, PEAC campaigners informed Kunmingers of the alleged health risks of eating vegetables grown with agrichemicals, and claimed that “organic” vegetables were not only safer but also more “nutritious” than non-“organic” equivalents. However, during interviews in 2006, members explained to me that they did not tend to discuss issues to do with farmers’ health and livelihoods in their urban consumer campaigns, reasoning that Kunmingers were interested only in the health of themselves and family members (see Klein 2009). The organic farm, Haobaoqing, was less specifically concerned with farmers’ health than PEAC, but managers at the farm claimed to hope that local farmers would take up their example and convert to chemical-free farming. During its first few years of operation, this farm supplied vegetables to the Kunming stores of two major supermarket chains, but it later pulled out of the supermarkets following conflicts over prices and standards. The farm also delivered a weekly vegetable box to its members. Engaging with popular practices of farmhouse tourism (nongjiale), Haobaoqing offered a restaurant and hotel facilities for tourists wishing to enjoy the food and scenery, play mahjong, or fish in their pond. During tours of the farm, visitors were encouraged to pick and taste what guides describe as “pure” and “natural” vegetables and fruits; guides also emphasized the healthy and safe properties of the foods (Klein 2009). According to farm managers the construction of trust was a key reason that the farm was open to visitors. This reflected the growing significance in Kunming, as discussed earlier, of cultivating ties of trust between producer and consumer. (In 2008, before Haobaoqing and the French supermarket giant went their separate ways, Carrefour even organized a trip to Haobaoqing for a select group of customers in connection with the supermarket’s “food safety awareness month.”) There was little attempt, however, to acquaint visitors to Haobaoqing either with the farm’s hired workers, who included migrants from Sichuan as well as residents of nearby villages, or with the contract farmers from the village from which Haobaoqing leased its land. By the end of the first decade of the 2000s, however, some “alternative” food groups in Kunming were beginning to attempt to engage urban consumers in the issues facing rural producers. One group I first encountered in 2008 was at the time calling itself, in my translation, the Green Tillers Center for Furthering Urban-Rural Cooperation (Lü Geng Cheng-Xiang Hezuo Cujin Zhongxin). The group was composed mostly of undergraduate students and professors at

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one of Kunming’s universities, and it was organized in collaboration with faculty at universities in Guangzhou and Hong Kong. At the time the group was unique in Kunming in its explicit attempts to construct ties between urban and rural residents. The group used slogans such as “fair trade” (gonping maoyi) and “city and countryside hand in hand” (cheng-xiang xieshou) in its promotional literature and events, and in 2007 it began to arrange the direct sale to several Kunming households of rice, chicken, and eggs from a Zhuang minority nationality village to the east of Kunming, near the border with Guizhou Province. Initially, most of Green Tillers’ customers resided in a single, middle-class residential neighborhood (shequ), and many were in fact university staff who personally knew the professors involved. Kunmingers were encouraged to pay a premium for what were termed “ecological foods” and “heirloom” or “old varieties” (lao pinzhong). Activists claimed to prospective customers that these were healthy and tasty foods, and that purchasing them would contribute to the economic development and environmental health of this poor mountain village. Instead of applying for “organic” or other ecological certifications, which were much too expensive and bureaucratic for ordinary farmers, Kunmingers were asked to buy these “ecological” foods on trust. In order to build up such trust, Green Tillers organized trips for Kunmingers to the village and also arranged for villagers to meet with potential customers in Kunming. Green Tillers perceived that in order to convince urban Kunmingers to pay premiums for these foods, it was not enough to encourage compassion and trust for the farmers. They had to speak to urbanites’ own concerns about food safety, health, and taste, and do so in familiar terms. This included the idea that certain places produced better foods because of the perceived purity of their environments. At one promotional event for “old variety” rice that I attended in 2008, Green Tillers organized a display in the middle-class residential neighborhood where they were active and invited villagers to talk with residents about their village. In their talks and through the use of slides, posters, and the distinctive “ethnic” dress worn by several villagers, activists and villagers correlated the “healthfulness” and “purity” of the foods, on the one hand, with the village’s remoteness, poverty, and natural beauty, and the villagers’ Zhuang minority nationality identity, on the other. At least in some cases Green Tillers did successfully raise Kunmingers’ awareness of and compassion for villagers. For example, at the promotional event mentioned above, Ms. Qin, in her seventies, told my research assistant Yun Miao that she and her husband had visited the village the previous year

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and had been struck by its poverty. She also recalled to Ms. Miao her own experiences of subsisting on wild foods during the famine of the early 1960s, and she said that she knew that people in the countryside did not have an easy life. She also expressed admiration for the hard work of the university student volunteers. Nevertheless, although she had sympathies for both the villagers and the volunteers, she was not sure how much rice she was going to buy that year: that would depend on the taste of the rice and on how much she could give to her friends and relatives. She actually found the “mouth feel” (kougan) of the rice to be rather too hard (ying). Moreover, despite her sympathies and her visit to the village, Ms. Qin explained that her main reason for believing that the rice was what she called “organic” (youji) was that she trusted a university professor who was involved with the project and lived in the same residential neighborhood. Clearly, Green Tillers had succeeded in drawing Ms. Qin’s attention to the situation of the farmers, yet in making “ethical” food decisions she was also drawing on her own life experiences, personal relations, and taste preferences. Green Tillers had a difficult time establishing themselves in Kunming. In 2009 I attended a meeting of Kunming food activist groups that was held at the Haobaoqing organic farm. At the meeting it transpired that Green Tillers had been run out of the residential neighborhood where they had been based, as some of the residents had complained that the group’s promotional activities were loud and disruptive. The organization was finding it difficult to find sufficient numbers of loyal Kunming customers. However, at the meeting I also learned that other activist groups were in fact following the lead of Green Tillers and attempting to develop similar schemes for self-certification and direct sales. Several of these groups were increasingly uneasy about their relationship with “mainstream” food businesses and were hoping that direct sales might benefit primary producers rather than supermarkets and large agribusinesses. In other words, notions about promoting producer-consumer connections did exist and by 2009 they appeared to be spreading among activists in Kunming’s “alternative” food movement. Judging from the experiences of Green Tillers and other food activist groups, the successful promotion of ideas of urban-rural connection in the city would depend on the ability of activists to make these ideas compatible not only with Kunmingers’ anxieties around the food system, but also with popular conceptualizations of the rural and popular ideas concerning dietary health.

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ethical ambivalence On my return visits to Kunming in 2012 it struck me that “connecting with the countryside” had become a much more central message in Kunming’s “alternative” food movement than it had been in 2006–09. The Earthbound Restaurant had just been established. PEAC had recently set up a Community Supported Agriculture scheme that connected a Miao nationality village in Kunming’s rural Songming County with consumers in a residential neighborhood in the North District of the city. Green Tillers was now running a thriving shop in a well-known middle-class residential neighborhood near central Kunming. The neighborhood also had open access to the outside, which allowed both residents and wider members of the public to buy goods such as heirloom varieties of rice and peanuts, tu or “free-range” eggs, and textiles embroidered by women of the Zhuang nationality, or to put in orders for fresh tu chicken or tu pork for the Chinese New Year. Green Tillers had recently begun a second cooperative project, this time with a Miao nationality village in Luquan County, Kunming. On their leaflets and posters in the shop Green Tillers now referred to their activities as “Community Supported Agriculture.” Increasingly, activists in Kunming were coming to perceive and present their activities as a form of urban-rural connection. In articulating this connection they drew explicitly on discourses and models such as Community Supported Agriculture, Slow Food, and Fair Trade that had been developed by food activists in advanced capitalist societies. Yet by also drawing on more local discourses and experiences, these “alternative” food movements took on “Chinese characteristics.” The Earthbound Restaurant’s philosophy of tu, for example, not only romanticized the “local” in ways similar to Slow Food, but also spoke to popular ideas that connected the healthfulness of foods to the local “waters and soils.” Green Tillers built on Kunmingers’ associations of “backward mountain areas” and minority nationalities with the pure and natural. Kunming food activists also drew on the language of Chinese state socialism. On their posters and flyers, Green Tillers articulated goals of rural-urban connection with the current official Party-State rhetoric of creating a “harmonious society” (hexie shehui). This notion was being promoted by the Hu Jintao-Wen Jiabao administration as an antidote to the social tensions and inequalities associated with the introduction of the market economy. It was

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used to justify measures meant to reduce the urban-rural divide, including the abolition of the agricultural tax in 2006. Other activists drew on pre-reform socialist orthodoxy. Ms. Yang, one of the co-owners of Earthbound, explained to me how their version of CSA operated. Agreements were reached with farmers in advance of each season about what was to be grown and how much would be purchased, with prices fixed at a rate significantly above the going market rates. She explicitly and approvingly likened the system to the “planned economy” (jihua jingji) of pre-reform socialist China. As I have argued in this chapter, the “Chinese characteristics” of the movement were especially apparent in the ways in which it addressed and was shaped by the urban-rural divisions solidified under state socialism. Although activists had become increasingly bold in furthering ideals of urban-rural connection, the activists whom I met in 2012 still complained about Kunmingers’ attitudes to the countryside. Ms. Yang at Earthbound explained that although they organized trips to their project village, it was difficult to convince Kunmingers to take part as, she claimed, they cared only about their own health and not about farmers. Ms. Yang also told me how she had recently been chastised by a group of elderly customers for the restaurant’s high prices. She had tried to explain that their costs were high as they gave farmers a fair price and transported the food themselves, but the group had told her that the high prices showed that the restaurateurs had “no conscience” (meiyou liangxin). Like many other customers, this group had also complained about the slow service. This was despite the large signs in the restaurant with the characters “slow food” (manshi), which explained that slow cooking methods were part of their philosophy of tu. “People just treat the restaurant like a nongjiale (‘farmhouse fun’),” Ms. Yang said. The irony of these statements is, of course, that the managers had themselves gone to considerable effort to present the establishment in the fashion of a country-style restaurant or nongjiale and to highlight the healthfulness and safety of their foods. Clearly, there was an ongoing tension between catering to Kunmingers’ desires to enjoy themselves by consuming “rural simplicity” and “healthy foods” of the locality, and trying to convince the same customers that they had a moral obligation toward the producers of those foods. There was another, related conflict of ethics being played out here, as suggested by the customers’ claim that the restaurateurs had no liangxin, a powerful term that is somewhat different from the English word “conscience.” As Ellen Oxfeld explains for a rural Chinese context, “a person lacks liangxin if

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he violates his moral obligations, even if he is troubled about it later” (Oxfeld 2010: 52; see also Oxfeld, this volume). Activist-entrepreneurs tried to convince people whom they saw as privileged urbanites of their moral duty to improve the lot of the underprivileged in the countryside. Yet the elderly customers in Ms. Yang’s story, who had grown up with an official socialist ethics of egalitarianism, presented themselves instead as “ordinary people” (laobaixing) toward whom the restaurant had a moral obligation to serve good food at a decent price and in a timely fashion. Kunming’s “alternative” food movement continues to be profoundly shaped by a rural-urban divide entrenched during radical socialism and transformed but by no means resolved through the greater mobility made possible during the era of market reforms. Thus, in spite of its ideological and sometimes organizational ties with food activist groups in Hong Kong, North America, and other capitalist economies, it is not sufficient to understand the movement in Kunming and other Chinese cities as a reaction to a profit-oriented, “globalized” food system. It must also be understood against the backdrop of the redistributive economy of Chinese state socialism, in which rural consumption was severely suppressed and peasants were tied to the land in order that urban workers would be able to “eat the state’s rice” (Potter and Potter 1990). It is also tempting to read the movement as an “extension” of individual- and family-centered concerns for dietary health and food safety to encompass fellow Chinese citizens in the countryside (cf. Kneafsey et al. 2008), part of Jankowiak’s (2004) “expanding moral horizons.” There is some truth to this: at the very least, groups such as Green Tillers and Earthbound were certainly addressing urbanites’ concerns with health and food safety as a basis from which to encourage a greater attention to farmers’ issues. Yet as Yunxiang Yan (2009, 2012a) has argued, the rise in reform-era China of “a generalized notion of compassion and charity” (2012a: 66) has been accompanied by a growing distrust of strangers. Even the word shequ, used for “community” in the Chinese translation of Community Supported Agriculture, suggests that what was envisioned may not have been a single community encompassing farmers and city people: in the contemporary People’s Republic shequ typically refers to an urban residential neighborhood of the kind in which Green Tillers operated. Instead, in Kunming CSA was imagined as an arrangement whereby people in one community or set of communities—urban consumers—supported those in another—rural producers. The tensions and ambiguities evident in Kunming’s emerging “alternative” food movement suggest that there

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is still a great degree of ambivalence among urban Chinese about what their relationship to rural China should be. They also remind us that the growth of ethical food movements in postsocialist and market socialist settings should be understood not only as part of a globalized critique of a market-driven “global food system,” but also as ongoing, critical conversations with state socialism.

notes Fieldwork between 2006 and 2009 was funded by small research grants from the British Academy (SG-43053 and SG-50545). Additional support was provided by the Universities’ China Committee in London (UCCL) and the SOAS Internal Research Grants scheme. The work of my research assistant, Yun Miao, in 2008 and 2009 in helping to locate, contact, and interview informants, gather miscellaneous information, and transcribe interviews was invaluable. Fieldwork in 2012 was funded by a small research grant from the British Academy (SG-111559). I am grateful to Peter Luetchford, Harry G. West, James L. Watson, Yuson Jung, and Melissa L. Caldwell for their comments on previous versions of this paper. I am of course responsible for remaining shortcomings in the text. 1. Currently, around 92 percent of China’s population is officially classified as part of the Han “ethnic group” or “nationality” (minzu). The remaining 8 percent belongs to one of China’s fifty-five officially recognized “minority nationalities” (Donald and Benewick 2005: 30–31). In Yunnan Province roughly two-thirds of the population is officially considered Han, with the remaining third of the people classified as belonging to one of twenty-four minority nationalities (McCarthy 2009: 16). 2. Activists’ practices were also shaped by their interactions with other actors in addition to consumers, including government officials, international collaborators and, of course, farmers, but these interactions are beyond the scope of this chapter.

references Ash, Robert F. 2006. “Population Change and Food Security in China.” In Critical Issues in Contemporary China, ed. Czeslaw Tubilewicz, 143–66. New York and London: Routledge. Blum, Susan D. 2001. Portraits of “Primitives”: Ordering Human Kinds in the Chinese Nation. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Caldwell, Melissa L. 2007. “Feeding the Body and Nourishing the Soul: Natural Foods in Postsocialist Russia.” Food, Culture & Society 10(1): 43–69. Carrier, James G. 2008. “Think Locally, Act Globally: The Political Economy of Ethical Consumption.” In Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility, ed. Geert De Neve, Peter

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Luetchford, Jeffrey Pratt, and Donald C. Wood, 31–51 (Research in Economic Anthropology, vol. 28). Bingley, UK: JAI Press. Cohen, Myron L. 1993. “Cultural and Political Inventions in Modern China: The Case of the Chinese Peasant.” Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 122(2): 151–70. Coles, Benjamin, and Philip Crang. 2011. “Placing Alternative Consumption: Commodity Fetishism in Borough Fine Foods Market, London.” In Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction, ed. Tania Lewis and Emily Potter, 87–102. London and New York: Routledge. Croll, Elisabeth. 1983. The Family Rice Bowl: Food and the Domestic Economy in China. London: Zed Press. DeLind, Laura B. 2003. “Considerably More Than Vegetables, A Lot Less Than Community: The Dilemma of Community Supported Agriculture.” In Fighting for the Farm: Rural America Transformed, ed. Jane Adams, 192–206. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Donald, Stephanie Hemelryk, and Robert Benewick. 2005. The State of China Atlas. Berkeley: University of California Press. Fullbrook, David. 2009. “Kunming: China’s Rising Star.” Monocle 21(3): 73–77. Gross, Joan. 2009. “Capitalism and Its Discontents: Back-to-the-Lander and Freegan Foodways in Rural Oregon.” Food & Foodways 17(2): 57–79. Guang, Lei. 2003. “Rural Taste, Urban Fashion: The Cultural Politics of Urban/Rural Difference in Contemporary China.” Positions 11(3): 613–46. Guldin, Gregory Eliyu. 2001. What’s a Peasant to Do? Village Becoming Town in Southern China. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Guthman, Julie. 2004. Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California. Berkeley: University of California Press. . 2008. “ ‘If Only They Knew’: Color Blindness and Universalism in California Alternative Food Institutions.” Professional Geographer 60(3): 387–97. Hann, Chris, and Keith Hart. 2011. Economic Anthropology: History, Ethnography, Critique. Cambridge: Polity Press. Hubbert, Jennifer. 2007. “Serving the Past on a Platter: Cultural Revolution Restaurants in Contemporary China.” In The Restaurants Book: Ethnographies of Where We Eat, ed. David Beriss and David Sutton, 79–96. Oxford and New York: Berg. Jankowiak, William. 2004. “Market Reforms, Nationalism and the Expansion of Urban China’s Moral Horizon.” Urban Anthropology 33(2–4): 167–210. Klein, Jakob A. 2009. “Creating Ethical Food Consumers? Promoting Organic Foods in Urban Southwest China.” Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale 17(1): 74–89. . 2013. “Everyday Approaches to Food Safety in Kunming.” China Quarterly 213 (June): 376–93. . Forthcoming. “Eating Green: Ecological Food Consumption in Urban China.” In Tasteful Trends: Identity, Power and the Mobility of East Asian Food, ed. Kwangok Kim. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.

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chapter 6

Vegetarian Ethics and Politics in Late-Socialist Vietnam nir avieli

In 2000, there were only three vegetarian restaurants (com chay) in the small town of Hoi An in central Vietnam. One tiny restaurant was located in a narrow back-alley in the ancient quarter (pho co), another was a makeshift shed situated by one of the town’s main thoroughfares, and the third was located at a crossroad on the town’s outskirts. There was also a stand in the ancient quarter that served vegetarian versions of the town’s local noodles for breakfast. These were unassuming food venues that sold what was probably the cheapest fare in town: a plate of rice, topped with a few mock-meat dishes and a bowl of soup for some 3,000 dong (equivalent to 20 U.S. cents), and even less for a bowl of noodles. Ten years later, the town boasted more than twelve vegetarian restaurants, most of which had opened since 2007. Although these restaurants still provided cheap fare, they were hardly the humble eateries of the turn of the millennium. The original venues had been renovated, and the new ones adhered to the hygiene, quality, and aesthetic standards of the recently emerging Hoianese middle class. Most of these new venues were located outside the town center, mainly in, or near, the burgeoning new middle-class neighborhoods. The most luxurious vegetarian restaurant was established in the summer of 2009 in a beautiful “neotraditional” building that featured a hardwood structure, am-duong (yin-yang) roof-tiles, and a manicured bonsai garden. In addition to the slightly more expensive set meals, it offered a variety of luxurious meat-imitation dishes, including Lau Thai Lan, or Thailand-style hot pot. 144

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The number of people eating vegetarian food in town had also increased substantially. In 2000, the owners of the most popular com chay in town reported a daily clientele of some 100–150 customers on normal days and some 1,000 clients on mung mot and ngay ram, the first and fifteenth days, respectively, of the Vietnamese lunisolar calendar, when the moon is either dark or full. Jointly termed nhi trai, these days are related to Buddhism (Huu 1998: 212; Seneviratne 1992: 187) and were even termed by some of my interviewees “Buddha days” (in English). Observing a vegetarian diet on the first and the fifteenth days of each lunar month is a minimal requirement of Vietnamese Buddhism (Huu 1998: 207). Restaurant owners estimated that some 200–250 vegetarian meals were sold daily throughout town, and some 2,000–3,000 on the first and fifteenth, which fed roughly 10 percent of the town’s population. By 2010, the owner of the largest and most popular vegetarian restaurant in town reported 200 customers on normal days and 2,000 customers on mung mot and ngay ram. While other restaurant owners reported fewer clients, the total numbers were significant, with roughly 1,000–2,000 customers on regular days and up to 10,000 on the first and fifteenth throughout town. The actual number of those opting for vegetarian food in 2010 was probably even higher, mainly on mung mot and ngay ram. Quite a few food stands and local restaurants served vegetarian food on those days, while many Hoianese shifted to preparing and eating vegetarian food at home or in their workplace dining rooms. Although I cannot provide conclusive figures, I am confident that the numbers of those consuming vegetarian food ten years earlier was significantly smaller, as there were only a few food venues or workplace canteens that offered vegetarian food on the first and fifteenth. When I inquired about this new culinary trend, my interviewees most commonly invoked Buddhism as the reason. However, as our conversations evolved, respondents’ explanations became more complex and varied. In this chapter, I explore the various meanings attributed by Hoianese to the recent popularity of vegetarian food in the town. My Hoianese interviewees gave a range of reflections on the consumption of vegetarian food. Some argued that the ease of control over religious activities in Vietnam had resulted in a significant comeback for Buddhism in Hoi An and for an increased demand for vegetarian food. Others suggested that the recent economic prosperity was accompanied by a sharp rise in nutritionally related diseases, which a vegetarian diet was believed to counteract. Younger interviewees commented on the complex and stressful nature of modern life and suggested that

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Buddhism and vegetarianism were potential solutions. Yet another claim was that prosperity and overindulgence had led many people to vegetarianism, for some as a moral remedy and for others as just another mode of conspicuous consumption. Altogether, vegetarianism was depicted by my Hoianese interviewees as both an outcome of and a reaction to modernity. The most intriguing explanations, however, were political. Several restaurant owners and clients, as well as locals critical of the vegetarian trend, insinuated that Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) religious organizations were sponsoring some of these vegetarian restaurants as part of their attempts to undermine the current regime. They specifically suggested that the controversial overseas Vietnamese religious leader Ching Hai sponsored some of the vegetarian restaurants in town as part of her attempts to destabilize the existing political establishment. Opting for vegetarianism in Hoi An was thus understood by some of my interviewees as a practice that expressed identification with Ching Hai and an acceptance of her teaching. As Ching Hai was seen by the authorities as well as many locals as an enemy of the regime, this identification with her teaching and the practical adoption of vegetarianism were understood as political and potentially subversive. Eating vegetarian food in Hoi An is therefore presented in this chapter as a multivocal practice that allows “a wide range of groups and individuals to relate to the same signifier-vehicle in a variety of ways” (Turner 1975: 155). As a consequence, this analysis complicates the understanding of vegetarianism as an ethical food movement by suggesting that meat avoidance is not only about nonviolence and compassion, restraint and moderation, or the sanctity of life, but may also be understood in late-socialist Vietnam as a subversive practice and as a token in a political economy of power. The late-socialist context is significant for this study. While most of the chapters in this volume engage with “postsocialist” states, that is, with political entities that used to be socialist but are not socialist anymore, Vietnam is officially and practically a “Socialist Republic,” ruled by a communist party along with its red flag, one-party system, mass gatherings, and schoolchildren in red ties. However, major socioeconomic reforms launched during the mid1980s, which essentially meant a move from central planning to a decentralized market economy with socialist characteristics, have deeply affected everyday life in the country. The initial period of economic liberalization led to increasing flexibility in other realms and facilitated the freedom of employment,

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remuneration, consumption, movement, leisure, and more recently and cautiously, religion and expression. In order to distinguish this period from the previous, more “orthodox,” socialist stage, I follow a number of scholars of Vietnam who term it “late socialism” (Endres 2007; Tai 2001; Taylor 2004). In his recent book on Saigon, Eric Harms (2011) explains that he uses the term “late socialism” when discussing the contemporary Vietnamese polity so as to avoid the term “postsocialism,” which, he writes, “clearly deals with the age after the end of socialism— while [I was] trying to reckon with the contemporary manifestations of socialism in today’s highly integrated ‘late capitalist’ and ‘post-Fordist’ global economy” (Harms 2011: 233). Late-socialist Vietnam is characterized according to these scholars by a powerful yet elusive tension between its authoritarian “one-party system” politics and its free market economy, along with the resulting social freedoms it entails. “Subversive consumption” (Scott 2009) in Vietnam involved purchasing consumer goods and specifically Western/American iconic items such as blue jeans, branded sneakers, or specific music albums. These goods were sanctioned when I began my fieldwork in Hoi An in 1998, but at that time were seen as tokens of resistance. These items are now commonly purchased and displayed and have, as a result, lost much of their subversive edge. The case of vegetarian food in Hoi An is different, as it entails a major contradiction: within the free market economy, Vietnamese citizens are allowed and, in fact, encouraged to purchase and eat whatever they like. However, a food regime that is promoted by, and identified with, a defiant political organization belongs by association to the political realm where the regime exercises very little flexibility and tolerance. This situation makes vegetarian food in Hoi An potentially subversive. I return to this complexity at the conclusion of the article.

contemporary hoainese vegetarianism The immediate and most common responses to my questions regarding the recent proliferation of vegetarian restaurants and of vegetarianism at large in Hoi An were: “Because we are Buddhists,” “Because many people are Buddhists now,” or simply “Dao Phat” (worship [of] Buddha). Some individuals just clasped their palms in front of their chests in the Buddhist greeting gesture. But when I insisted that people were Buddhists ten years ago, too, or

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wondered why so many people were suddenly Buddhists, the responses became more complex. The most common explanation had to do with the resurgence of religion in Vietnam, and specifically with the resurgence of Buddhism. The resurgence of religion in Vietnam is the outcome of the gradual and cautious lifting of the bans on worship and ritual in the context of Doi Moi (economical renovation) (Endres 2011; Fjelstad and Nguyen 2006; Malarney 2002; Taylor 2004, 2007a, 2007b; for Buddhism, see Soucy 2007; Thien 1999). While some religious practices such as len dong (spirit mediumship) are still considered superstitious and forbidden (although intensively and openly practiced), because Buddhism is officially ratified as part of the national cultural heritage, it is acknowledged as a positive social force and therefore allowed and even encouraged by various government agencies. Thanh, a 26-year-old salesgirl in one of Hoi An’s cloth shops, explained: “Before, it was not allowed to worship Buddha. The police might come to your house if you went to the temple (chua) and you could face all kinds of difficulties. But today, it is okay.” This line of argument was very common and repeatedly suggested with minute variations by many of the vegetarian diners I approached. In some cases, however, I was told precisely what kind of problems might have arisen in the past. Manh, a successful local businessman whose family had long been vegetarian, recounted: “My father held an important position in the People’s Committee [of the municipality] during the eighties, but he became Buddhist and turned vegetarian. As he ate regularly with his colleagues, they realized what was going on. So his boss told him that he must decide whether he wanted to keep his job and renounce Buddhism, or lose his position. He was told that Buddhists cannot be trusted by the government. My father chose Buddhism—and was fired.” When I asked Manh if he was not scared of eating vegetarian food regularly and publicly, he responded: “Nothing to be scared of! I can do what I like.” May, a 40-year-old trader, similarly told me how her dream had been to go to university, but because her family was known to be Buddhist she had been denied this opportunity and had to settle for the job she held as a trader. Like most of the diners in Hoi An’s vegetarian restaurants, she, too, was a regular customer, which means that she was confident enough that her culinary and religious preferences would not cause further trouble. After Buddhism, the second most frequent explanation focused on health preoccupations: vegetarian food, I was told, is “khoe hon” (healthier). When I

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asked my interviewees to elaborate on the health qualities of vegetarian food, they suggested two lines of interpretation. According to the first, vegetarian food has less fat and cholesterol than nonvegetarian food. Tai, a 52-year-old tour guide explained: “In the past, we used to eat little food, mostly vegetables and some fish and rice . . . we had meat only on special occasions . . . and we were very slim (om lam). But now we eat so much food, a lot of meat and nuoc mam (fish sauce) and beer, so we become fat (beo). Many men my age have high cholesterol and high blood pressure and many women worry about being fat. A vegetarian diet is healthier because it has little fat and no cholesterol.” In my own long-term research on Hoianese foodways (Avieli 2012), I followed the tremendous rise in the standard of living, which resulted in a shift from a diet of small quantities of rice, greens, and fish to the consumption of large quantities of animal protein, fats, salt, sugar, and alcohol. These culinary patterns radically changed the Hoianese bodyscape: the undernourished, slim, and short bodies of the 1990s were gradually replaced by taller, wider, and even corpulent figures, decaying teeth, beer bellies, and a sharp rise in foodrelated diseases such as high blood pressure (from the excessive consumption of the highly salted fish sauce), dangerous levels of blood fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides, and even obesity among children. It is important to note that the food in Hoianese vegetarian restaurants was not necessarily a good remedy for these problems. These restaurants used ample quantities of peanut oil, which contains high levels of polysaturated fats. Soy sauce and other fermented bean sauces contain high amounts of salt. Mock-meat products tend to be industrially produced and highly processed. Homemade mock-meat was usually prepared by washing the starch off wheat flour and keeping the gluten, whose consistency is chewy and allows for a “bite” sensation similar to that of meat. The impact of excessive consumption of gluten and soybean products (soy sauce, tofu, and soy milk), especially if the grains are genetically modified, is controversial at best. A second line of questions about the health qualities of vegetarian food was very different and concerned the industrialization and intensification of animal farming. For example, 50-year-old Ha, whom I met in a small vegetarian restaurant, told me that she had stopped eating meat during the first outbreak of bird flu in Vietnam in 2005. She pointed out that many of her relatives became vegetarian as a consequence of the outbreak of swine flu, a couple of years later. When Ha left the restaurant, I approached the proprietor, who confirmed that she, too, had decided to shift to serving vegetarian food

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in 2005 because she felt that the meat sold at the market was no longer safe. She explained: “Pigs and chicken get a lot of medicines (thuoc), and fish are preserved with powerful chemicals. Many of my clients avoid meat because of swine flu, bird flu, and mad cow disease. In fact, I rarely serve fresh greens (rau song) anymore, because they are sprayed with powerful insecticides. Look, I only use green beans (dau tay) and pumpkin (bi), which are very resistant and do not need spraying.” She then pointed to a small jar of tuong ot, a sweet and spicy chili paste (and a famous Hoianese local specialty), and said, “You see how dark my tuong ot is. It is made of natural ingredients and has no artificial colors and preservatives.” An elderly female customer who overheard our conversation joined in and suggested that many people in Hoi An prefer vegetarian food because of the heat: “I am from Da Lat [A former French colonial hill station and a vegetable growing center known for its cool weather]. Over there we have very good vegetables but people still eat meat. But in Hoi An, the weather is so hot, and I am told that it is becoming even hotter every year. So people are reluctant to eat meat and fish because they spoil very quickly.” While this elderly woman’s explanation involved a certain measure of contempt by a modern city dweller toward the hygiene standards presumed to exist in a provincial town, she was correct in pointing out that the average temperatures have been constantly on the rise, with the summer of 2010 reputed to be the hottest ever recorded. Under such conditions, she was suggesting, meat either spoils or has to be treated with powerful preservatives. In any case, it would be wise to avoid it. A friend who was having lunch with me at the time added, “Nowadays people only think about themselves [emphasis in original]. In the past, they were vegetarian because they believed in Buddha, but today they are vegetarian because they think about their health . . . . They are rich, and they want to live longer.” I asked her whether this was positive or negative. She explained, “It is good. In the past, we hardly had fish or meat, so a meal without meat was sad. But today we have fish and meat in every meal, so people enjoy eating vegetarian food . . . . They find it light and easy.” This comment shifts the discussion to yet another line of explanation regarding the popularity of vegetarian food in Hoi An: it has become a means of class distinction (Bourdieu 1984) and an expression of economic success and cultural refinement. Indeed, I was frequently told the following proverb

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as an explanation of the recent popularity of vegetarian food: Nha nao an rau la nha ngoui giau!, meaning “A house where vegetables are eaten is a rich house!” This saying is in line with the comment mentioned above. The recent economic affluence that appeared in Hoi An since the late 1990s in the context of tourism has resulted in a great increase in the consumption of fish, seafood, and meat. Yet just like the members of the French upper class described by Bourdieu, members of the new Hoianese elite wanted to distinguish themselves from members of the middle class and soon scorned public consumption of large amounts of meat and seafood. Instead, they turned to a restrained and even austere menu that often consisted of high-quality versions of the simple dishes they had eaten when they were young and poor, with very little meat and an emphasis on fresh greens and vegetables. One of the most successful restaurateurs in town, for example, told me how he had stopped eating the luxurious food cooked in his own restaurant and turned to small meals of very simple Hoianese dishes while avoiding meat almost completely. A Hoianese who had emigrated to Europe told me that when he left Hoi An in the early 1990s, meat was expensive and rare. Upon his return visit in 2010, he noted that meat was cheap and abundant while high-quality greens and vegetables were expensive. He recounted how surprised he had been to find out that fresh greens from the Tra Que hamlet (a small village that produces high-quality greens fertilized only with fermented seaweed) were being sold at a very high price at Metro, the modern supermarket in the neighboring metropolis of Danang. One of Tra Que’s most successful entrepreneurs was very active in the attempt to preserve the local farming system, which he described as “sustainable and organic.” He told me that these greens and vegetables, which had, until recently, been sold cheaply at Hoi An’s markets, were now being sold to wholesale dealers at prices that Hoianese traders and customers could not afford. As meat became cheap and abundant, some of the better-off and more educated members of Hoi An’s emerging elite, who until recently had eaten large amounts of meat and seafood as an expression of their newly acquired wealth, were turning to a vegetarian diet. They were doing this, I argue, to display in a sophisticated manner their economic and cultural capital and to distinguish themselves from members of the burgeoning middle class, who were now consuming large amounts of animal protein. It should be noted that restraint while eating and slim bodies were expressions of high social status in premodern Vietnam (Jamieson 1995) and were

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still expected of those of higher status, especially elderly men, when I began my research in Hoi An in 1998. Men, and elderly men in particular, had privileged access to food, most notably meat. Yet social norms required that they eat with restraint and avoid gluttony, especially at formal meals (Avieli 2007). Restraining one’s meat intake was therefore a common way of expressing high status in Hoi An. The recent popularity of vegetarian food suggests a contemporary enactment of this well-established social norm. Finally, yet another focus of respondents’ comments concerned the untrustworthy morality that allegedly motivated the recent vegetarian trend. Chau, a 34-year-old entrepreneur and restaurateur, responded to my question concerning the popularity of vegetarianism with a smile: “Nowadays, the people of Hoi An lie so much (noi doi qua) to tourists, and even to other Hoianese . . . so they need to eat vegetarian food to feel better.” Chau was referring to the well-established local conception of the Hoianese tourism industry as an efficient exploitation scheme based on sophisticated mechanisms of manipulation and deceit. Another expression often quoted by diners at vegetarian restaurants was “an chay ngu man,” which translates into “eat[ing] vegetarian, sleep[ing] salt[y],” with “salty” standing for “nonvegetarian” or “meat.” Ngu man therefore denotes “carnal sleeping” and having sex. This saying implies that a vegetarian diet does not necessarily entail the complete cessation of carnal desire. In fact, it suggests the contrary: that some of those who publicly eat vegetarian, and thereby present themselves as being pious, may in private domains act lustfully and unethically. When I raised the subject of vegetarianism on the web-based Vietnamese Studies Group, an active academic virtual community, some respondents mentioned the saying An thit va noi that tot hon an chay va noi doi (or An man noi ngay tot hon an chay noi doi). This means “Eating meat and telling the truth is better than eating vegetarian and lying.” Just like in the previous saying, vegetarianism was depicted here as a moral façade that might conceal unethical behavior. Both sayings therefore insinuated that those who eat vegetarian food are not necessarily moral and may even turn to vegetarianism so as to counterbalance an unethical lifestyle. Thus, while many interviewees described the recent vegetarian trend as a return to traditional patterns of eating vegetarian fare on the first and fifteenth days of the lunar month and other Buddhist festivals, and hinted that these were discontinued in 1975, perspectives such as these suggest that contemporary

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Hoianese vegetarianism was actually a consequence of, and an antidote to, late-socialist modernity. More Hoianese are Buddhists in the present period because of the Vietnamese government’s adoption of a more tolerant view of religion, which is in turn part of the government’s greater attention to human rights and personal freedom. Moreover, a vegetarian diet was believed to be healthy because it counteracted both modern nutritional diseases such as obesity, hyperglycemia, and excessive blood fats and the negative effects from residues of medication fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, and preservatives used in modern farming. People avoided meat also as a precaution against swine flu, bird flu, and mad cow disease, which were likewise consequences of modern farming. Finally, the new middle class, whose members consumed vegetarian food to avoid obesity and acquire prestige and status, is a modern social echelon that emerged in the town during the 1990s in the context of doi moi (economic renovation) and, most importantly, modern tourism, whose socioeconomic impact on Hoi An has been huge. Thus, Hoianese vegetarianism was not simply a resurgence of an ancient tradition but rather a modern phenomenon, fueled by modernity and sustained by it. While these explanations are all important, a few of the larger vegetarian restaurants had English stickers on their food counters reading “Be Veg, Go Green, Save the Planet.” These stickers, which clearly addressed ecological concerns, were distributed by “Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association,” an overseas Vietnamese organization that was involved with quite a few of the Hoianese vegetarian restaurants. In the next section I discuss the role of this movement in the recent vegetarian trend in Hoi An.

the politics of hoianese vegetarianism “Let me tell you why I am angry with my parents,” said 37-year-old Huong, the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Nguyen, who run one of the vegetarian restaurants in town, when I inquired about an angry comment he made regarding his parents’ recent trip to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). He explained: More than twenty years ago, my parents heard about Ching Hai. She is from Quang Ngai [the neighboring province], and the people there believe that she is a Buddha. She speaks with a Quang Ngai accent, which is very similar to tieng Quang [the local vernacular], so it is very easy for people in Hoi An to understand her. My parents were convinced that she is a Buddha and began following her. At that

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time, she had already left Vietnam for America. The problem was that the government does not trust Ching Hai. They say that she is a bad woman, a liar . . . that she has a lot of money and a lot of property and that she takes money from the poor. When my parents became her followers, they were still government employees. They were told that if they wanted to keep their jobs, they must stop following her. My parents refused and lost their jobs. My family went through very difficult times, as we had no income and my parents had to support five children, the youngest still a baby, and myself, the oldest, about to go to university. At that time, everyone in Hoi An was poor, but our situation was really bad. This is why I never had a chance to go to university. A few years later, my parents opened their restaurant. You know that my parents are very kind. They always say that they must sell the cheapest food in Hoi An so that everyone would eat vegetarian food. They have been working very hard, especially on mung mot and ngay ram, and they have been selling a lot of food over the years, but they only have very little money. We [the children] ask them about the money but they always say that there is only very little profit. Some years ago, they suddenly told us that they were going to the Mekong delta for a trip [di choi, or “(to) go (and) play,” which denotes a pleasurable leisure activity]. We were quite surprised, as they had never gone on such trips before. But since at that time so many people from Hoi An went traveling [in the context of the booming local economy and the relaxation of government censorship of leisure activities and consumption (cf. Phinney 2008)], we were happy for them. When they came back, they said that they went to Thailand [by bus through Laos], and brought many gifts from Thailand. We finally understood that they went to a camp that Ching Hai ran not far from Bangkok. They came home very happy. During the last few years, they made a few more trips, always saying that they are going to Saigon or to visit relatives, but we think that they went again to Thailand. We have no idea what they are doing there, but we were warned by the police that Ching Hai is a bad woman who exploits poor people like my parents. When we confronted them, they admitted to going to her meetings but denied that she was a bad woman or that they had to give her any money. In fact, they argued that she paid for their trips and hinted that she somehow supported their restaurant financially, making it possible to sell the food so cheaply. We were very worried and angry and we demanded that they stop following Ching Hai. We told them: “You have to choose between us, your children, and her.” My parents said that if they had to choose, they would follow her . . . . For me this is very hard. You know that in Vietnam the family is the most important thing, but my parents feel that she is more important than us.

A few days later, I met one of Huong’s younger siblings, who still lived at home and who, unlike her older brother, was a practicing vegetarian. When I asked her how she felt about Ching Hai, she said that she was not sure whether Ching Hai was good or bad:

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She has a lot of money, but she helps the poor . . . she dyes her hair blond and maybe she has a lot of boyfriends and cars and she is a TV star [actually she owns a TV channel called “Supreme Master TV”], as the newspapers argue. For me, Buddhism is all about being good. I do not know whether she is a Buddha or not, and even if she is good or bad . . . . I am not sure if I believe in her. But my parents believe that she is a Buddha. And as you know, they are very happy and very kind.

Several weeks later, I was invited to a wedding and my host asked 26-yearold Thi, a mutual acquaintance, to pick me up on her motorbike. On the way, we stopped for a drink, and I asked Thi about her own wedding plans. She responded that there had been many problems with her wedding and that it had recently been called off. She went on and explained that the cancellation had to do with her parents, who owned a vegetarian restaurant: My father’s grandparents were vegetarian. My mom ate meat until she married my father, and then they had vegetarian food on the first and fifteenth of the month and for four months during the summer. In the early 1990s, my father left [fled] the country and arrived at a refugee camp in Thailand, where he met Master Ching Hai and read her teachings. I was born in 1984 and until my father’s return from Thailand had vegetarian food only on mung mot and ngay ram and during the summer. But when my father came back, we became full vegetarians. My parents opened the restaurant a few years ago. My mother did not like this idea. She told my father that it would be too hard. She suggested that they should continue farming or maybe join the tourism industry, but my father said that he wanted to prevent animal killing. In their restaurant they sell very cheap food for the poor people, for example old people or xe om (motorbike-taxi drivers), so they can have healthy food. Most of our customers are not vegetarian but they want to eat healthy, cheap, and tasty food. More and more people go to the temple and want to eat vegetarian food and to do good things (lam dieu tot). Even Cao Dai [a Vietnamese religion] is reviving now, and the followers eat vegetarian food ten days a month. Vegetarianism is good for the body and the soul (suck khoe va tam linh). We should not kill animals. When you cut vegetables, they renew, but when you cut animals they die . . . . It also became trendy to be vegetarian among people in Hanoi and Saigon, business people and teachers . . . rich and educated people. Modern life conditions make for imbalance: people do not work outside in the fresh air and under the sun anymore, the climate has changed and health is impaired.

We then returned to the topic of the cancellation of her wedding: I met my boyfriend in high school but we fell in love only two years ago, after I returned from my university studies in Hanoi. His parents love me very much, but he is their only son, which means that his wife, their only daughter-in-law,

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would have to live with them, take care of them and cook for them . . . . But they eat meat. It also means that his sons would have to eat meat [as part of the ancestor worship rituals].

I knew that a Hoianese wife is expected to adopt her husband’s (and inlaws’) culinary standards. In fact, one of my close friends, who was a vegetarian throughout her childhood and youth, began eating meat after her marriage because her mother-in-law insisted that she should cook and eat meat. So I asked Thi whether she had considered solving the problem by eating meat. Thi explained that even if she were to consider eating meat, there was another problem: My boyfriend’s father is in the military. He told his wife to let me know that he opposes the wedding because my family follows Ching Hai. He says that Ching Hai is a crook. The Vietnamese government does not like Buddhists. When my family was studying Ching Hai teachings, the police came to our house very often to investigate. We have no freedom of religion in Vietnam! What is wrong about eating vegetarian? Why do the police follow us? My boyfriend’s parents love me very much, but they hate Ching Hai and they will not let their son marry me.

When I asked about her boyfriend’s attitude, Thi responded: “First Mother and Grandmother, and then your darling! He accuses me of everything. He says that his parents are sad because of me and that now he wants to find a normal wife who can cook meat and fish for his parents.” Thi said that she was so upset that she wanted to shave her hair and become a nun, but her mother comforted her. She then went to her grandmother’s house in the countryside to relax for a while, and finally her father took her to Thailand, where they participated in a vegetarian seminar in Sukhothai Thammathirat University. In the days that followed, I raised the subject of Ching Hai on quite a few occasions, but my Hoianese friends, who were usually eager to discuss different aspects of their social life, were visibly uncomfortable. Finally, one of my more knowledgeable informants, a university-educated government employee, explained: Ching Hai was born in Quang Ngai, ran away to America and suddenly declared that she was a Buddha. She has many husbands and is very rich because she is a criminal. She leads a bad life: bars and alcohol and dancing and sex . . . and then she says that she can save people. She says that she is a Ngo [a living Buddha, literally “a gate”], and as a Buddha she may do anything that other people should not do: dance and drink and smoke and even have sex.

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She has connections with overseas Vietnamese organizations in the United States, Thailand, and Cambodia. She collects donations from rich Vietnamese in America and sends some to her followers in Vietnam, but she keeps most of the money for herself. The people who donate money do not believe that she is a Buddha, they donate in order to undermine the Vietnamese government [emphasis added], because so many people in Vietnam follow her. In America, most of her [Vietnamese] followers are old people or those who are desperate. She has a Quang Ngai accent. They [i.e., Vietnamese “boat people” who found refuge in America] are mostly poor farmers and fishermen from central Vietnam [where Quang Nagi is located]. They believe that she is a Buddha. Vietnamese students in America know that she is a liar. Even my university professor followed her for a while. She called some of her close students to her office and told us how Ching Hai saved boat people from drowning. She also helped them to settle down in America, with jobs and money. But later, we found out that this was not true.

I later discussed Ching Hai’s activities with other interviewees. They were all aware of her activities and tended to express similar views to those described above. When I asked about their sources of information, they explained that they drew most of their knowledge from the Vietnamese media. When I explicitly asked whether Ching Hai opposed the Vietnamese regime, I was told that she and her followers were not politically active, except for their demand for freedom of religion, but that they were supported by overseas Vietnamese organizations that opposed the regime. The vegetarian trend in Hoi An was therefore political, at least to some extent. The owners of some of the larger and more active vegetarian restaurants were devotees of a religious figure, whom the Vietnamese government deemed to be an enemy of the regime. She was openly discredited in the Vietnamese media and accused of being an immoral criminal who abused her followers’ innocence. She was also accused of being an instrument in the hands of political organizations who worked to undermine the regime. Her adherents were followed by the police and socially eschewed by members of the political elite and the security apparatuses. These facts were well known to the diners at Hoi An’s vegetarian restaurants. The stickers reading “Be Veg, Go Green, Save the Planet” that were found in most Hoianese vegetarian restaurants were distributed by Ching Hai’s organization. Some of these venues also displayed her photographs, mainly in the form of calendars. Thus, opting for a meal in any of them was potentially political and subversive, as it expressed identification with a movement that the regime defined as dissident.

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It is important to note that although diners were aware of this political context, they were not necessarily making a political statement by eating at vegetarian restaurants. As I have already demonstrated, for many Hoianese diners eating vegetarian is merely health-oriented, while for others it is an issue of affluence and class distinction. In any case, vegetarianism was perceived by most of my interviewees as an expression of modernity, whether positive (that is, expressing freedoms of religion and consumption) or negative (that is, as an antidote to excessive consumption and its physical, social, and ecological effects). In fact, I suggest that for most diners eating at a vegetarian restaurant combined different measures of some and even all of the above, thus making it a multivocal experience. The political aspect of Hoianese vegetarian restaurants added yet another possible layer of meaning. For some diners it was important and central, for others it was minor, and yet for others it was perhaps insignificant. Some may not have been aware of it at all. In any case, the political meanings are further interwoven into the meanings described above, thereby further enhancing the multivocality of this practice. As the quotes above indicate, however, it is clear that those restaurant owners who followed Ching Hai and were supported by her organization recognized the political standpoint they were taking and the risks they incurred by practicing her teaching and by displaying her image and stickers. It is also clear that the owners’ political inclinations were evident to their customers. Eating in these venues was therefore political, at least to a certain extent, even if the practititioners were only vaguely aware of the context and even if they themselves did not oppose the regime.

ethical paradoxes of vegetarianism In her critique of modern vegetarianism, Lierre Keith (2009: 1) points to some of the ethical dimensions that underlie meat avoidance: “ justice, compassion, a desperate and all encompassing longing to set the world right . . . [t]o save the planet . . . [t]o protect the vulnerable, the voiceless . . . [t]o feed the hungry. At the very least, to refrain from participating in the horror of factory farming.” Indeed, vegetarianism is often perceived as an ethical food movement. However, the ethics that underlie vegetarianism are hardly universal or agreed upon. In what follows I outline four main approaches to vegetarianism as an ethical food movement that take into account various considerations and allow

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for cross-cultural comparison. While some scholars distinguish between religious and secular vegetarianism (Whorton 1994), attributing an ethical dimension only to the former, I argue that secular vegetarianism may be just as ethically motivated as religious vegetarianism. As we shall see, three of these ethical approaches may ethically support meat eating as well. Vegetarianism should therefore be understood not only as ethical for various reasons but also as containing various ethical paradoxes. First, humans are not animals. This ethical proposition emphasizes human superiority over the rest of creation and perceives vegetarianism as an expression of human restraint and as an antidote to our tendency to collapse into animal-like gluttony. Animals are slaves to nature, and therefore prey on other creatures for food. Humans, however, can control their craving for meat, and by doing so, elevate themselves from the biological to the cultural realm. In many ways, the Judeo-Christian take on vegetarianism (more accurately, meat avoidance) is best explained by this approach (Sutton 1997). Disgust or repugnance of meat, as described by Fox (2008) as a powerful motivation for vegetarianism, may also be explained by the violent and bloody nature of meat processing and eating. It should be noted, however, that the very same argument for human superiority sets the ground for the moral justification of meat eating. Humans may eat the flesh of other creatures precisely because their lives and pleasures are superior to those of all other creatures and, according to the Biblical perspective, because God created this universe and its inhabitants for humans to use and indulge in (see Genesis 2). Second, humans are animals. While the ethical proposition that treating animals with compassion may be interpreted as yet another expression of human preeminence over the rest of creation, it can also be interpreted as the opposite. Compassion toward animals may be based on the assumption that human life is not superior to animal life and that human and animal souls are identical and even interchangeable (as most karma theories would argue). This is the perspective presented by Charles Patterson, whose Eternal Treblinka (2002) is a harsh account of the cruelty of factory farming (cf. Foer 2009), fiction writers such as Ruth Ozeki, in her My Year of Meats (1998), and documentary filmmakers such as Robert Kenner, especially in his documentary Food Inc. (2008). By suggesting that industrial farming and slaughter are cruel and inhumane, these authors argue that just like humans, animals have feelings, emotions, hopes, and fears.

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This is also the moral stance of many of the Asian religions that embrace vegetarianism. Hindu philosophy advocates nonviolence and extends it to all living creatures, as all souls are essentially equal and as humans and animals may reincarnate into each other. Buddhism emphasizes compassion, which should not be confounded with mercy. While mercy is a tribute of superiors toward their minors, compassion emerges out of the recognition of a fundamental equality and identification. At this point in the argument, the apparent dichotomy between religious and secular vegetarianism collapses, as attention shifts from the distinctions between sacred and profane to the definition of what animals (and humans) are. Another similarity between religious and secular vegetarian praxis has to do with the ideas of “part-time” and “partial” vegetarianism. Nonreligious vegetarians may be vegans and avoid all animal products. They can also be lacto-ovo vegetarians and consume dairy produce and eggs or semi- and pesco-vegetarians and eat poultry and fish (Phillips 2005; Willetts 1997). They may opt for vegetarian fare during weekdays and eat meat at weekends and special occasions and even refrain from meat throughout the day and consume it for dinner (as advocated by the New York Times food writer Mark Bittman), and still consider themselves vegetarians. From the religious perspective, Christian churches preach meat avoidance during specific periods, but allow fish, eggs, and milk, while Buddhists may eat vegetarian food twice monthly (1st and 15th), for three, four, or ten days, or may avoid meat altogether. In all of these food regimes, the degree of vegetarianism represents one’s degree of ethical commitment. Here again, the very same argument—that humans are not superior to other creatures—may promote meat eating: some animal species consume meat because this is their nature. Humans are no exception, because humans are meat-eating creatures. Meat avoidance among humans is therefore hardly ethical or reasonable. Rather, it may be interpreted as unethical vanity. The third ethical paradox focuses on health concerns. Vegetarianism is often justified as being healthier than other eating practices (Fox and Ward 2008; Hoek et al. 2004). While caring for one’s own health may seem personal and even selfish, many ethical regimes, both religious and secular, emphasize health as a moral value or, at least, a prerequisite for a moral lifestyle, as crystallized in the Latin proverb anima sana in corpore sano (healthy soul in a healthy body). Unkempt and decaying bodies, on the contrary, are often perceived as the external expressions of a dwindling soul.

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Health maintenance may be interpreted as moral for several reasons. A healthy, able body is better equipped to deal with the physical and psychological demands of specific ethical regimes, such as the socialist demand to work and produce for the collective, or the neoliberal demand to produce and consume so as to expand the market. A healthy body requires less medical treatment or support by others and therefore makes less demands on collective resources, be it the welfare state, medical insurance companies, or one’s family members. A well-maintained body also expresses self-control (over gluttony, alcoholism, smoking,) and thus represents high moral standards (Bourdieu 1984; Rasmussen 1996). From yet another perspective, the body is a gift granted from God or from one’s parents or ancestors (for the Vietnamese case, see Jamieson 1995) and its abuse would be an immoral denial of a sacred gift. As with the previous approaches, the very same demand for health is often invoked as a rebuff to vegetarianism. Meat is perceived almost universally as a vital nutrient, the source of energy and of essential proteins, lipids, vitamins, and minerals. Avoiding meat may lead to physical weakness, disease, and decay, and may therefore be perceived as indulgent and unethical. A fourth ethical paradox is that of environmental concerns. In recent years, as there has been growing public awareness of the environmental damage brought about by processes of industrialization and modernization, vegetarianism has been presented as an important component in the attempt to restore ecological balance (Gussow 1994; Kalof et al. 1999; Metz and Hoffmann 2010). Taking up this point, Leitzmann argues: “[L]and requirements for meat-protein production are 10 times greater than for plant-protein production. About 40 of the world’s grain harvest is fed to animals. Half of this grain would be more than enough to feed all hungry people of our planet. Animal manure, which is produced in huge amounts by industrial agriculture, causes high levels of potentially carcinogenic nitrates in drinking water and vegetables. Animal production requires considerable energy and water resources and leads to deforestation, overgrazing, and overfishing” (2003: 658). Leitzmann further points out that “one solution to the problems caused by industrial animal production is a vegetarian lifestyle” (2003: 658). From an ecological perspective, vegetarianism is clearly an ethical choice for two reasons. Not only would eliminating the meat industry and opting for a vegetarian diet drastically decrease environmental pollution, but it could also eliminate hunger, as the large amounts of vegetal nutrients fed to animals would be used to feed deprived humans. In fact, the amount of vegetal surplus

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would be so great that agriculture could be decreased, further reducing environmental degradation while maintaining a well-fed population. Yet it is interesting to note that in contrast to the other ethical perspectives on vegetarianism outlined above, environmental concerns can hardly justify meat eating. As the ethnographic evidence in this chapter has demonstrated, Hoianese vegetarianism was understood by many practitioners as involving some and even all of these ethical considerations. Yet it also involved an ethical dimension that was inherently political. Operating a vegetarian restaurant in Hoi An was perceived by the authorities as subversive. Restaurant owners were monitored and harassed by the police, and also faced informal social sanctions. Both setting up a vegetarian restaurant in Hoi An and dining regularly in these culinary establishments required substantial devotion and courage. It expressed high levels of commitment and was therefore yet another mode of ethical behavior. A comparison to the Falun Gong movement in China might be helpful for understanding this aspect of Hoianese vegetarianism, namely that it has an ethical dimension as a political subversive activity. Both Falun Gong and vegetarianism were neotraditional movements/religions in that both were modern but argued for ancient roots of qigong and Buddhism, respectively; both were also led by charismatic exiled leaders sponsored by rich members of their respective overseas communities, used modern communication technologies, and presented universal moral claims of nonviolence and global peace, among others. Both movements were also body-oriented and emphasized bodily practices. Finally, both were perceived as threats to their respective host socialist regimes, which were extremely antagonistic toward competing moral ideologies (Chan 2004; Keith and Lin 2003). Yet while Falun Gong was being brutally repressed by the Chinese government, Hoianese vegetarianism was ever more popular and the actual monitoring and oppression of restaurant owners and their clients was on the decline. Why is it, then, that Falun Gong faced violent subjugation while Hoianese vegetarianism was tolerated? Why is it that a culinary activity, despite its potential political edge, was tolerated while other cultural activities in very similar political contexts were suppressed? Here I would like to suggest that the specific qualities of food make the culinary sphere exceptionally appropriate for the expression of subversive ideas, particularly in authoritative political contexts. In many respects, the elastic and dynamic nature of food makes it a perfect vessel for the expression

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of several ideas concomitantly. Food is a matter in constant transformation. In Lévi-Strauss’s configuration, “raw” is transformed into “cooked” or to “rotten,” and the cooked is eaten (digested and defecated) or discarded (before/ after rotting) within a short time span (Lévi-Strauss 1966; see also Clark 2004). Moreover, food is less prescribed and canonized than most other cultural artifacts, and it always features a substantial measure of personal, local, and regional variation. “Season according to taste” is therefore an instruction that follows even the most meticulous recipe, suggesting that variations and preferences are always possible in the kitchen. These characteristics of flexibility, dynamism, and variability allow for exceptional agility when it comes to meanings. Vegetarian food in Hoi An can convey multiple and even contrasting ideas such as “humans are animals” and “humans are not animals” concomitantly, precisely because it is so elastic and unstable. It may also express subversive political ideas, but these are blurred by the very multivocality of the situation. This seems especially relevant in the Vietnamese late-socialist context. Vietnamese are nowadays allowed and even encouraged to consume goods, foods, and forms of leisure. This means that consumption has lost much of its subversive edge. The case of the vegetarian restaurants in Hoi An was unique, however, in that some of the owners of these establishments followed Ching Hai, a religious figure who was deemed an enemy by the regime. Moreover, Ching Hai subsidized these restaurants, possibly with money donated by overseas Vietnamese organizations that openly opposed the regime. While the accusations against Ching Hai were not necessarily based in fact, the point is that Hoianese vegetarian-restaurant owners, diners, and authorities believed that they were. Serving and eating vegetarian food was therefore political and subversive, at least in its potentiality. At the same time, the flexibility and multivocality of food allowed diners to attribute various meanings to their culinary choices. The other meanings they attributed to vegetarianism were all perceived as reasonable and, as a matter of fact, positive by the current regime. The potentially subversive edge was conveniently camouflaged by a set of other meanings, which were acceptable and even deemed positive. My final argument is therefore that food is a privileged means of resistance and subversion in late-socialist Vietnam, as its ability to convey various and even opposing ideas resonates with the inherent tension in late socialism between the authoritarian political sphere and the free market economy.

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notes 1. For a discussion of luxurious vegetarian food and of mock-meat vegetarian dishes, see Avieli 2012: 128–35. 2. In 2000 the total population of Hoi An district was 80,000 people, one quarter of whom were town dwellers. In 2007, following administrative restructuring aimed at elevating Hoi An’s status from a town (ti xa) to a city (thanh pho), the urban population was declared to be 60,000, while 25,000 were defined as rural residents. 3. Thi never explained why, but it seems to adhere to the period of retreat practiced by some Buddhist monks and lay people, in reference to Sidharta’s (the historical Buddha) own retreat during the monsoon period. 4. Calendars were probably the most common decorations in houses and businesses during my fieldwork in Hoi An. Distributed as Tet (Vietnamese New Year) gifts by private businesses and government agencies, these calendars usually featured a single photograph to which a lunisolar, Gregorian monthly, and even daily calendar was stapled. The calendars indicated in details the Vietnamese zodiac features of each day, and set the ritual pace, highlighting dark and full moon days.

references Avieli, Nir. 2007. “Feasting with the Living and the Dead.” In Modernity and ReEnchantment: Religion in Post-War Vietnam, ed. Philip Taylor, 121–60. Singapore: ISEAS Press. . 2012. Rice Talks: Food and Community in a Vietnamese Town. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans. Richard Nice. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Chan, Shun-ching. 2004. “The Falun Gong in China: A Sociological Perspective.” China Quarterly 179: 665–83. Clark, Dylan. 2004. “The Raw and the Rotten: Punk Cuisine.” Ethnology 43(1): 19–31. Endres, Kirsten. 2007. “Spirited Modernities: Medium and Ritual Performativity in Late Socialist Vietnam.” In Modernity and Re-enchantment: Religion in PostRevolutionary Vietnam, ed. Philip Taylor, 194–220. Singapore: ISEAS Press. . 2011. Performing the Divine: Mediums, Markets and Modernity in Urban Vietnam. Copenhagen: NIAS Press. Fjelstad, Karen, and Thi Hien Nguyen. 2006. Possessed by the Spirits: Mediumship in Contemporary Vietnamese Communities. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Foer, Jonathan. 2009. Eating Animals. New York: Little Brown. Fox, Nick, and Katie Ward. 2008. “Health, Ethics, and Environment: A Qualitative Study of Vegetarian Motivations.” Appetite 50(2): 422–29. Gussow, Joan Dye. 1994. “Ecology and Vegetarian Considerations: Does Environmental Responsibility Demand the Elimination of Livestock?” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 59(5): 1110S–6S.

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Harms, Eric. 2011. Saigon’s Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh’s City. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Hoek, Annet, Pieternel Luning, Annette Stafleu, and Cees de Graaf. 2004. “FoodRelated Lifestyle and Health Attitudes of Dutch Vegetarians, Non-Vegetarian Consumers of Meat Substitutes, and Meat Consumers.” Appetite 42(3): 265–72. Huu, Ngoc. 1998. Sketches for a Portrait of Vietnamese Culture. Hanoi: Gioi. Jamieson, Neil. 1995. Understanding Vietnam. Berkeley: University of California. Kalof, Linda, Thomas Dietz, Poul Stern, and Gregory Guagnano. 1999. “Social Psychological and Structural Influences on Vegetarian Beliefs.” Rural Sociology 64(3): 500–11. Keith, Lierre. 2009. The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability. Crescent City, CA: Flashpoint Press. Keith, Ronald, and Zhiqiu Lin. 2003. “The ‘Falun Gong Problem’: Politics and the Struggle for the Rule of Law.” China Quarterly 175: 623–42. Leitzmann, Claus. 2003. “Nutrition Ecology: The Contribution of Vegetarian Diets.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 78(3): 657–59. Levi-Strauss, Claude. 1966. “The Culinary Triangle.” Partisan Review 33: 586–95. Malarney, Shawn. 2002. Culture, Ritual and Revolution in Vietnam. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Metz, Martina, and Ingrid Hoffman. 2010. “Effects of Vegetarianism Nutrition: A Nutrition Ecological Perspective.” Nutrients 2(5): 496–504. Ozeki, Ruth. 1998. My Year of Meats. London: Penguin Books. Patterson, Charles. 2002. Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust. New York: Lantern Books. Phillips, Frankie. 2005. “Vegetarian Nutrition.” Nutrition Bulletin 30: 132–97. Phinney, Harriet. 2008. “ ‘Rice is Essential but Tiresome; You Should Get Some Noodles’: Doi Moi and the Political Economy of Men’s Extramarital Sexual Relations and Marital HIV in Hanoi, Vietnam.” American Journal of Public Health 98(4): 650–60. Rasmussen, Susan. 1996. “Matters of Taste: Food, Eating and Reflections on ‘The Body Politic’ in Tuareg Society.” Journal of Anthropological Research 52: 61–83. Scott, Linda. 2009. “Subversive Consumption: Nineteenth Century Irish Immigrants in America.” Irish Marketing Review 20(2): 6–26. Seneviratne, Sudharshan. 1992. “Food Essence and the Essence of Experience.” In The Eternal Food: Gastronomic Ideas and Experiences of Hindus and Buddhists, ed. Ravindra Khare, 179–200. Delhi: Sri Satguru. Soucy, Alexander. 2007. “Nationalism, Globalism and the Re-establishment of the Truc Lam Thien Sect in Northern Vietnam.” In Modernity and Re-enchantment: Religion in Post-Revolutionary Vietnam, ed. Philip Taylor, 342–70. Singapore: ISEAS Press. Sutton, David. 1997. “The Vegetarian Anthropologist.” Anthropology Today 13(1): 5–8. Tai, Hue-Tam Ho, ed. 2001. The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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Taylor, Philip. 2004. Goddess on the Rise: Pilgrimage and Popular Religion in Vietnam. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. . 2007a. Cham Muslims of the Mekong Delta. Singapore: Singapore University Press. . ed. 2007b. Modernity and Re-enchantment: Religion in Post-Revolutionary Vietnam. Singapore: ISEAS Press. Thien, Do. 1999. “The Quest for Enlightenment and Cultural Identity: Buddhism in Contemporary Vietnam.” In Buddhism and Politics in Twentieth Century Asia, ed. Ian Harris. London: Continuum. Turner, Victor. 1975. “Symbolic Studies.” Annual Review of Anthropology 4: 145–61. Whorton, James. 1994. “Historical Development of Vegetarianism.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 59: 1103–9. Willetts, Anna. 1997. “Bacon Sandwiches Got the Better of Me: Meat Eating and Vegetarianism in South East London.” In Food, Health and Identity, ed. Pat Caplan, 111–30. London: Routledge.

chapter 7

Agroecology and the Cuban Nation marisa wilson

I first met Eduardo, a small-scale Cuban farmer or parcelero, in 2004. The meeting was organized by agronomists from the Agrarian University of Havana who told me that Eduardo and his family were famous in Cuba for informing the nation about agroecological production. Eduardo described himself in this way: “I am known all over Cuba as someone one can call to get knowledge and help for their planting . . . . This [farm] is a place of learning.” Eduardo’s national fame not only opened up access to inputs and knowledge from state institutions such as the nearby agricultural university, but it also enhanced his moral status as a successful producer for the Cuban nation. His positioning in Cuban society was elevated further through positive comments written in his visitors’ notebook, a common institution on Cuban farms that encourages foreign students and other visitors to praise farmers and their families. During my research, I noted that it was customary to ask parceleros if one could sign their visitors’ notebooks. In signing Eduardo’s, I noticed that it included commendations such as: “He is striving to be first in Cuban agroecology” and “He has increased production of guavas and can now lower his prices.” Values of civic responsibility and sustainability in Cuba are reproduced through spatial and moral connectivities that tie small farmers like Eduardo to Cuba’s wider project to create what is officially called “sustainable socialism.” These ties between small farming and national goals have not always been so resilient. Indeed, it is only during the past few decades that the official idea of the small “private” farmer has changed from a temporary actor whose production is geared towards personal profit (a Leninist idea) to a patriotic citizen 167

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who may be called upon to conserve and produce sovereign property such as land and food: the primary symbols of Cuba’s agroecology movement (Wilson 2010a). The official reevaluation of Cuban parceleros hinges on a scalar politics that prioritizes national values and institutions over all other spatial, social, and material relations, such as those between parceleros and their clients. This nationalization of Cuban agroecology differs from similar projects to rescale agricultural sustainability in the United States and Latin America, a comparison I make in this chapter. As Peter Jackson, Neil Ward, and Polly Russell (2009) argue, moral or ethical aspects of food—in this case, collective resistance against the industrialized, corporate food system—are expressed through particular spatial and temporal imaginaries. One example of such spatial and temporal imaginaries provided in Jackson et al. (2009) is the ethical responsibilities Tate & Lyle have to cane sugar producers in the Caribbean because of the company’s connection to British imperialism. In Cuba, just as in the United States and Latin America, agroecology is framed in terms of specific moral and spatial relations. By contrasting geohistorical imaginaries of agroecology in the United States, Cuba, and elsewhere in Latin America, I offer a comparative framework to judge the viability of different alternatives to mainstream agricultural production. Indeed, as I argue, the ability of sustainable projects like agroecology to overcome dominant practices and thinking depends upon the scope or scale of the project, which varies according to whether and how its top-down scientific and political agendas become morally embedded in the actual practices of producers or consumers. As we have seen above, Eduardo frames his agroecological practice in terms of his own positioning as producer for the nation. Like organics in Caldwell’s Russia (this volume), agroecology in Cuba developed as a nationalist project to maintain civic order; unlike organic food in Russia, however, Cuban agroecology is more subtly tied to its “Western” variants, particularly as a science that developed in the United States and as a political movement that emerged from a regional concern for peasant livelihoods in Latin America. Cuban agroecology has advanced in relation to these hemispheric developments, although I argue that the Cuban version is more viable as an alternative to mainstream agriculture than agroecologies in the United States or Latin America. This is not only because Cuba’s national agroecological institutions are more influential in “resisting” corporate, industrialized agriculture than the localized or regional actions of U.S. or Latin

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American agroecologies, respectively. It is also because Cuban farmers themselves make moral associations between their sustainable practices and their position as responsible agents in the national food system by, for example, framing their practice in terms of “defending the patrimony” of the Cuban nation (see below). While all three projects attempt to create alternative spatial and moral relations between humans and humans, and between humans and the environment, the practice of agroecology is variably successful depending on whether and how the scalar politics of “alternative-ness” coincides with the actual aims and values of people on the ground. This chapter presents two related arguments. The first is that scalar factors determine the viability of agroecology in the United States and Latin America. I argue that the ability of sustainable projects like agroecology to overcome dominant practices and thinking varies according to whether and how these projects are both imagined and practiced at subnational, national, or supranational scales. I pay particular attention to the ways such “scale capabilities” (Swyngedouw 1997: 142, cited by Rankin 2004: 65) alternately empower or weaken agroecology as a leftist political movement, as a scientific discipline, and as an agricultural practice (Wezel et al. 2009). My second argument is that the national scale has become important for Cuban acroecology, as distinct from the practicable scales of agroecology in the United States and most of Latin America. While at the official level, ideas such as national defense and solidarity frame the way that agroecology is institutionalized and promoted, at the level of everyday life, national tropes also shape the way agroecology is conceptualized and practiced.

the scale of agroecology in the united states and latin america In this section, I outline approaches to agroecology in the United States and Latin America with attention to the primary scale at which these projects work in practice. Across the Americas, agroecology has been legitimized and formalized as both a science and a political movement (Funes et al. 2002: 1), but the scale at which it is institutionalized has bearing on the way it is practiced and on how successful agroecology is at “ jumping scale” (Smith 1992: 77) from the farm or community level to the nation or region. The science, movement, and practice of agroecology, as variously relevant in different national contexts (Wezel et al. 2009), stems from widespread

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paradigm shifts in public and scientific consciousness in the second half of the twentieth century following the publication of well-known environmental works such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962; Warner 2007: 30–42). In the United States and Latin America, agroecology has come to express a shared scientific and political commitment to counter powerful, ecologically destructive institutions and practices that drive the corporate food system. Agroecology points to a more holistic view of agriculture than the economically driven conventional model because it incorporates ethical, ecological, social, and economic dimensions. Thus for scientists in the United States, who have influenced rural development practitioners and activists in Latin America (including Cuba), ecological aspects of the “agroecosystem” are inclusive of human activities, and proponents refer to “whole food systems, which are defined as global networks of food production, distribution, and consumption” (Gliessman 2007, cited in Wezel et al. 2009: 1). Despite this intended global reach of theories about agroecology, from the 1960s and particularly since the 1990s, the science of agroecology in the United States has been largely concerned with small-scale, localized movements for sustainable production and consumption. Like similar alternative food movements such as Community Supported Agriculture, U.S.–based advocates and agroecological scientists fall into what geographers call the “local trap” (Born and Purcell 2006: 195) by contributing to the production of “class diet[s]” (Goodman and DuPuis 2002: 18) that respond to the aims and values of a minority of people in any defined community. Although the potential political, ecological, and moral possibilities of such alternatives should not be lost in such a critique (Goodman and DuPuis 2002: 18), it is still the case that U.S. agroecology is geared more toward the creation of localized producerconsumer networks than toward changing power dynamics at wider scales. There are good reasons for the scalar limitations of U.S. agroecology; these have to do with the historical emergence of powerful institutions and relations beyond the scale of local agroecological networks. Although agroecology evolved in the United States as a science (Wezel et al. 2009: 1–3), it was subordinated to conventional agriculture, a paradigm supported by the U.S. government through institutions like the land-grant university. In the twentieth century, land-grant universities became closely associated with private enterprise, particularly agrochemical and seed manufacturing companies (Warner 2007: 30–42). Since then, most funding from the U.S. government has been contingent on whether scientists and extension officers conform to

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the industrial paradigm for monocultures. One such monoculture is corn, which has chemical properties that allow U.S. agribusinesses to create distant value chains that link national production to international consumption, thereby boosting U.S. exports of industrial food products. In the late 1980s, U.S. agroecology became a well-known countermovement to these mainstream approaches, having been influenced by ecological counterculture movements of the 1960s and legitimized by its own status as a recognized, if peripheral, science that developed as early as the 1930s (Wezel et al. 2009: 1–3). But while a growing number of interested academics and farmer activists in the United States are adopting alternative forms of agricultural science like agroecology, these efforts have not become paradigmatic. What Robert van den Bosch (1978) called the “pesticide conspiracy (or ‘mafia’)” (see also Warner 2007: 49) still dominates U.S. agriculture through enduring and powerful alliances between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and companies like Monsanto, which keep all agricultural processes—from the use of seed, to the sale and use of external inputs, to the patenting and sale of crop varieties—under their not-so-green thumbs. If U.S. agroecology reflects the moral and environmental interests of particular subsections of the U.S. population, in Latin America it has come to be associated with a regional politics that resists both state and corporate projects to modernize “peasant” agriculture (Wezel et al. 2009: 6). Contrary to agroecology in the United States, where it first developed as an alternative to conventional science and only later became a political movement, in Latin America agroecology began with explicit political and ethical aims to help unjustly impoverished rural areas across the region through participatory development (see Altieri and Nicolls 2008; Funes et al. 2002). In this way, Latin American agroecology is in line with what Juan Martínez-Alier (2002) calls “environmentalism of the poor”: a shared political sentiment by groups of rural people who have been traditionally excluded from conventional development efforts. Cuban agroecology shares with Latin American agroecology this political orientation, although I will argue that it is imagined and institutionalized at the scale of the nation rather than that of the region.5 Latin American social movements such as agroecology are regional not only in terms of their common political outlook, but also in the ways they are instituted. Latin American agroecology has been strengthened by the formation of regional nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), which are, in turn, supported by international organizations such as the United Nations. One

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such institution is the Latin American Consortium on Agroecology and Development (CLADES), a collaboration among Latin American NGOs, the Catholic Church, and Spanish and Latin American universities. Following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, in 1994 CLADES co-opted support from an initiative of the UN Development Programme called Sustainable Agriculture Networking and Extension (SANE). With funding from the UN, agroecological “lighthouses” (that is, participatory workshops) have been conducted across Latin America (including Cuba) with much success (Altieri and Nicolls 2008). As Marc Edelman (1998) argues, however, NGO-led peasant movements in Latin America are not entirely bottom-up in practice, because transnational institutions may create class- and nation-based frictions within the regional “community.” Moreover, as De Schutter and Vanloqueren (2011) argue, small farmers across the world are often left out of national priorities and do not usually have security of land tenure. As in the United States, agricultural policies in Latin America and elsewhere favor large-scale, industrialized agriculture over small-scale, low-input production. Just like in U.S. agriculture, where the new “mafia” formed by alliances between agrochemical and seed manufacturing companies, universities, the government, and large-scale growers impedes U.S. agroecology from “ jumping scale” (Smith 1992: 77) from local markets to wider agroecological networks, similar institutional and ideological obstacles limit the creation of regional agroecologies in Latin America and elsewhere. It is for this reason that many U.S. agroecologists praise Cuba for “scaling-up” its agroecology program to fit the scale of the national food system (see, for example, Altieri and Nicolls 2008; Altieri 2009; Rosset and Bourque 2002). Still, like other alternatives, the national program for agroecology in Cuba is characterized by a scalar politics that includes some voices and excludes others, a point I will illustrate later with ethnographic examples.

cuban agroecology as a national movement and a science The “Greening of the Revolution” (Rosset and Benjamin 1994) was introduced by the Cuban government in the early 1990s to maintain the island’s socialist model for economic development after the fall of the Soviet Union (Rodríguez Castellón 1999). While many have studied and reported on this so-called greening of the Cuban revolution, most of this work is more laudatory than

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empirical (Altieri 2009; Delgado Díaz 1999; Figueroa Albelo and Casamayor 2002; Funes et al. 2002; Murphy 1999; Premat 2005; Rosset et al. 1993; Rosset and Benjamin 1994; Valdés 1997). The common depiction of Cuban agroecology as a form of “resistance” (Funes et al. 2002) in the face of neoliberalized agriculture is part of the discourse of left-leaning scientists in the United States like Miguel Altieri, who has collaborated with Cuban scientists. Altieri rightly associates Cuba’s shift in the 1990s from highly industrialized agriculture to agroecology with its long-term drive for national autonomy (Altieri 2009: 4). In his praise of the Cuban agroecology movement, however, Altieri and others (i.e., Figueroa Albelo and Casamayor 2002; Funes et al. 2002; Rodríguez Castellón 1999) often eclipse other voices in the movement that may contrast with the official “line.” Similar to popular understandings of Cuban agroecology, Cuban officialdom sets the state-led agroecological movement against the backdrop of national autonomy and defense. As in postwar Europe, in 1990s Cuba, food production became prioritized at the national level (Murphy 1999: 1), and the official ideology shifted from the use of “bullets” (Eckstein 1994: 28) and “cannons” (Hagelberg 2010: 1) for the defense of national borders to the production of beans and cabbage (for example) for ensuring national (domestic) food security. As Raul Castro stated in 1994, “In the difficult and unchanging geopolitical and geoeconomic conditions of Cuba, food security is an important way to preserve our sovereignty and national security” (cited and paraphrased by Valdés 1997: 399, my translation). As we shall see, similar ideological frameworks were used by practitioners of agroecology in San José de las Lajas, a municipality located in the province of Havana where most of the ethnographic data for this paper was collected from 2004 to 2005. Yet there are also significant differences between top-down and bottom-up approaches, which will become clearer in the ethnographic evidence provided below. For Fidel, Raul, and most other powerful people in the Cuban government, the national food basket for domestic consumption, like the land on which it is grown, should be treated as social property rather than as a means to harness profit in the market. In the face of changes to the agrarian structure, including partial market openings, the Leninist hierarchy of property forms— from state farms at the highest, to cooperatives, and finally, to individual farms—has been the dominant theory for agrarian planning in Cuba at least since 1961. The Leninist ideology of property and ownership is still largely

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intact in present-day Cuba, although foreign media portrayals of agrarian transition may posit otherwise. Yet the importance of household food production is now on the official agenda, and decollectivization campaigns such as recent redistributions of land (see below) reflect wider changes in the (post) socialist world. Although decollectivization was discussed in official circles as early as the 1980s, it was only in 1994 that land reform policies were actually enacted. Since then, Cuban lands have been distributed to households in usufruct, a form of property rights that yields to long-term use but mandates that lands be returned to the state if requested. Land ownership in Cuba and other (post)socialist societies thus corresponds to what Katherine Verdery (2003: 55–57) calls “operational ownership,” which entails a moral commitment to civic responsibility (Wilson 2010b). In other words, Cuban farms are “social good[s] that should be owned and profited from in a collective fashion” (Enríquez 2000: 20).

new forms of cuban land tenure: cooperatives and parceleros It is useful at this juncture to consider briefly the several types of property that exist within the Cuban agriculture sector. The virtually obsolete Agricultural Production Cooperatives (CPAs, Cooperativas de Producción Agropecuaria) are based on lands that were pooled by small farmers in the 1970s to be worked collectively, while in Credit and Service Cooperatives (CSCs, Cooperativas de Servicio y Crédito), lands remain separate although “service” (that is, marketing) and credit are managed collectively. These two types may be distinguished from Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPCs, Unidades Básicas de Producción Cooperativa). These newer cooperatives were formed in 1994 by consolidating state lands to remedy the giganticism and low productivity of the state farm sector, even though some critics still see UBPCs as too large for agroecological production (Figueroa Albelo and García Báez 1995: 65; see also Altieri 2009). Decree Law 640 of September 1994 not only sanctioned the gradual replacement of large-scale, state farms in Cuba by smaller-scale UBPCs, but it also initiated the redistribution of idle state lands in indefinite usufruct (Figueroa Albelo and Casamayor 2002) to new smallholders called parceleros like Eduardo (introduced at the beginning of this chapter) and their families, who must hold no more than 0.25 hectares (or about 0.6 acres). Later, in July

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2008, Raul Castro announced Decree Law 259, which sanctioned the continued redistribution of state lands to parceleros and large-scale farmers (see Hagelberg 2010: 3). These laws inspired more than 100,000 families to request lands, although only about 40,000 have been granted plots smaller than a hectare (Altieri 2009: 4). While prior to the 1990s only 10 percent of individuals and cooperatives held lands privately or in usufruct, in 2009 more than 25 percent of lands were worked under these terms. At the same time, 42 percent of lands were held by Basic Units of Cooperative Production, and the rest (33 percent) were state or military farms. These figures differ significantly from the pre-1990 period, when almost 89 percent of agricultural lands were managed by the state (Altieri 2009: 7). The National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP, Asociación Nacional de Agricultores Pequeños) now promotes agroecology as its official approach (Rodríguez Castellón 2003: 87). Indeed, what I have called the Cuban agroecology movement is connected to the recent increase in the number of smallscale farmers (parceleros), most of whom are affiliated with ANAP. Cubans who have received lands in usufruct are most often older revolutionaries who are seen to exemplify the so-called daily heroism (heroismo cuotidiano; Rodríguez Castellón 2003: 300) of the post-1990s period because they are converting unproductive lands to sustainable farms. The “agroecological message to the people” (Funes et al. 2002: 15) is transferred through scientific publications and the media, and both are carefully controlled by the communist party. The latter provides support for national outreach activities and rewards the most efficient farmers with material and moral incentives such as land extensions and certificates of merit. Small farmers in Cuba are better off than their counterparts in Latin America and other “developing” regions. Their living standards are also comparatively higher than small-scale producers in socialist societies like China and Vietnam, where decollectivization enabled household subsistence but not capital accumulation (Selden and Kerkvliet 1998: 53). In Cuba’s dual economy, peso wages amount to very little compared to the hard currency economy (1 peso = 1/26th U.S. Dollars or 1/24th Cuban Convertible Dollars, CUCs), and the average worker earns about 15 pesos per day. In many cases, therefore, food is more economically valuable than wages, since a number of staple foods must be purchased with CUCs (Enríquez 2000: 3). In this way, food becomes a “manipulable resource” (Humphrey 1998: 305), which may be used by parceleros in localized exchanges, a detail that I consider below.

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Given that parceleros often earn more than wage earners, state support for this “class” must be morally justified in terms of the communist tenet: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” To do this, official discourse associates parceleros with workers and disassociates them from larger-scale farmers. One Cuban author refers to parceleros as “workers for our socialist society who use their plots of land only for the benefit of society, without using more than family members as workers” (Figueroa Albelo and García de la Torre 1984: 41; my emphasis and translation). Differentiations between “egoistic” farmers who “will be phased out” (Figueroa Albelo and García de la Torre 1984: 43) and parceleros-as-workers enable Cuban communists to reconcile recent land redistributions with the Leninist view of farmers as a proto-capitalist class that threatens to exploit the national population of workers (Martín Barrios 1984; see Wilson 2010a). Thus while larger-scale farmers are believed to exploit their workers and the rest of the population (Figueroa Albelo and García de la Torre 1984: 41), parceleros are officially aligned with workers as “social citizens” (Suárez Salazar 2000: 305–13), whose civic responsibility is to supply their families and communities with food. Along with being “social citizens,” parceleros are also symbols of the official drive for a “sustainable socialism,” or what Suárez Salazar (2000: 292) calls the “socio-agroecological revolution.” Traditional agricultural practices such as crop rotation, animal traction, the production of worm humus, and the use of family labor are now valued in official circles (e.g., MINAGRI 1999), although they have long been practiced by Cuban small-scale farmers. But the shift to sustainable, low-input farming does not overturn the principle of scientific Marxism, according to which technological advances should be used for the benefit of society rather than for the individual or household. The value of scientific Marxism underpins the Cuban agroecology movement because agroecological production in Cuba is controlled by a number of technological and moral experts whose job it is to ensure that parceleros do not become “isolated” (Martín Barrios 1984: 91–92) from society at large.

cuban agroecology as a practice: ethnographic examples A social movement [is] a kind of ideological hatstand—a single piece of furniture which, nevertheless, can accommodate a large number and wide variety of hats. —Anthony Cohen (1985), The Symbolic Construction of Community

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Ethnographic data from my fieldwork partially confirms the conclusions of other researchers who have emphasized that small-scale farmers in Cuba are morally committed to agroecological production for the domestic food basket. As Nelson et al. (n.d.: 5) have argued, “Producers spoke passionately and eloquently about their philosophical belief in the need to preserve a balance in the agroecosystem.” For example, Catherine Murphy, a Cuban sociologist and documentary filmmaker, claims that Cuban farmers’ “commitment to share the food harvest is a powerful testament to the spirit of collectivity and solidarity of the Cuban people, and has allowed them to survive the worst moments of the economic crisis” (Murphy 1999: 16). Cuban parceleros express their moral dedication to agroecology with a similar national framework to that created and preserved by the Cuban government, with notable exceptions, particularly in terms of everyday (nonmonetary) exchanges and in the ways farmers understand appropriate forms of production and consumption. Nationalist imaginaries such as collective use values, defense and security, and humility and social solidarity link parceleros to Cuban officialdom, and also to popular accounts of Cuban agroecology, and connect the scalar politics of socialist agriculture to parceleros’ everyday lives. Indeed, despite the contradictions, parceleros often draw from more durable and long-term spatial and moral connectivities than those embedded in U.S. or Latin American projects for agroecology. National tropes, such as an emphasis on collective use values, were an important way that the farmers I interviewed framed their agroecological practices. For instance, when Eduardo showed me his simple “invention”—a timed, mechanical irrigation system made with plastic liter bottles, each filled to a different level with water—he explained his unique system of irrigation in terms of use values rather than exchange value. In explaining the intrinsic worth of this low-cost form of irrigation, Eduardo made a distinction between “money-minded people” who “care only about selling things to people that they do not need” and his own desire to increase what he called the “patrimony” of the Cuban nation: “In life, not everything is money. I invent things to grow food, not to make money. Other people would want to sell inventions like mine, to patent them to make money. Anyone . . . can use my inventions, and I will not ask them for any money. I make them for the patrimony of the nation.” Moreover, as Eduardo reasoned, since the plastic bottles were readily available to “everybody” through the purchase of cola or other soda drinks in CUCs

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or national pesos, his “invention” could be used all over Cuba by people with or without access to large sums of money. Besides collective use values and inclusivity, parceleros also spoke of their agroecological production in terms of “defending” the nation’s biodiversity (Remon Ramón 2003: 1) against “enemies” who threatened national sovereignty. The idea of protecting national resources from outsiders was evidenced in a news report that was much discussed by the general public about the “new biological North American aggression of the U.S.” (Súarez Salazar 2000: 313–14). According to the report, U.S. planes hovering over Cuba in 1997 dropped a plague of the biological agent thrips palmi on a number of farms. On the ground, however, the value of preserving and securing Cuba’s agrobiodiversity did not always take on such a militaristic tone. When one parcelero was thinking about why he chose to produce agroecologically instead of using chemicals, which would have been less labor-intensive, the man told me that the land and its products belonged “to the Cuban nation” and this meant he must work hard to ensure the “future wealth of the country.” Citing the mythical hero and first Cuban revolutionary, José Martí, the farmer commented that “one has to make the world a better place (hay que mejorar el mundo),” thereby tying his agroecological work to revolutionary values of national progress that have formed in Cuba over time. Such relations between José Martí’s ideas, agroecological production, and national wealth were also evidenced in the promotional material published by the agricultural university, which often cited Martí directly: “Agriculture is the only constant, certain, and eternal source of the nation’s riches” (Remon Ramón 2003: 2). Adopting the value of land and food as a collective, rather than individualized, form of wealth, one parcelero narrated the story of when a group of university students from the United States visited his farm. When he gave each student an “organic” guava (guayaba) to eat, one of the more vocal students asked: “Why are you giving these guavas away! In the U.S., you could sell this amount of guavas for lots of money! You could get over $500 [USD, about 12,000 pesos, more than the average salary for three years] for the amount of guavas you have here!” The parcelero emphasized his humility in responding: “I am not interested in money. I am interested in friendship. I am interested in showing the people how to produce on the land in a sustainable fashion.” Part of being at the “vanguard” of Cuban society is being “humble” (humilde), which is the reverse of profiting from foreigners or being unsociable.

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A Cuban comedy program that aired on official television (notably, at 5 a.m.) touched on this theme and was revealing in its irony. In one clip a journalist interviewed a professor who wore many watches and continued to repeat that he was very humble: “I am so humble, I have lots of money, but I have no furniture. People who come to my house can sit on the floor! . . . [Crying]. Last night, I saw something awful on the news. So many people died. I could not sleep! I had to get up and drink a Red Bull!” The professor’s claims to be humble did not coincide with the fact that he was just the opposite. Even though he had enough money to buy expensive watches and imported products like Red Bull, he did not buy furniture for his visitors to sit comfortably. Neither did he do anything about the people dying on the news. In official as well as unofficial Cuban terms, his vices included unsociability, consumerist inclinations, and perhaps even cowardice. Such forms of sociability as those illustrated by this counter-example underpin everyday exchanges between parceleros and visitors to the farm, even though social exchanges do not always coincide with official values. One such exchange relationship was formed between a parcelero and a woman who worked at a nearby store where agricultural implements were sold in pesos. The woman sought agroecological knowledge from the university, which she would likely use as a “manipulable resource” to maneuver in official settings. In exchange, she provided the farmer with market information about buyers and sellers of plant saplings and seeds, respectively. Nevertheless, nonmonetary relations such as these are not always officially sanctioned. Some parceleros exchanged in kind for manure from neighboring cattle ranches, violating the law requiring them to buy compost from official sources such as the university. One parcelero decided that it was best to provide rum to informal workers who were then “socially obliged to continue to work on the farm,” rather than following the legal procedure by employing state workers to clean his pigpen. In an ironic twist of value, such nonmonetary exchanges contradicted the state’s requirement to use money for these purposes. Contrary to the unauthorized nonmonetary exchanges referred to above, official campaigns such as autogestión participativa (participatory management), which promote the agroecology movement, actively encourage nonmonetary transfers of farm implements and knowledge from “farmer to farmer.” Such campaigns have been partly successful in encouraging interhousehold exchange relations; however, farmers’ management practices are

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still carefully monitored and controlled at a higher level. While some authors (e.g., Suárez Salazar 2000: 391–92) argue that autogestión participativa has amplified civil society participation in the agriculture sector, farmers I interviewed suggested that the campaign has been accompanied by an increase in visits from officials and scientists. Thus while parceleros were encouraged to exchange inputs and information among themselves, their knowledges and practices were still subject to the whims of agricultural experts and state officials. As Edward Benton (1999: 184) argues, agricultural extension in Cuba still hinges on the tenet of scientific Marxism, which creates a hierarchy between experts with “scientific authority” and farmers. The persistence of scientific Marxism as a value in Cuba has alienated many parceleros from scientists in charge of transferring agroecological technologies such as Ecomic. For example, although one parcelero I interviewed complained that scientists “do not listen to me when I explain my needs,” another emphasized community-level exchanges over interactions with visiting scientists: “I always prefer social relations over science. Scientists say one thing and do another.” A second supposition of scientific Marxism is the ability of scientific “experts” to unify society under common objectives, such as national food security. This unifying authority is instituted through institutions such as ANAP (National Association of Small Farmers) that aim to “integrate” all agroecological producers into the wider aims of Cuba as a socialist society. Moreover, as the official literature on the Cuban agroecology movement suggests, collective wealth should only be distributed to “integrated” persons: “The sustainable use of natural resources . . . brings possibilities for the development of communities[,] . . . the equitable distribution of riches, and raising the quality of life for all those who are integrated in [Cuban] society” (Remon Ramón 2003: 1; my emphasis and translation). Many of my interviewees complained of the increased institutionalization of their practices, with new institutions such as Granja Urbana (Urban Farm Group) joining older institutions such as ANAP. According to a Cuban agroecologist I interviewed in late 2004 at the Centre for Agrarian and Rural Development Education (CEDAR), Granja Urbana is an agricultural extension service that not only trains farmers in agroecological methods but also encourages them to contribute food to the (national/local) community. One parcelero claimed that the primary aim of Granja Urbana has shifted over time, from “promot[ing] creativity and resourcefulness at the farm level so as to

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increase sustainable production for the national community” to “controlling” farmers’ production practices in a top-down fashion. He explained this change with a story about how Granja Urbana had reacted to his own creative initiative to install a simple irrigation system that watered plants via an underground tunnel. According to the farmer, when officials from Granja Urbana saw the irrigation system, they told him that he must dismantle it as it was unauthorized. While farmers did not always agree with top-down controls over interfarm exchanges and production techniques, they seemed most irritated by the way institutions like Granja Urbana controlled products destined for domestic consumption. For example, the parcelero cited above claimed that the seeds distributed by Granja Urbana were of a lesser quality than those used for tourist and export markets, with the former being treated to satisfy needs rather than desires: “The seeds that Granja Urbana provides us [small farmers] do not resolve [risolver] anything. The people do not want green tomatoes or small, tasteless tomatoes; they do not care whether they are produced without chemical inputs. These seeds do not respond to consumer desires . . . . They [the government] care more about our image as a sustainable society [sociedad sostenible] to outsiders than what the consumer in Cuba really wants. They care more about politics than food!” As his story reveals, the official aims of agroecological production may not always coincide with farmers’ own ideas and practices of farming. State controls over production and farmer-to-farmer exchanges are also a reflection of ongoing controls over the sphere of consumption. Indeed, despite Raul Castro’s reforms of 2011, which partially opened up domestic consumption to private enterprise, scarcities of necessary or desirable items are still a major problem in Cuba. “Things are worse” was a frequent comment that I heard from most Cubans with whom I interacted in 2011 and 2013. Another frequent comment was that “There is more stuff, but it costs more.” The elderly wife of a farmer told me, “Things are harder, no one can afford to eat. You have to work hard.” Even at her ripe age of 75, she wakes up at 5 a.m. to make cakes to sell from the house, in addition to selling produce at a stall in the market and from her house: “The people know I sell cakes and come to the house to buy them.” In response to my questioning, younger Cubans said, “The person with money eats!” or “Food is better only for tourists.” Another of my friends referred to daily Cuban life with the common expression, “corriendo, corriendo” (running, running), implying that she has to spend all her time either looking

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for necessary items before they “run out” or getting “pesitos” here and there. All these complaints must be voiced behind closed doors, however, for despite Raul’s well-publicized campaign to listen to the population’s plantillas or concerns, there are limits to what can be said in official contexts. As one person said, “No one can complain about the lack of food, the lack of medicine. If they do, they put you in prison for thirty years!” As I have argued elsewhere (Wilson 2009, 2013), the ideological distinction between use values for all and exchange value for a few not only affects the way food is produced, but also how it is provisioned in ordinary life. In the words of the farmer cited above, who was frustrated by state controls over production, “People do not buy [these] green tomatoes! [The state] produce[s] them to avoid plagues, but no one eats [them]! . . . In the black market, I can buy foreign seeds that produce large, red tomatoes. Consumers want this kind of tomato!” (also cited in Wilson 2009: 39). The contrast between food as a public good and food as a commodity is felt in daily contradictions between collective needs and personal desires. Among farmers specifically, it is felt in the distinction between top-down rules for production and exchange and everyday relations that may or may not follow the official line. Romantic portrayals of Cuban agroecology as a political movement of solidarity and sovereignty ignore tensions between socialist projects circumscribed by the nation-state and everyday practices and understandings. Yet my ethnographic data also suggest that moralities (if not always politics) of Cuban nationhood, such as ideas of civic responsibility and sociability, guide and inspire at least some of parceleros’ sustainable practices. Although not without contradictions, the state-backed agroecology movement in Cuba is a formidable alternative to agroecology in the United States or Latin America. While agroecological initiatives in the latter places are hindered by state or transnational supports for corporate industrial agriculture, the Cuban “alternative” is strengthened by moral and institutional linkages that tie the national project to localized subjectivities and materialities.

scaling alternative-ness: a new agenda for (post)socialist food studies? Environmental values drawn from a moral community have as much to say about the politics of community as they do about the environment. —David Harvey, Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference

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The way food and its processes are framed in (post)socialist societies like Cuba challenges us to rethink food politics in terms of its scalar connectivities and disconnectivities. The scale at which alternative food systems like agroecology are imagined and practiced really does matter (North 2005), because different scalar imaginaries of “alternative-ness” shape the way connections or disconnections are made between people, institutions, and values, and determine whether and how publics become included or excluded in the process. My analysis has provided a basis for viewing Cuban agroecology as unique compared to other agroecological projects in the United States and Latin America, but a similar comparison may be made between the scalar politics of ethical food in Cuba and that of other socialist or postsocialist countries. Unlike in other (post)socialist countries, where nationalist or localized food movements compete with transnational regulations and trends of a liberal order, domestic food production in Cuba continues to be associated with a national moral economy that prioritizes use values over exchange values, domestic needs over liberalized trade. Recent market openings in Cuba have led to the reevaluation and reinforcement of national standards of value, according to which food and the land on which it is grown are forms of collective property. Moreover, as in other countries discussed in this volume, discourses of alternative food in Cuba stray from dominant Western ideas of organicism, nature, and agrarianism, as they are tied to contrasting histories and ideologies of state socialism. What this and other chapters of the volume suggest, then, is that we must look to the unique geohistorical contexts of (post)socialist places to understand how ethical food and sustainability enter into the workings of everyday life.

notes 1. This chapter contains the same empirical data used in chapter 6 of Wilson 2013, although its comparative aims are different. All names are pseudonyms. 2. Land-grant universities were formed as a charter by the U.S. Congress in 1862. They were later strengthened by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, which linked farmers to universities through cooperative extension services. 3. The latest form of this alliance was the ominous “Monsanto Protection Act” proposed for the 2013 U.S. Farm Bill, which virtually freed the company from any serious scientific inquiries into the health and environmental impacts of its genetically modified seeds. Fortunately, the measure was not passed, though it is likely that a version of it will reappear in the near future.

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4. I use the word “peasants” as do Latin American activists such as those who represent the related Vía Campesina (Farmers’ Road) movement (see Desmarais 2007). 5. Latin American sovereignty is undoubtedly politically and morally important for the Cuban government, as is apparent with recent economic and “solidarity” ties between Cuba and Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, and other countries. But it is national sovereignty that shapes the nature of Cuban agroecology as a political movement, as a state-led science and as an everyday practice, as I will demonstrate later with ethnographic examples. 6. See www.fao.org/docs/eims/upload/207585/4 _2_cases.pdf. 7. This subprogram aims to assist and promote regional NGO networks in Latin America. 8. For a discussion of the difference between national and domestic food systems in Cuba, see Wilson 2013, ch. 4. 9. Some of the ethnographic material in this paper derives from other periods of ethnographic research from 2005–07 and in the summers of 2011 and 2013. 10. Decollectivization is (and was) an agricultural development policy in most, if not all, socialist countries. The policy reverses earlier policies for collectivization, which consolidated private farms into agricultural cooperatives or large state farms. 11. For a discussion of such changes in Vietnam and China, see Selden and Kerkvleit (1998). 12. Although still relevant for social policy in Cuba, this communist tenet has been partially replaced by the socialist one: “From each . . . to each according to his work” (see Wilson 2013). 13. To my knowledge, farmers and other people on the ground do not make such ideological distinctions. 14. I found out later that the number of pigs this farmer reared exceeded the number that was legally permitted. This undoubtedly affected his decision to stay in the informal economy. 15. Ecomic is a biofertilizer made of mycorrhizal fungi that allows for more nutrient absorption (Nelson et al. n.d.: 8). Since 1990, more than 220 small laboratories and production centers have been constructed for the manufacture of biological inputs such as Ecomic. Along with chemical inputs, which are strictly regulated (Nelson et al. n.d.: 10), biological inputs manufactured by scientists from the university are distributed to smallholders according to their expressed need and ideological commitment to the movement.

references Altieri, Miguel. 2009. La paradoja de la agricultura cubana: Reflexiones agroecológicas basadas en una visita reciente a Cuba. www.ecoportal.net/content/view/full/87045. Altieri, Miguel, and Clara Nicolls. 2008. “Scaling Up Successful Agroecological Initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean.” Development 51: 472–80.

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Benton, Edward T. 1999. “El enverdecimiento del socialismo: Un nuevo concepto de ‘progreso.’ ” In Cuba verde: En busca de un modelo para la sustentabilidad en el siglo XXI, ed. Carlos Jesús Delgado Díaz. La Habana: Editorial José Martí. Born, Branden, and Mark Purcell. 2006. “Avoiding the Local Trap: Scale and Food Systems in Planning Research.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 26: 195–207. Cohen, Anthony. 1985. The Symbolic Construction of Community. London: Routledge. Delgado Díaz, Carlos Jesús. 1999. Cuba verde: En busca de un modelo para la sustentabilidad en el siglo XXI. La Habana: Editorial José Martí. De Schutter, Olivier, and Gaëtan Vanloqueren. 2011. “The New Green Revolution: How Twenty-first Century Science Can Feed the World.” Solutions. www.energybulletin. net/stories/2011–08–21/new-green-revolution-how-twenty-first-century-sciencecan-geed-world. Desmarais, Annette Aurélie. 2007. La Vía Campesina: Globalization and the Power of Peasants. London and Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press. Eckstein, Susan. 1994. Back from the Future: Cuba under Castro. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Edelman, Marc. 1998. “Transnational Peasant Politics in Central America.” Latin America Research Review 33(3): 49–86. Enriquez, Laura J. 2000. “Cuba’s New Agricultural Revolution: The Transformation of Food Crop Production in Contemporary Cuba.” Development Report No. 14. Oakland, CA: Food First. Figueroa Albelo, Víctor, and Luis A. García de la Torre. 1984. “Apuntes sobre la comercialización no estatal.” Economia y Desarrollo 84: 35–61. Figueroa Albelo, Victor, and Román García Báez. 1995. “La Reforma Económica en Cuba y sus Direcciones Principales.” In El Sector Mixto en la Reforma Económica Cubana, ed. Ramón Sanchez Nada and Nelson Labrada Fernández. Havana: Editorial Felix Varela. Figueroa Albelo,Víctor M., and Alberto Averhoff Casamayor. 2002. La agricultura cubana y la reforma agraria de 1993. Director and Deputy Director of the Study Group on Rural and Cooperative Development, Faculty of Business Sciences, Central University “Marta Abreu” of Las Villas, Santa Clara, Cuba. Funes, L., M. Bourque, N. Pérez, and P. Rosset, eds. 2002. Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba. Oakland, CA: Food First. Goodman, David, and E. Melanie DuPuis. 2002. “Knowing Food and Growing Food: Beyond the Production-Consumption Debate in the Sociology of Agriculture.” Sociologia Ruralis 42(1): 5–22. Hagelberg, G. B. 2010. “If It Were Just the Marabú: Cuba’s Agriculture 2009–10.” Published by the Association for the Cuban Economy (emailed to the author, 30 August 2010). Harvey, David. 1996. Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference. Oxford: Blackwell. Humphrey, Caroline. 1998. Marx Went Away but Karl Stayed Behind (updated edition of Karl Marx Collective: Economy Society and Religion in a Siberian Collective Farm, 1983). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

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Jackson, Peter, Neil Ward, and Polly Russell. 2009. “Moral Economies of Food and Geographies of Responsibility.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 34(1): 908–24. Martínez-Alier, Joan. 2002. The Environmentalism of the Poor: A Study of Ecological Conflicts and Valuation. Cheltenham, UK, and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar. Martín Barrios, Adelfo. 1984. “Historia política de los campesinos cubanos.” In Historia política de los campesinos latinoamericanos, vol. 1, ed. Pablo González Casanova. Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Colombia: Siglo Veinti Uno Editores. MINAG (Ministerio de la Agricultura, Cuba). 1999. Lineamentos para los Subprogramas de la Agricultura Urbana para el Año 2000. Havana: MINAG. Murphy, Catherine. 1999. Cultivating Havana: Urban Agriculture and Food Security in the Years of Crisis. Oakland, CA: Food First. Nelson, Erin, Steffanie Scott, and Angel Leyva Galán. n.d. “Institutionalizing Sustainable Agriculture: Opportunities and Challenges in Cuba.” www.organicagcentre .ca/Docs/SocialScienceConferences-/Erin20Nelson20paper.pdf. North, Peter. 2005. “Scaling Alternative Economic Practices? Some Lessons from Alternative Currencies.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS 30: 221–33. Premat, Adriana. 2005. “Moving between the Plan and the Ground: Shifting Perspectives on Urban Agriculture in Havana, Cuba.” In Agropolis: The Social, Political and Environmental Dimensions of Urban Agriculture, ed. Luc J. A. Mougeot. London: Earthscan. Rankin, Katherine Neilson. 2004. The Cultural Politics of Markets: Economic Liberalization and Social Change in Nepal. London: Pluto Press. Remon Ramón, Maydelin. 2003. “Por una agricultura sostentible y mayor producción.” In El Lajero Andante. Boletín No. 2, Año 1, p. 1. Rodríguez Castellón, Santiago. 1999. “La evolución y transformación del sector agropecuario en los noventa.” (Bibliographic information unavailable. Accessed in photocopy form from the Agrarian University of Havana.) . 2003. “La agricultura orgánica en Cuba: Avances y retos.” Havana: Centro de la Economía Cubana. Rosset, Peter, Ivette Perfecto, JohnVandermeer, Judith Carney, and Paul Gersper. 1993. “Cuba and the Dilemma of Modern Agriculture.” Agriculture and Human Values 10(3): 3–8. Rosset, Peter, and Medea Benjamin. 1994. The Greening of the Revolution: Cuba’s Experiment with Organic Agriculture. Melbourne: Ocean Press. Rosset, Peter, and Martín Borque. 2002. “Lessons of Cuban Resistance.” In Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba, ed. L. Funes, M. Bourque, N. Pérez, and P. Rosset, xiv–xx. Oakland, CA: Food First. Selden, Mark, and Benedict Kerkvleit. 1998. “Agrarian Transformations in China and Vietnam.” China Journal 40: 37–58. Smith, Neil. 1992. “Contours of a Spatialized Politics: Homeless Vehicles and the Production of Geographical Scale.” Social Text 33: 54–81.

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Suárez Salazar, Luis. 2000. El siglo XXI: Posibilidades y desafíos para la revolucion cubana. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales. Valdés, Orlando. 2003. Historia de la Reforma Agraria en Cuba. La Habana: Editorial Ciencias. Van den Bosch, Robert. 1978. The Pesticide Conspiracy. New York: Doubleday. Verdery, Katherine. 2003. The Vanishing Hectare: Property and Value in Postsocialist Transylvania. Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press. Warner, Keith. 2007. Agroecology in Action: Extending Alternative Agriculture through Social Networks. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Wezel, A., S. Bellon, T. Doré, C. Francis, D. Vallod, and C. David. 2009. “Agroecology as a Science, a Movement and a Practice.” Agronomy for Sustainable Development 29(4): 503–15. Wilson, Marisa. 2009. “Food as a Good vs. Food as a Commodity: Contradictions between State and Market in Tuta, Cuba.” Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford (JASO), N.S. 1(1): 25–51. . 2010a. “The Revolutionary Revalorization of Campesinos (Peasants) in Cuban History and Implications for Food Security in Present-Day Cuba.” History in Action 1(1): 1–6. . 2010b. “Embedding Social Capital in Place and Community: Towards a New Paradigm for the Caribbean Food System.’ ” In World Sustainable Development Outlook 2010, ed. Gale T. Rigobert and Alam Asad. Sussex: World Sustainable Development Publications. . 2013. Everyday Moral Economies: Food, Politics and Scale in Cuba. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

chapter 8

Gardening for the State Cultivating Bionational Citizens in Postsocialist Russia melissa l. caldwell

While the impact of Russia’s rapidly growing car culture is evident both in the heavy traffic and gridlock that now clogs the country’s roadways and in the environmental pollution from car exhaust that hangs in the air, it also appears in the country’s food supply. Transit has become the medium by which domestic and foreign foods circulate through Russia, as enhanced transportation routes and expansions in the commercial trucking industry have encouraged the importation and distribution of raw foodstuffs and manufactured food products from Russia’s regions and foreign markets throughout the country. At the same time, vehicular transportation has transformed city streets, provincial roadways, and national highways into shopping districts for commercial food retailers. Transnational fast-food restaurants with drivethrough windows, multistory hypermarkets, and gas stations outfitted with 24-hour food markets now line Russia’s roadways, offering a diverse array of fresh produce, packaged goods, and hot and cold prepared foods for both commuters and local residents alike. This new food retail sector has joined an older, less glitzy, and more “traditional,” but no less commercially significant form of food vending that has long existed along Russia’s roads: the informal stands set up by private sellers. Singly and in small clusters, enterprising villagers, gardeners, fishermen, hunters, and even farmers from former collective farms line the shoulders of highways and country roads, manning small rickety tables, overturned boxes, and three-legged stools. In some small towns, the tables are unmanned, with either an honor-system cash box or a bell to ring for someone to come from a 188

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nearby home or car to the roadside stand. The array of fresh produce, packaged goods, and prepared foods sold at these roadside stands is just as diverse as that offered by these private sellers’ more formal counterparts while retaining the feel of a more informal, personalized, and local farmers’ market: fresh eggs, small bunches of just-picked vegetables and herbs, metal pails filled with apples and berries, baskets of wild mushrooms, thermoses filled with hot homemade pastries, boards nailed with dried and fresh fish, slabs of fresh meat, jars of pickled vegetables, pyramids of melons, and buckets of homebrewed sodas and spirits. These visual contrasts offered along Russia’s roadways—where McDonald’s restaurants compete with elderly pensioners selling homemade meat and fruit pies from insulated boxes loaded in wheelbarrows and where BP gas stations offering packaged and pasteurized dairy products vie with local farmers who pour raw milk directly from their milking pails—invite careful inquiry into what makes these differences meaningful for Russian consumers. Although these two different food cultures might appear to align with the contrasts regularly drawn between the global industrial food system and “alternative” food movements such as organics and Slow Food, such associations rely on the notion that visual differences necessarily correlate with different ideals about ethical consumption. Yet in the Russian case, these seemingly different systems can be compatible, and even in some cases are understood not to be different from one another at all. This resolution of difference is made possible through a Russian philosophy of ethical consumption known as “ecologically clean” (ekologicheski chistoe). An expansive term to denote foods and practices that are clean, healthy, safe, flavorful, and of high quality, ecologically clean offers a model of ethical consumption that draws on Russian values of a bionational citizenship that links together citizens’ bodies, civic goals, and a nationalized nature. In this form of “bionational citizenship,” both the Russian state and its citizens are concerned with creating an ideal state subject whose healthfulness is measured biologically, politically, and socially. These simultaneously biological, political, and social qualities—what I call “biosocial” qualities—are, in turn, determined by the extent of an individual’s direct and active engagement with the physical landscape of the nation—specifically, an idealized “nature” from which the nation is presumed to have emerged. As Russia’s food system has necessarily shifted over the past century to include diverse, and often contradictory, food systems—peasant farming, industrial farms, highly

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technological and industrial food factories, private farms, personal gardens, and transnational capitalist food conglomerates—the category of ecologically clean has flexibly accommodated them by consistently privileging an ideal citizen rather than an ideal food or an ideal form of food production. By invoking the values of ecologically clean, both the Russian state and its citizens have collaborated to produce a strong state with strong, healthy citizens. Above all, what the Russian case shows is how ethical food movements do not necessarily have to be alternative to the primary forms of state or global politics, which are increasingly those of neoliberal capitalist democracies, but can in fact be already contained within civic goals such as building strong citizens, a strong civil society, and a strong nation. In this chapter, I examine ethical citizenship through an analysis of the Russian philosophy of ecologically clean, a category that is Russia’s version of “organics” even as it does not equate with Western versions of “organics.” Because of its emphasis on a bionational form of civic engagement in which foods and food practices are expressions and conduits of health as a state-oriented concern, ecologically clean provides a compelling vantage point for rethinking not just how industrial-capitalist agricultural systems might themselves be understood as “ethical,” but also how these food systems might collectively be positioned not as alternatives but as central to civic goals.

value production through food movements The civic value of food is long familiar in many different types of food-growing and food-producing activities around the world: wartime Victory Gardens, community-initiated gardens, Community Supported Agriculture, farmers’ markets, food relief programs, food sovereignty movements, and sustainability projects, among many others (Alkon and Mares 2012; Lawson 2005; Petrini 2001; Rosin 2001; Yuen 1996). In some cases, these food practices are intended to support and affirm the goals and values of civil society (Levkoe 2006; Pudup 2008), while in other cases they are meant to resist, subvert, or even overturn the dominant political order. In still other cases, they paradoxically reinforce the very political order they are meant to disrupt (Guthman 2004, 2008; Guthman and DuPuis 2006; Slocum 2007). Above all, these food practices provide a medium through which individuals articulate their rights, needs, and desires as citizen-producers and citizen-consumers.

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Issues pertaining to health—of consumers, producers, and the environment, most notably—are often central concerns in these food practices, although they are typically presented as intended catalysts and outcomes of political activity, rather than as the means by which the political process itself unfolds. For instance, when alternative food movement advocates focus on how community gardens or sustainable agriculture might contest and reform the dominant political order in order to bring about healthy food and, by extension, healthier consumers (see, for example, Armstrong 2000: 319–20), they overlook how the existing political culture they are contesting might already contain and promote the values they hope to achieve. The notion that particular types of food might or might not be inherently ethical is evident in the ways in which North American and Western European food activists present food movements such as organics, Slow Food, and food sovereignty as alternatives to what is widely perceived as the dominant global order: that is, the globalized, capitalist, industrial food system and its generic, mass-produced foods produced by alienated laborers and sold in generic, anonymous, and meaningless settings (Petrini 2001). Advocates for alternative food movements herald these movements for protecting and promoting uniquely distinctive foods—often labeled as “traditional” or “heritage” foods—that are procured or produced through small-scale, “traditional” means and then offered through personal, face-to-face relationships between seller and buyer. The emphasis on the presumed degrees of distance between those who produce food and those who consume it is meant to signify different ethical and affective sensibilities. Whereas foods produced through the industrial food complex are represented as distanced—even alienated—both from those who harvest and make them, and from those who buy and consume them, foods produced, distributed, and consumed through “alternative” systems such as personal gardens, Community Supported Agriculture, small farms, and labor-friendly means are envisioned as overcoming this alienation by bringing producers and consumers into close, direct, and even mutually caring relationships (Anderson 2008). Layered on these degrees of distance are qualities of distinction, such that alternatively produced foods are imagined as being healthier, safer, and tastier than their counterparts produced through industrial capitalism. Embedded within alternative food movements are idealized political values of consumer citizenship, whereby “alienated” food relationships are cast as undemocratic and unequal because they disenfranchise consumers from

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producers, growers, and the very origins of the food, while “intimate” food relationships are presumed to restore and even privilege accessibility and equality by empowering both producer and consumer. In these configurations, food choices represent ethical choices about which political values are prioritized and actualized through both production and consumption: specifically, industrial, neoliberal capitalism on the one hand, versus a romanticized socialist democracy on the other. Yet the progressive social justice values of egalitarianism, autonomy, and consumer emancipation promoted in alternative food movements obscure an inherent conservatism and even pessimism in these movements. The inclusionary ideals envisioned by food justice activists, for example, are in fact limited to those who share similar sensibilities, rather than allowing for the coexistence of a full expression of multiple perspectives, some of which may challenge or even contradict one another. In addition, because alternative food movements are motivated by the goal of correcting problems within the current food system, they invoke a vision of a dystopian contemporary society that will be resolved through a future-oriented utopian vision. There is little space for imagining an ideal society in the present, and no space for stepping back from idealized conclusions about the state of food as “good,” “healthy,” and “ethical.” Instead, advocates of these alternative food movements overlook how debates about whether food is “good,” “healthy,” and even “ethical” may be how political values and practices are actualized. The Russian model of ecologically clean, however, suggests something quite different. As the following discussion shows, not only do the flexible ideals of ecologically clean accommodate and celebrate a multiplicity of views and practices, but they also focus on celebrating and preserving an ideal society in the present by protecting and maintaining it as it moves into the future. Within Russian food cultures, this ideal society requires both healthy bodies and a healthy civil society—a combination that can be achieved, protected, and legitimized through the philosophy of ecologically clean.

civic nutrition: building healthy bodies as state bodies For the case of Russia, much like in other parts of the world, the spaces and activities of growing, producing, and distributing food are important as sites where Russians rethink, contest, and reinvent the new political and economic

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orders they inhabit. As a result, philosophies about ethical foods are powerful markers of the nation’s political, economic, and nutritional purity and strength. Yet unlike North American and Western European ethical food philosophies, in Russia the health values that are associated with particular foods and the contexts in which they are grown, harvested, produced, distributed, and consumed have less to do with issues of labor, scale, proximity, technology, and even neoliberal profit making, and more to do with the national origins of those foods, the economic networks through which they circulate, and the ways in which they are used. These are the factors that ultimately determine whether foods and food practices convey values of inclusivity, accessibility, and healthfulness. As a result, both industrially produced foods and homegrown foods can promote ethical forms of consumer citizenship in Russia. At stake in these preferences, where foods grown in contaminated soil and produced via unsustainable methods by industrial agriculture can qualify as “ethical,” is a different understanding of the relationship between personal and environmental health on the one hand, and national politics on the other. Healthy eating has been a crucial component of Russian civic life since the Soviet era, when nutrition, food production, and food consumption were all brought under the direction of the state as part of socialist state-building efforts (Borrero 1997, 2002; Rothstein and Rothstein 1997). In the post-Soviet period, this emphasis on health and wellness has continued as middle- and upper-class Russians flex their newly found capitalist muscles and consume new fitness and diet regimes. Bypassing Soviet-style gymnasiums, swimming pools, and sanitoriums in favor of sophisticated Western-style fitness centers kitted out with high-end exercise equipment, personal trainers, and juice bars, Russian health and wellness enthusiasts are increasingly focused on techniques for sculpting and perfecting their bodies, both inside and out. The popularity of these new fitness interests is evident in multiple realms: clothing stores offering trendy exercise attire; bookstores selling books, magazines, and DVDs with the latest diet tips and exercise regimens; specialty stores selling home fitness machines and special “diet” foods; and even health professionals offering “medical” programs geared at detoxifying bodies or more extreme measures such as cosmetic surgeries and bariatric surgeries. Coinciding with these commercially oriented fitness and exercise trends has been a renewed interest in the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables grown in personal gardens and on Russian farms, wild foods such as berries, herbs, and mushrooms picked from Russia’s forests and meadows, and fresh dairy

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products made according to “traditional” peasant techniques. Capturing these interests, grocery stores have expanded their selections to include freshly squeezed and even “live” juices, fresh herbs growing in pots that can be taken directly home, and larger sections devoted to farm-fresh fruits and vegetables and even wild-picked mushrooms and berries. Nature-based medicinal and beauty remedies derived from fresh honey and dried herbs, berries, and other ingredients are increasingly moving out of home kitchens and specialty health food stores and into mainstream supermarkets and home-decorating shops. Food and cooking programs and magazines encourage readers to enjoy both the simplicity and quality of foods taken directly from nature and the activities of gardening and harvesting that produce them. Embedded within these changes are complex and often conflicting discussions about what constitutes a “healthy” diet in Russia today and how these developments relate to concerns with the overall health and wellness not just of Russian citizens but of Russian society more generally. From the perspective of Western physicians and nutritionists working in Russia who have lamented both Russian culinary traditions that have favored heavy reliance on carbohydrate-heavy, fatty, and sodium-laden dishes and the increasing consumption of fast-food meals and packaged foods, this new focus on Western-style health trends, coupled with the arrival of fresh foods and “lowcalorie,” “low-salt,” and other “diet” products on grocery shelves and restaurant menus, appears to be a step in the right direction. Yet consuming Western healthy food trends does not, in fact, translate into a wholehearted embrace of Western ideals about health, nor do apparent similarities between Russian and Euro-American food trends indicate shared philosophies of ethical consumption. In fact, Russian consumer habits display ambivalence, and sometimes even opposition, to several prevailing EuroAmerican alternative food trends. Like consumers in the United States, Western Europe, and elsewhere in the world, Russian consumers have in recent years become concerned with the potentially harmful side effects of genetically modified foods. Yet unlike in Western societies, in Russia these concerns have not translated into resistance to GM foods grown by industrial farms, but rather into resistance to “foreign” foods—that is, foods not indigenous to Russia. One instance of this appears in consumer opposition to tofu and other soy products, a stance evident in the phrase “No soy products” that appears everywhere: handwritten signs posted in the windows of food shops, packaging for everything from yogurt to cookies, and food advertisements.

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Another, more intriguing instance of this opposition appears in resistance to certified “organic,” “Fair Trade,” and “humanely produced” foods from Western Europe. Both Russian consumers and the state devalue or even reject these items as “unsafe” and “unhealthy.” Similarly, proponents of Western-inspired techniques of alternative agriculture and gardening, including small-scale and low-impact techniques like double-ditch digging, find it difficult to promote their approaches outside small, and underfunded, communities of like-minded enthusiasts. Instead, Russian consumers favor farm and garden products that are grown, harvested, and processed in Russia, even under circumstances that would appear, according to the logic of Western alternative food philosophies, as undesirable and even “dangerous,” such as foods grown in environmentally polluted areas using nonsustainable techniques and pesticides and sold by large industrial food producers. This seeming antipathy to, or even outright rejection of, Euro-American farm and garden products and agricultural techniques is especially curious given that Russians’ high consumption of fresh produce means that domestic food supplies continue to be grown in contaminated regions using industrial agriculture, thereby forcing health inspectors and consumers alike to employ measures to test the radioactivity levels of produce. These tactics include both the use of radiation detectors and complicated linguistic and cultural “tests” meant to determine if produce vendors are from the Chernobyl region (and thus are bringing in tainted produce), as well as legal efforts to sanitize food markets by forcibly excluding Central Asian, Asian, and African vendors (Krainova 2009). By contrast, at home and at their cottages, private gardeners often use harsh chemical pesticides, pick berries and mushrooms in polluted forests, and eat fish caught in polluted streams and rivers. Informing these disparate, and seemingly contradictory preferences, is a prevailing sense that “foreign” techniques and foods do not directly support the needs and values of the Russian nation, and specifically that they do not support the physical needs of the bodies of Russian citizens. A sentiment that I encountered frequently during my research in Russia over the past fifteen years was the belief that the flavor and overall quality of foreign foods was not sufficient for, or appealing to, a Russian palate (see Caldwell 2002: 302, 307). By contrast, foods and food practices that Russians identify as “domestic” tap into long-standing Russian activities that have physically and symbolically grounded the health of individual subjects and citizens in the geographic and biosocial imaginaries of the Russian nation and state.

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sowing the seeds of the nation Gardens, forests, and farms have long been deployed in the service of environmental, nutritional, and even civic needs in Russia. Over several centuries, both authorities and citizens have used formal and informal agricultural settings to pursue projects geared at promoting and maintaining such key civic goals as ensuring stable domestic food supplies, providing settings and activities that encouraged robust physical activity for the cultivation of a strong and healthy citizenry, and reinforcing national pride in the tremendous natural resources in these spaces. The attentiveness of Russians to the value of natural spaces for cultivating a vibrant and productive social order originated in Russian landscape practices, most notably gardening activities. Already by the seventeenth century, Muscovite cartographic practices that identified and defined Imperial subjects by locating them spatially in geographic locales drew explicitly on garden imagery—trees, orchards, and even berry bushes—to delineate the contours of the tsarist state and the emplacement of its population (Kivelson 2006: 8–9, 55). The civic value of gardening was further institutionalized through formal medicinal gardens not only at the Kremlin, but also in Russian Orthodox monasteries (Appleby 1983; Ely 2002: 31; Likhachev 1998), which were charged with the responsibility of providing public health services to the local community. Since the seventeenth century, even as Russian gardens have undergone numerous stylistic changes reflecting changing cultural sensibilities and material needs, so that gardens have been transformed from medicinal plots to aesthetically purposeful landscapes, and from pleasure spaces for elites to utilitarian kitchen gardens (ogorodi) for the lower classes, they have retained their civic significance as intrinsic to the physical and social health of the nation. Above all, throughout the past several hundred years, Russians have valued agricultural spaces for their symbolic value as conduits of essential national qualities. In Russia, nature is, first and foremost, a space where civic development is made possible through attention to personal, social, and national health. This value system emerges from a geographic nationalism that grounds the national self in the physical landscape and encourages both biological and social connections—that is, biosocial connections—to the homeland. Although such connections among earth, bodies, and the nation also appear in the identity practices of other formerly Soviet societies (Schwartz 2006), the

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significance of this biogeographic nationalism is naturalized in Russian culture with linguistic cues that emphasize the simultaneity of nation, nature, and soil. The word rod, which means “family” or “genus,” is the root to the words rodina (“homeland”), priroda (“nature”), and narod (a term for “nation” that conveys the idea of “the folk” or “the people”) (Caldwell 2011: 12; Kivelson 2006: 9; see also Paxson 2005: 53). Throughout the twentieth century, concerns with the relationship between civic health and the land became paramount as Russians and other Soviet citizens found themselves caught up in political struggles that played out in agricultural spaces. Soviet ideals of collectivism, progress, and modernity were variously enacted and contested through such events as forced collectivization, the dispossession of peasant farmers from their agricultural spaces, the deployment of soldiers and youth brigades to bring in the harvests, recurring famines (both natural and manmade), and the encouragement of private garden plots as both rewards for individual citizens’ contributions to the state and as punitive taxes on their productivity. This emphasis on the value of agricultural settings as sources for producing the nation’s population intersected with a particularly Russian emphasis on physical activity as a method for cultivating and strengthening the bodies of the population. Continuing trends that emerged in the nineteenth century, when tsarist subjects pursued bicycling, mountaineering, walking, gardening, hunting, fishing, and picnicking as activities destined not just to improve health but also to inculcate particular social values (Gorsuch and Koenker 2006), twentieth-century Russian and Soviet officials promoted bodily regimes like gardening to improve the nation’s physical strength and safety. Health experts further emphasized citizens’ personal and political health through fizkultura (physical culture), such as regular fitness regimes at work or the local “culture park,” visits to restorative health spas and sanitoriums, and organized tourist outings (Koenker 2006; Maurer 2006), as well as through suggestions and requirements for how citizens organized and decorated their living spaces, including their pantries and kitchens (Buchli 2000). In order to create good citizen-workers who were strong physically, politically, and morally, Soviet health experts also mobilized a broad range of techniques for producing healthy foods. Proper nutrition and eating habits were particular priorities in this mode of civic health, and food scientists, chefs, farmers, and home cooks were all charged with the critical mission of ensuring the availability of foods and recipes that would provide the most

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appropriate nutritional qualities (Rothstein and Rothstein 1997; Zav’ialov 2006). Laboratory-made foods and nutritional supplements, scientifically determined nutritional standards, factory-made foods, healthy cooking manuals, and personal gardens were all vehicles for assuring optimal nutritional standards (even if reality did not always meet expectations). So critical was a healthy diet for producing a healthy citizenry that authorities even experimented with measures for guaranteeing nutritional standards and for providing “healthy” foods directly to citizens, such as by eliminating private kitchens and rerouting citizens to eat in public canteens (Borrero 1997; Rothstein and Rothstein 1997). Both the activities associated with food preparation and consumption and the spaces in which these activities occurred were deeply infused with political ideals and practices. Within this cultural logic, state officials and ordinary citizens have granted gardens, farms, and forests special status as the spaces where the most meaningful work of nation-building and state-building has taken place. Ultimately, gardening and farming are never merely forms of agriculture but are instead physical activities by which Russians have debated, contested, and deployed the political and economic ideologies that have shaped their country.

fresh food and organic capitalism At the heart of Russian gardening and farming practices is an emphasis on the nutritional and social virtues of homegrown foods. From the perspective of Russian consumers, foods that are grown and produced in Russia are safer, healthier, tastier, and more reliable than foreign-grown food, regardless of whether the domestically produced food is grown and harvested by hand or through industrial technologies. These qualities of safety, healthfulness, and taste that are presumed to come from domestic production are conveyed by the designation “ecologically clean,” the Russian version of “organic” (see also Mitrokhin 2004: 173; Medvednik 2004). The ecologically clean designation shares some similarities with designations such as “organic,” “Slow Food,” and “sustainable” that are familiar to North American and Western European consumers. Like their “organic” counterparts, ecologically clean foods are believed to lack additives and preservatives and are presumed to be untainted by commercial processes, which would damage their essential nutrients. Similar to the philosophies found in

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the Slow Food movement, ecologically clean entails an emphasis on geographic regionalism and how the particularities of geographic regions are captured in the soil, water, climate, and even pruning and harvesting techniques and then infused into the plants that grow in that soil and the animals that live there and eat those plants (i.e., terroir). And much like the goals of environmental preservation contained in “sustainability” philosophies, ecologically clean emphasizes a mutual relationship of care, compassion, and responsibility between nature and consumers. Yet the Russian designation of ecologically clean is not equivalent to Western concepts of “organic,” “Slow Food,” or even “sustainability.” Not only do Russian farming and gardening practices lack the organics-style certification processes that would assure a food merited the status of ecologically clean, but ideals about the healing power of nature are understood as absolving citizens of responsibilities toward the earth, a problem apparent in the widespread littering, vandalism, and clear-cutting that happens in Russian fields and forests (see Caldwell 2011: 149–55). More importantly, ecologically clean emphasizes a very different set of political ideals that are not necessarily opposed to industrial production. What is most important to the ecologically clean designation is the belief in a uniquely Russian national landscape that produces the distinctive bionational qualities that in turn produce the biosocial, and hence bionational, bodies of citizens. According to the belief system underlying this geographically inspired nationalism, Russian soil is not just cleaner and healthier than non-Russian soil, but it also has purifying qualities that can compensate for unsafe and unhealthy attributes. In this logic, foods taken directly from the ground do not need to be washed, because the bits of earth and moisture that might cling to them only increase their healthfulness. Extending this emphasis on national origins to the individuals who source and distribute these foods, Russian consumers prefer co-nationals above foreigners. The most desirable procurers and distributors are individuals who are personally known—close friends and family members— who use their informal networks to circulate produce (Caldwell 2011). Preferences for direct contact with both the soil and the individuals who source, distribute, and prepare these foods highlight the importance of social intimacy and unmediated access as key values. Russians describe ecologically clean foods as the embodiment of the spirit of sociality and personalization that characterizes Russian social life. The intimacy and personalization that occurs as items move through informal networks, often directly from hand

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to hand, imbues these foods with qualities of taste, quality, and cleanliness that are believed to be absent from foods produced by anonymous, mechanical, even nonhuman means, such as those associated with industrial production. Personalized transactions also evoke qualities of gifting, which are privileged over direct commodity exchanges (Ledeneva 1998). Extending this idealization of social contact, the cultural values that privilege Russian nature hold that family relationships and friendships are strengthened from the intimacy of encounters in forests, gardens, and on the farm. Ultimately, philosophies on the meaning of ecologically clean are commentaries by which Russians promote ideals and visions of an ideal nationstate. These emerge clearly in widespread skepticism of the morality of Russia’s shift to neoliberal capitalism, an issue that was especially significant during the 1990s, when Russia was experiencing a rocky transition to a capitalist market economy. Public irritation with pervasive corruption among Russia’s financial elite and growing economic disparities within the population was exacerbated by Russians’ unease with the explicitly antisocial, impersonal qualities of anonymous, free market economic transactions. These concerns have been transferred to attitudes toward food, most notably by reclaiming the personalized qualities associated with foods picked by known hands and circulated through informal networks, a view expressed succinctly by one of Cynthia Gabriel’s Russian acquaintances who articulated his preference by pejoratively denigrating commercially grown and marketed foods as “capitalist food” (Gabriel 2005: 186). For consumers who are attracted to noncapitalist foods, this has meant a renewed interest in homegrown and homemade foods. This interest is expressed through preferences for foods that have blemishes and variations in size and color, which are interpreted as markers of the authentic naturalness of the foods, in contrast to foods that are perfectly shaped and colored and thus appear to have been grown or produced through industrial means. Consumers also prefer minimal or even nonexistent packaging, such as newspaper or reusable wooden baskets, which signals the presumably rustic and informal origins of these foods. Yet while noncommercial, noncapitalist exchanges are preferred, the reality is that many consumers depend on the formal capitalist, commercial sector in order to access food, whether it is by purchasing their foods at the local farmers’ market or at a grocery store. The ubiquitous presence of the formal capitalist commercial market requires both consumers and producers

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to rework their views of “capitalist food,” a practice made possible by the flexible and inclusive nature of ecologically clean. This flexibility is not unlimited, however, but privileges the bionational traits associated with ecologically clean and allows for them to be extended to forms of industrial production that belong to and support the Russian nation. Foods grown and produced through domestic industrial agriculture and food industries can also be included within the ecologically clean designation by virtue of the fact that they are Russian, and thus not foreign, and are presumed to be grown and made by other Russians. In addition, producers deliberately draw on the cultural cues associated with ecologically clean. Tapping into the popularity of “authentic” and “natural” foods, savvy designers and marketers have created many foods that are grown, packaged, and presented in ways to evoke features of being rustic, unique, and homemade. Through such tactics as packaging food in jars that resemble those used in home canning or in wooden baskets of the sort used by mushroom hunters and berry pickers, visually depicting the alleged growers and producers as kindly elderly women or peasant farmers, and even including “origin myth” narratives detailing where a particular food was grown in Russia and the uniquely Russian bionational qualities that it contains, industrially produced and commercially sold foods can be invested with the cues meant to reassure wary consumers that these products are not capitalist and retain the nutritional and cultural values that are most important to Russian consumers. Consequently, even as ecologically clean ideals are presented in opposition to a capitalist economy, they are very much present in Russia’s capitalist market and, in fact, have contributed to the successes of Russia’s neoliberal capitalist food system, much in the same way as the organics movement has supported conventional agriculture in the United States (see Guthman 2004). As such, the values of ecologically clean belong to a powerful set of civic values that have been familiar throughout Russia’s history over the past several centuries, even as Russia has moved through a range of political-economic systems extending from Imperial-era capitalism to state socialism and now to an unruly post-Soviet (neoliberal) capitalism.

garden civility and community organizing Beyond framing and moderating economic ideologies, the values and practices of ecologically clean are also central to Russians’ political activities. Citizens’

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efforts to delineate and cultivate a vibrant sphere of civic engagement are especially prominent in gardens, forests, farms, and other physical spaces where foods are grown and harvested. Historical traditions of communalism and collectivism have encouraged Russians to think of gardens, forests, and farms as common spaces, and hence intensely social spaces. This is partly because the notion of formal, private ownership has not, until recently, applied to garden plots, forests, or farms. Consequently, state/citizen and private/ public property distinctions are ambiguous and rarely recognized (Lovell 2003: 173–74), leading private citizens to treat forests, meadows, lakes, and farms as publicly owned resources to which they are entitled. At the same time, Russian organizational practices of shared governance were extended to garden communities and villages, so that farmers and gardeners have been organized into self-governing leadership committees and labor units and charged with shared civic responsibilities for overseeing the management and use of these spaces. Trash collection, firefighting, weeding, and harvesting all became opportunities for officials to bring state objectives directly into the daily lives of their constituents and for citizens to participate directly in the workings of the nation-state. Through these activities, Russians have come to see agricultural settings as spaces where the nation-state is immediately tangible and accessible. In the past two decades, gardens, farms, and forests have acquired additional significance as spaces where the ideals of democracy and freedom that have become prominent in the postsocialist period are exercised and contested. For Russians like my acquaintances, it is in these spaces that they claim to feel most free. This “freedom” consists of both the feeling of being able to express personal opinions and voice criticisms, and the feeling that ordinary people experience directly and profoundly the larger social, economic, and political changes taking place in their country. While concepts and practices of personal freedom and individual choice were associated with farming and gardening spaces long before the post-Soviet transition, they are acquiring new relevance today as citizens praise these spaces for encouraging principles of personal development, autonomy, independence, self-fulfillment, and human flourishing more generally. This correlation of place, nation, freedom, and fulfillment emerged vividly in the reflections of acquaintances, such as a woman who lives abroad but returns every year to spend the summer at her family’s cottage outside Moscow. By way of explanation for this annual pilgrimage, Viktoriia reflected that, “In

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America, whenever we go somewhere out in nature or go to a park, there is not that kind of feeling that you are free . . . . There are all these roads, where everything is planned out, totally organized . . . . There are regulations everywhere . . . . There the general feeling is that everything is impossible, constrained (fettered) . . . . And here it is not that way” (Caldwell 2011: 142–43). Another émigré commented that when in America it is difficult to breathe freely, but that in Russia she can breathe more easily and that she feels at ease moving around in the natural environment surrounding her. These themes of personal freedom and comfort emerged frequently in conversations with others about why they found the ecologically clean lifestyle so meaningful and important. A striking secondary theme related to personal freedom was the importance of being able to make choices for oneself. As many respondents reflected, an ecologically clean lifestyle afforded them an ability to make decisions about their daily lives, a capacity that many felt they had been denied during the Soviet period when state authorities imposed disciplining tactics to monitor and guide the population. By following an ecologically clean lifestyle, however, Russian respondents felt that they themselves could choose what to plant, what to pick, and how to dispose of the foods they gathered. Beyond the immediate interest in their own food provisioning, respondents also associated freedom of choice with being able to decide their daily schedules, what they wore, and with whom they socialized (Caldwell 2011: 141–46). This emphasis on the ability to exercise choice intersected neatly with the continuing sense of shared ownership and investment in farming and gardening spaces. While farm and garden supply stores offer gardening enthusiasts an extensive supply of seeds, seedlings, and plants that they can plant in their yards, it is not uncommon for Russians to look to their local forests and meadows, and sometimes even commercial farms, as legitimate— and free—sites for sourcing those same plants. Exercising their perceived “rights” to this shared agricultural property, Russian gardeners dig up saplings, berry bushes, and other plants that they then transplant in their own gardens. Similarly, Russians identify the foods that are grown in these settings—berries, mushrooms, grasses, and other wild foods; fish and wild game; and even cultivated crops such as orchard fruit or fields of beans—as resources to which they are entitled as citizens of the nation-state. In this logic, this bounty is provided for Russians both by nature, which stands in

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for the progenitor of the nation, and by the state as the institutional body that oversees and guarantees citizens’ rights to services. The “grazing” that Russians do as they wander through the woods becomes a form of civic engagement through which they access the state’s resources to which they are entitled as citizens. Today, gardens, farms, and forests are at the forefront of new configurations of public and private, which in turn have informed new modes of civic engagement in Russia (Caldwell 2009). During the Soviet era, state planners deliberately promoted socialist goals through the appropriation and recalibration of apartments, workplaces, streets, parks, garden communities, and even forests (Boym 2001: 96; Crowley and Reid 2002). As Victor Buchli has observed, private or domestic spaces were problematic to Soviet authorities who identified them as “the locus of the battle against petit-bourgeois values inhibiting the establishment of socialism” (2000: 41). Consequently, by transforming garden and farm spaces into public spaces, and the foods grown in them into public resources, Soviet authorities ensured that they were deeply embedded within state-citizen negotiations over power, privacy, labor, autonomy, ownership, and even choice (see Slater 1993: 188 and Zukin 1991: 208 for a discussion of the power dynamics invested in public/private space negotiations). Yet the extent to which these spaces are truly public in the sense of being thoroughly infused with state interests and practices is debatable. What is of paramount value for most Russians is the perceived intimacy and personalization that they associate with gardens and forests and, by extension, the ecologically clean lifestyle. For Russian citizens who suffered the burdens of housing shortages by sharing cramped apartments with other residents, their plots and cottages in garden communities represented an alluring option for private space outside the gaze of other citizens and the state. For many Russians, gardens and forests represent the one space of true privacy and trust, where they can visit with close relatives and friends, share their deepest feelings and opinions, and perhaps even articulate forms of political engagement outside those officially provided and sanctioned by state authorities. In this private setting, gardeners have come to enjoy being able to exercise control over their own activities and not worry about the repercussions of living in close proximity to other people. Although this sense of privacy is largely psychological, as the realities of garden spaces ensure that plots are arranged closely to one another, thereby ensuring that neighbors are always aware of

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what is taking place nearby even as they pretend that that their neighbors cannot see what is happening in their own yard, it is experienced as no less real or meaningful than forms of privacy afforded by physical distance. Beyond their civic value to private citizens, gardens and forests have historically also been sites where the state-making projects of the country have taken shape as Russia’s politicians and political activists transfer their work to their gardens and camps in the forest, where they meet to share ideas and plan their activities. Members of Imperial Russia’s royal family, the Soviet Union’s political elite, political dissidents, today’s politicians, and members of numerous “alternative” political groups ranging from neo-Nazis and punks to religious nationalists, among many others, have all retreated to the safety of the garden and forest for organizing sessions. At the same time, it has been through their gardens and forest spaces that Russian citizens have actively resisted the state’s efforts to control the population. Many informants recalled how their families underreported the amount of food they grew on their land to evade the taxes levied by the state on garden harvests, or circumvented restrictive building codes by creatively inserting insulation behind the walls and adding hidden rooms and attics. This tradition of resistance has continued into the post-Soviet period as Russians use their gardens as settings to build privately owned homes and appropriate the fields of private farms to harvest fresh produce or “borrow” building materials for their own personal use. In recent years, land has emerged as an important resource in these political acts, as ordinary citizens have begun exercising a populist mode of “seizure by eminent domain” in which they expand their garden properties by clandestinely moving fence lines into their neighbors’ yards or into collectively held public space. Although on the one hand such efforts are curtailing and reworking publicly held space into private space, effectively resembling neoliberal forms of privatization, on the other hand they continue long-standing civic activities geared at safeguarding personal freedoms and privileging intimacy in the face of what citizens identify as an encroaching market capitalism. The significance of these spaces as political sites appears clearly at the national level, as much of Russia’s political life over the past two decades has transpired in and through gardens and farms. For instance, even as ordinary citizens evade repercussions for “borrowing” property, politicians who fall out of favor with the Kremlin risk having their garden plots confiscated or, even worse, being arrested on charges of corruption related to the purchase and use

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of their garden plots, as has occurred with several leading contenders for Russia’s presidency (Caldwell 2011: 155–59). Gardens, forests, and farms have thus become the settings that inform how Russians understand and enact political ideals of autonomy, freedom, private property, and even civic responsibility. Consequently, all of these acts of appropriation simultaneously invoke capitalist models while rejecting them, thereby highlighting how the ideals of ecologically clean are expansive enough not just to accommodate competing political and economic systems, but more importantly to harness them for more productive purposes that benefit the nation and its citizens.

growing the healthy nation Ultimately, because philosophies of ecologically clean are intrinsic both to populist ideals about value and sociality and to state-oriented practices of economics, politics, and nutrition, they move beyond setting up criteria for healthy and safe food, and instead serve as critical commentaries on the biological and civic health of the nation and its citizens. Because its focus is on a broader, more holistic vision of healthy citizens, the ecologically clean approach encourages individualized choices and interpretations. As such, ecologically clean ideals constitute an understanding of ethical food practices that is far more expansive and inclusive than the more exclusive projects of Slow Foods, organics, and even sustainability. It is an approach that encourages followers to make their own decisions and find ways to align them with—or alternatively to resist—trends and beliefs at larger societal and even global levels, while retaining the distinctiveness of Russian cultural logics. Through ecologically clean practices, Russian citizens feel invested in and part of the nation they inhabit. This is a form of active citizenship that emerges from the interplay of the land, the foods that grow in it, and the bodily practices of the individuals who inhabit this space. The nation-state emerges from this organic form of civic belonging and participation, rather than existing as the structure that produces citizenship and civic life. Consequently, Russian farmers and gardeners are not just the subjects of the nation-state but are themselves its producers and cultivators. What makes the philosophy of ecologically clean an ethical food movement then is that it supports and enables the flourishing of the civic values and goals of the Russian nation-state and its citizens. As individual consumers and

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producers make choices about which foods to grow, prepare, and consume, they are making choices about an ideal social world. But while this social world contains preferences for particular values, it also contains possibilities for accommodating and reworking other values, including values that may initially seem at odds with ecologically clean, thus enabling an inclusivity that goes beyond right and wrong and instead reveals the continuum of ideals and practices that may coexist. While ecologically clean is a philosophy steeped in tradition, its progressivist ethos is a flexible and dynamic one that creates possibilities for traditional, emergent, and not-yet-imagined food cultures that best approximate the goals of egalitarianism, liberation, and emancipation proposed by activists concerned with ethical food practices elsewhere in the world.

notes Funding for the larger research project on which this chapter is based came from a variety of sources over the years: the U.S. Department of Education (Title VI); the Mellon Foundation; and the Kathryn W. and Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Russian Studies, the Department of Anthropology, and the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies, all at Harvard University; and the University of California, Santa Cruz. The initial impetus for this chapter came from ideas that I touched on but did not develop in my book Dacha Idylls: Living Organically in Russia’s Countryside (2011). The more developed discussion that appears in this chapter was presented and discussed in the workshop “Ethical Foods and Food Movements in Postsocialist Settings,” held at SOAS, University of London, May 2011, and jointly sponsored by SOAS and the National Science Foundation. While I was unable to attend the workshop in person, I am grateful to my collaborators there for their constructive critiques. In particular, I thank Ruth Mandel, who was the discussant for my paper, for her very generous feedback and suggestions. I am also deeply grateful to Yuson Jung and Jakob Klein for their very careful readings of this chapter. It has been a deep pleasure to work with both of them as colleagues and friends during this process. Thanks also to Andy Baker, who has cheerfully supported all of my food and Russia endeavors. This chapter is dedicated to Mikaela, who provided the absolute best reason for not boarding an airplane and missing a workshop. 1. While I am not deliberately invoking Petryna’s concept of “biological citizenship” (2002) in the way that she describes for how Soviet and post-Soviet citizens used their bodies to make claims on their rights as state subjects, I am inspired by her term for thinking about how the biological and the national intersect in state efforts to create healthy citizens. In the examples I describe here, the Russian state links the biological bodies of its citizens to the ecological conditions of the national spaces in which they

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are born and raised. In other words, the Russian state is concerned with emphasizing how a uniquely Russian nature produces uniquely Russian citizens, an idea that has gained popular and political currency from the ideas of nationalists such as geographer Lev Gumilev, who proposed that “ethnoses” emerge from particular landscapes. 2. I am taking Canclini’s idea of consumer-citizens and extending it to think about how producers are also embedded within citizen-making projects geared at access to production and distribution (Canclini 2001). 3. See Guthman and DuPuis (2006) on how American food justice concerns aimed at the so-called obesity epidemic reinforce neoliberal goals, including the neoliberal market’s need to identify problems for which it can sell solutions. 4. An informational sign at the entrance to a medicinal garden in the main monastery in Suzdal, one of the historic towns along Moscow’s Golden Ring, notes that Tsar Ivan Groznii issued an ukaz (decree) requiring monasteries to cultivate a medicinal or apothecary garden. 5. For a fuller discussion, see Caldwell 2011: 90–91. 6. Although these activities are not, technically, legal, perpetrators are not usually caught or punished. Acts of “replanting” are often quite blatant: while riding public transportation or walking along city sidewalks in large towns and cities in Russia, it is not uncommon to see gardeners carrying saplings, bushes, or plants. In Moscow in springtime, replanters are notorious for digging up huge beds of tulips and other plants in municipal gardens—sometimes in broad daylight within hours of their planting by city landscapers. 7. In keeping with the popular idea that farm and garden spaces belong to the nation—that is, that they belong to the citizens and are held in trust by the state—it is not uncommon for private citizens to take lumber, hardware, fencing supplies, equipment, and other materials from building sites, state farms, and even private farms and put them to use in their own homes and gardens. These appropriations of supplies are not usually described as “theft,” which is understood as taking supplies from other private citizens.

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Ledeneva, Alena V. 1998. Russia’s Economy of Favours: Blat, Networking, and Informal Exchange. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Levkoe, Charles Z. 2006. “Learning Democracy through Food Justice Movements.” Agriculture and Human Values 23: 89–98. Likhachev, D.C. 1998. Poeziia Sadov: K semantike sadovo-parkovykh stilei. Sad kak tekst. Moscow: “Soglasie” and “Tipografiia ‘Novosti.’ ” Lovell, Stephen. 2003. Summerfolk: A History of the Dacha, 1710–2000. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Maurer, Eva. 2006. “Al’pinizm as Mass Sport and Elite Recreation.” In Turizm: The Russian and East European Tourist under Capitalism and Socialism, ed. Anne E. Gorsuch and Diane P. Koenker, 141–62. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Medvednik, Rita. 2004. “Pitanie bez toksinov.” Zdorov’e ot prirody (June): 88–95. Mitrokhin, Nikolai. 2004. Russkaia Pravoslavnaia Tserkov’: Sovremennoe sostoianie i aktual’nye problemy. Moscow: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie. Paxson, Margaret. 2005. Solovyovo: The Story of Memory in a Russian Village. Bloomington: Indiana University Press and Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press. Petrini, Carlo. 2001. Slow Food: The Case for Taste, trans. William McCuaig. New York: Columbia University Press. Petryna, Adriana. 2002. Life Exposed: Biological Citizenship after Chernobyl. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Pudup, Mary Beth. 2008. “It Takes a Garden: Cultivating Citizen-Subjects in Organic Gardens.” Geoforum 39: 1228–40. Rosin, R. Thomas. 2001. “From Garden City to Olde City Ward: A Longitudinal Study of Social Process and Incremental Architecture in Jaipur, India.” Journal of Material Culture 6(2): 165–92. Rothstein, Halina, and Robert A. Rothstein. 1997. “The Beginnings of Soviet Culinary Arts.” In Food in Russian History and Culture, ed. Musya Glants and Joyce Toomre, 177–94. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Schwartz, Katrina Z. S. 2006. Nature and National Identity after Communism: Globalizing the Ethnoscape. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. Slater, Don. 1993. “Going Shopping: Markets, Crowds and Consumption.” In Cultural Reproduction, ed. Chris Jenks, 188–209. New York: Routledge. Slocum, Rachel. 2007. “Whiteness, Space and Alternative Food Practices.” Geoforum 38: 520–33. Yuen, Belinda. 1996. “Creating the Garden City: The Singapore Experience.” Urban Studies 33(6): 955–70. Zav’ialov, Nikolai. 2006. Istoriia obschestvennogo pitaniia Moskvy (The History of Public Catering in Moscow). Moscow: PIR. Zukin, Sharon. 1991. Landscapes of Power: From Detroit to Disney World. Berkeley: University of California Press.

afterword

Ethical Food Systems: Between Suspicion and Hope harry g. west

In the autumn of 2002, Peter Rossett delivered a paper entitled “Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba” in the Program in Agrarian Studies Colloquium at Yale University. As a resident fellow of the program, I was asked to serve as commentator on the paper. Rossett argued that the United States’ embargo on Cuba and the attendant shortage of agricultural inputs had, ironically, allowed Cuba to develop a viable alternative to contemporary industrial agriculture—one characterized by greater numbers of people growing food on smaller plots of land closer to where it would be consumed, by the widespread adoption of agroecological methods, by the greening of urban spaces, and by the production of better, safer foods. Indeed, Rossett suggested that the Cuban food system should inspire people everywhere to develop similar alternatives to industrial capitalist agriculture. Rossett’s thesis was seductive, but I wondered aloud in my commentary if economic, political, and social isolation and compulsion were essential to the “Cuban model” and, if they were, what it meant to envision— even dream of—a pathway to better farming and food that passed through such a state of being on a global scale, whether one believed it inevitable (as a result of “peak oil,” for example) or not. In the introduction to this volume, the editors challenge the assumption in the social science literature that ethical “alternatives” to the “global food system” have only arisen in late-capitalist liberal Western democracies. They remind us—and here they echo Rossett—that socialism has, in the past and in the present, given birth to countless “alternatives” to industrial capitalist 211

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“food systems” (even before the term “food systems” was used to describe these). In the socialist context that I know best, namely Mozambique, the reorganization of agricultural production and the marketing of food were so important to the revolutionary FRELIMO party (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique, or the Mozambique Liberation Front) that the party undertook these initiatives even before coming to power, within “liberated zones” that its insurgents came to control during its military campaign for independence from Portuguese colonial rule. The collectivized state farms, producer cooperatives, state marketing boards, and consumer cooperatives that FRELIMO established throughout Mozambique upon winning the war gave continuity not only to their own wartime initiatives but also to similar schemes that defined socialism around the world in the twentieth century. Some of these arrangements had deeper roots in presocialist pasts, whether partaking of capitalist logics (such as colonial commodity marketing boards) or populist ones (such as the agricultural work parties famously celebrated by the Russian anarchist writer Peter Kropotkin). In any case, these initiatives and programs were in most instances justified by their architects as means of rendering “food systems” (as we call them today) more “ethical”—whether by insuring a continuous supply of safe, nutritious, and good tasting food to the nation, for example, or by protecting food-growing peasants, or urban laborers, from unscrupulous traders. However, the contributors to this volume also remind us—and here they move beyond Rossett’s argument—that socialist food systems did not always accomplish (or, even seek to accomplish) what they promised. The best-known examples of this are notorious. Stalin’s program to achieve “Socialism in One Country” was borne of a Bolshevik sense of isolation and compulsion—and arguably contributed to such a sense among the Soviet people—not altogether unlike that defining embargo-era Cuba. This was in spite of Soviet access to oil in the fields of Baku. Soviet collectivization, however, “squeezed the peasantry,” leading not only to the deaths of millions in the countryside, but also to profound food insecurity in Soviet cities. China’s “Great Leap Forward” was similarly catastrophic. To many living within twentieth-century socialist states, socialism was the obstacle, not the pathway, to a more ethical food system. As the Lithuanians in Mincyte’s chapter concluded, socialist food systems could also be “immoral and inhumane.” Accordingly, many of the alternatives borne of socialism were alternatives to socialist food systems, including various forms of cultivation for

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own-consumption, as well as informal barter and “black market” exchange of agricultural goods and prepared foods. In the Mozambican case, cooperatives were remembered by those with whom I worked as sites of acute shortage (producer cooperatives could rarely provide seeds and farm implements when they were needed for planting or harvesting, and the shelves of consumer cooperatives were all too often bare), as well as being plagued by corruption. And while peasants progressively withdrew their labor from cooperatives and sold their produce on the “black market,” urban dwellers grew what they could in backyard gardens and bartered directly with rural kin to supplement their food stores. Such experiences with and responses to socialism go a long way toward explaining why many in postsocialist and market-socialist states today have embraced market liberalization as a means of rendering food systems more “ethical.” The celebration of market liberalization as a panacea to the ethical shortcomings of food systems—whether on the local, national, or global scale—is, of course, also problematic. Contributors to this volume give ample evidence that those living in postsocialist and market-socialist countries have fast discovered that markets may fail to ensure a fair price to farmers, fail to deliver safe, high-quality, affordable food to consumers, or fail to safeguard the welfare of animals or the integrity of ecosystems, even as growing numbers of people in Western liberal democracies have begun to recognize such failures in recent decades. These disappointments accord with what I have seen in my own field research in Mozambique, where economic liberalization has opened the door to “land grabs,” increasing foreign investment in agriculture, and a reorientation away from production for the domestic market and toward the production of cash crops for volatile global markets, not to mention the “double burden” of continuing poverty and malnutrition, on the one hand, and the rise of chronic illnesses associated with a “nutrition transition” characterized by increased consumption of processed foods, on the other. If the bitter experiences of those living in twentieth-century socialist states cast doubt on the Cuban model as a pathway toward more ethical food systems, the disappointments of postsocialism also render suspect pathways passing through “free” markets. Caught between their suspicions of the marketplace and of the state, many people in postsocialist and market-socialist countries have, according to the contributors to this volume, tempered their expectations, hoping for little more than a food system that treats them and their families ethically, and seeking

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assurances of this in closer, smaller-scale, and more familiar places, be it through their embrace of food grown within their own nation (as discussed in the chapters by Caldwell and by Jung), within a particular region (as discussed in the chapter by Klein), or even on a particular farm. Whereas the Bulgarian consumers described in Jung’s chapter vest faith in elderly women (“grannies”) selling produce in “farmers’ markets,” for example, urban dwellers in Yunnan, as described in Klein’s chapter, trust poor ethnic-minority farmers that they seek out in provincial hinterlands (“bumpkins”) to sell them foods untainted by modern industrial agricultural methods. But even such proximate relationships with individuals—including recurring visits to the same farmers or market vendors—leave consumers uncertain about the foods they buy and the processes by which these foods are produced. Just as Western organics have been conventionalized (the largest organic dairies, for example, milk thousands of animals that may rarely graze on pasture), consumers in postsocialist and market-socialist countries have come to distrust the purveyors of “ethical” foods—whether domestic or foreign, whether large-scale or small-scale— doubting their claims and expressing outrage over their high prices. The account in Blumberg’s chapter of Lithuanian consumers’ suspicions that market-stall “grannies” buy and resell industrial producers’ surpluses resonates with the sentiments I often heard expressed by consumers in early postsocialist Mozambique, who wondered out loud about the origins of the foods they soon came to find in abundance in city and town markets, about the means by which these foods were produced, and about the prices of these foods and the profits they generated for growers, processors, or traders. Given all of these suspicions, where do people turn in search of more “ethical” food? Taken together, the contributions to this volume would suggest that there is nowhere else to turn—no alternative to the state, the market, or more intimate relations, all of which may be suspect. Yet the story told by these researchers is not one of capitulation or resignation. Despite their suspicions, the people described throughout this volume persist in their desire for more ethical foods. To this end, it would seem, they play the ends against the middle. For example, despite their suspicions of the various food enterprises—foreign or domestic—occupying new market spaces, people have looked upon markets as “a place of survival and an island of hope” (as Blumberg, quoting Mažeikis, calls them in her chapter) wherein more ethical practices may be recognized and rewarded by consumers, ultimately raising standards for producers, traders, and consumers.

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Of course, in practice, liberal markets have not only been sites for the emergence of more ethical foods, but also sites for more convincing, often largescale, fraud and exploitation of farmers, consumers, and the environment. As Jung asserts in her chapter, labels can mislead as well as inform, thereby distancing people from their food, the people who make it, and the processes by which it is made, all in the name of connecting them to these. And so, when suspicious of market actors, people may turn to the state, despite their ambivalence, demanding that it step in and impose standards or police untrustworthy actors, as the Bulgarian consumers portrayed by Jung have in fact done. Jung’s account of the vague, but persistent, expectations of Bulgarians that the state play a more decisive role in the constitution and maintenance of an ethical food system serves as a valuable counterpoint to the trend, over recent decades, wherein the (potential) role of the state in addressing foodrelated issues and problems has increasingly been ignored in critical analysis of and engagement with food systems. Within the social science literature on food, the ever-greater predominance of approaches focusing on “ethical consumption”—reflective of broader trends in the social sciences away from the study of “grand narratives” and toward the study of social subjectivities— has done little to challenge the neoliberal paradigm that is today profoundly reshaping liberal, postsocialist, and market-socialist states alike. While neoliberal trade regimes, global agribusinesses, and vertically integrated food retailers exercise overwhelming power vis-à-vis small-scale farmers, traders, food processors, and retailers, not to mention over consumers in supermarket aisles struggling to take account of all that is now written on food packages, the state too potentially constitutes a “place of survival and an island of hope”—a locus of concerted action on the part of people thinking of themselves, and acting, as citizens rather than merely as consumers. Even as contributors to this volume document dashed hopes in the state on the part of citizens in postsocialist and market-socialist states (not to mention deep ambivalence in relation to the supra-state with which many in Eastern Europe have newly contended, namely the European Union), the Bulgarian state ban on genetically modified foods discussed in Jung’s chapter evinces the potential role of the state in the constitution of a popularly conceived “ethical” food system—a potential that resonates in Western liberal democracies, as shown by the recent referendum on mandatory labeling of GM foods in California that nearly passed (with 6 million supporters) and will likely lead to a hearing on the issue in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Read collectively, then, the chapters in this volume show that concerns about food systems cannot be addressed only by focusing on proximate relationships, only by focusing on the operation of markets, or only by focusing on the role of the state in regulating behavior. Neither states, nor markets, nor direct relationships with individuals can ensure an “ethical” food system. Each warrants suspicion, and each may fail. But as contributors to this volume show, the “ethical” shortcomings of any of these actors/entities may (only) be addressed through recourse to the others. This is a valuable insight not only for those documenting the transformation of food systems but also for those seeking to steer such transformations in specific directions. What is more, by illustrating how suspicions about the integrity of food systems, along with desires for more “ethical” food systems, have transcended historical epochs (presocialist, socialist, postsocialist) within socialist or once-socialist countries, the contributors to this volume have also shown that such suspicions transcend the divide between liberal and socialist contexts. As a consequence, they have given those interested in the ethics of food good cause to read across these divides—regardless of their particular interests in specific places and times. They have prompted us to see in the variable experiences of, and responses to, socialist, market-socialist, and postsocialist food systems not simple models for critique or emulation, but instead complex dilemmas, as well as strategies for coping with these, that illuminate the dynamics of food systems anywhere and that demand of us all both constant suspicion and persistent hope for something better.

notes 1. See also Funes et al. 2002. 2. See Kropotkin 1955 [1914].

references Funes, Fernando, Luis García, Martin Bourque, Nilda Pérez, and Peter Rosset. 2002. Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba. Oakland, CA: Food First Books. Kropotkin, Peter. 1955 [1914]. Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. Boston: Porter Sargent.

CONTRIBUTORS

nir avieli is a senior lecturer at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben Gurion University, Israel, and a cultural anthropologist interested mainly in food and tourism. He has been conducting anthropological fieldwork in the central Vietnamese town of Hoi An since 1998 and has conducted ethnographic research in Thailand, India, Singapore, and Israel. His book, Rice Talks: Food and Community in a Vietnamese Town (Indiana University Press, 2012), is a culinary ethnography of Hoi An. Nir conducted ethnographic research in Thailand, India, Singapore, and Israel. Nir convened the International Conference on “Food, Power, and Meaning in the Middle East and Mediterranean,” held at Ben Gurion University in June 2010. renata blumberg is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography, Environment, and Society at the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation analyzes the relationship between rural livelihoods and alternative food networks in Latvia and Lithuania, as well as their embeddedness within the multiscalar policy context of the European Union. She has an MS in International Agricultural Development from the University of California, Davis, where she studied sustainable agriculture, and a BA in Anthropology from Columbia College, Columbia University. melissa l. caldwell is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Co-Director of the University of California Multi-Campus Research Program on Studies of Food and the Body. She is also the editor of Gastronomica. Her work focuses on the role of food in political processes in Russia, the former Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe. She has written on food nationalism, culinary tourism, gardening and natural foods, and the social experience of hunger and food assistance. Her new research examines the shifting terrain of science and art in food, with particular attention to molecular gastronomy and food hacking. She is the author of Dacha Idylls: Living Organically in Russia’s Countryside (University of California Press, 2011), Not by Bread Alone: Social Support in the New Russia (University of California Press,

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2004), editor of Food and Everyday Life in the Postsocialist World (Indiana University Press, 2009), and co-editor with James L. Watson of The Cultural Politics of Food and Eating (Blackwell, 2004). yuson jung is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). Her research explores issues of consumption, food, globalization, postsocialism, and European integration. She is completing a book manuscript entitled “Balkan Blues: Everyday Consumption and the Poverty of the State” based on ethnographic fieldwork in Bulgaria, and has been studying the cultural politics of wine to examine the intersection of global food politics and transnational governance from the perspectives of Bulgarian wine producers. Her work has appeared in Anthropological Quarterly, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, Food, Culture, and Society, and as chapters in several edited volumes (Wine and Culture, ed. R. Black and R. Ulin, Bloomsbury, 2013; Food and Everyday Life in the Post-Socialist World, ed. M. Caldwell, Indiana University Press, 2009). jakob a. klein is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at SOAS, University of London, and Deputy Chair of the SOAS Food Studies Centre. Focusing on China, he has carried out research on ethical food movements, regional cuisines, and local specialty foods. Klein’s publications include Consuming China: Approaches to Cultural Change in Contemporary China, co-edited with K. Latham and S. Thompson (Routledge, 2006); “ ‘For Eating, It’s Guangzhou’: Regional Culinary Traditions and Chinese Socialism,” in Enduring Socialism, ed. H. G. West and P. Raman (Berghahn Books, 2009); “Everyday Approaches to Food Safety in Kunming,” China Quarterly 214 (2013); and, coauthored with H. G. West and J. Pottier, “New Directions in the Anthropology of Food,” in The SAGE Handbook of Social Anthropology, ed. R. Fardon et al. (SAGE, 2012). diana mincyte is Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the City University of New York, NYC College of Technology, and Visiting Scholar in the Department of Social Sciences at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences. Mincyte’s research examines environmental and justice dimensions of agrifood systems, particularly in the contexts of postsocialist Eastern Europe. Entitled Raw Milk, Raw Power: The Politics of Subsistence and Sustainability, her book examines the implementation of sustainable food politics in Europeanizing Lithuania to track the emergence of new economic subjectivities and state control over political and ecological domains in postindustrial societies. Her second research project focuses on standards of living and poverty measurements from a comparative-historical perspective. Mincyte’s research has been published in Sociologia Ruralis, Agriculture and Human Values, Environment and Planning D, and Slavic Review, among others, and in several edited volumes. ellen oxfeld is Professor of Anthropology at Middlebury College. She is also the author of Blood, Sweat and Mahjong: Family and Enterprise in an Overseas Chinese Community (Cornell University Press, 1993), which won the Thomas and Znaniecki Book Award from the American Sociological Association Section on International Migration, and “Drink Water, but Remember the Source”: Moral Discourse in a Chinese Village (Univer-

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sity of California Press, 2010). In addition, she is coeditor (with Lynellyn D. Long) of Coming Home? Refugees, Migrants, and Those Who Stayed Behind (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). She is currently working on an ethnography of food in a Hakka area of rural Guangdong. harry g. west is Professor of Anthropology, and Chair of the Food Studies Centre, at SOAS, University of London. Between 1991 and 2005, he conducted research in the northern Mozambican district of Mueda, studying how colonialism and revolutionary socialism reconfigured the institutions of local authority, as well as how postsocialist reforms fostered a “revival of tradition” in rural Mozambique. His published works on Mozambique include Kupilikula: Governance and the Invisible Realm in Mozambique (winner of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology in 2007), and Ethnographic Sorcery (both published by University of Chicago Press). His current research, which has taken him to thirteen countries, focuses on artisan cheese, the discourse of “terroir,” and the global market niche in “heritage foods.” marisa wilson is a social anthropologist and Chancellor’s Fellow at the School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh. She was formerly a lecturer (assistant professor) in Human Geography at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago. Marisa’s present research involves political-moral economies and ecologies of food and diets in Trinidad, Venezuela, and the United Kingdom, especially in relation to longterm, uneven processes of globalization. Her book, Everyday Moral Economies: Food, Politics and Scale in Cuba (Royal Geographical Society–Institute of British Geographers Series, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell), was published in October 2013.

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INDEX

Active Consumers, 100 adulteration, 34 adulteration of food, 46, 50, 53, 60, 125 advanced capitalism: economies, 118; societies, 2, 3, 94, 136 agribusiness, 11, 16, 215 agrifood: policy, 38; politics, 28; systems, 4, 10–11, 18 agroecology, 10, 17, 45, 167–8, 183 agro-industrial food system, 118, 122 agro-tourism, 15 alternative: eco-labeling, 109; food consumption, 124; food movements, 2–5, 13, 16–17, 19, 89, 100, 118, 124–5, 131, 135–6, 138, 170, 189, 191–2; food networks, 5, 69, 70, 73, 75, 89; food practices, 111, 120; foods, 133, 194; food systems, 3, 13, 18 Altieri, Miguel, 173 ANAP. See National Association of Small Farmers animal rights movement, 34 animal welfare, 2, 6, 19, 99 Asociación Nacional de Agricultores Pequeños. See National Association of Small Farmers audit culture, 31 bazaar, 78 biogeographic nationalism, 197. See also nationalism biological citizenship, 207n1. See also citizenship bionational citizenship, 189, 199, 201. See alsoSee also citizenship

Bioselena, 100, 103, 104 biosociality qualities, 189, 196, 199 BNCA. See Bulgarian National Consumer Association Boltanski, Luc, 38–39 Buchli, Victor, 204 Buddhism/Buddhist, 60, 145–8, 153, 155–6, 160, 162 Bulgaria, 1, 4, 14, 93 Bulgarian National Consumer Association, 100 CAP. See Common Agricultural Policy Caldwell, Melissa L., 76 Canclini, Nestor Garcia, 208n2 capitalist agrifood system, 119 CEDAR (Centre for Agrarian and Rural Development Education), 180 certification, 10, 31, 83, 93, 98–99, 101–104, 107, 109, 112–3, 129, 134, 199; organic certification, 82–4, 94–5, 102–4, 133, 195 China, 1, 3, 4, 9, 14, 15, 44, 116, 175, 212 “Chinese characteristics,” 116, 137 Chinese dietary regime, 52 Chinese New Year, 121, 136 Ching Hai, 146, 154–7, 163 citizenship, 189–91, 197–9, 201, 204–6 civic life: civic engagement, 190, 204; civic health, 197; civic nutrition, 192; civic responsibility, 167, 174, 182, 202, 206. See also social responsibility citizen-consumers, 190; See also consumer citizen

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citizen-producers, 190 city markets, 78–80, 83, 85 clientelization, 78 commodity fetishism, 19 Common Agricultural Policy, 29 communist party-state, 9 community gardens, 12, 16–17, 190–1 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), 5, 16, 117, 130, 136–8, 170, 190–1 conscience, 51, 137 consumer citizen, 208n2 consumer citizenship, 191 consumer organization, 100–1, 108 contamination, 34 Counihan, Carole M., 64 Cuba, 3–4, 10, 45, 167 Cultural Revolution, 51, 57, 59, 121 democracy, 202–3 De Neve, Geert, 99 De Schutter, Olivier, 172 dietary health, 117, 135, 138. See also civic life: nutrition diet foods, 193 distrust, 34, 109, 110, 111, 214. See also social distrust Doi Moi, 148, 153 Douglas, Mary, 45 ecological agriculture, 130 ecological foods, 124, 126–31, 134 ecologically clean, 76, 94, 189–90, 192, 198–99, 201, 203–4, 206 ecological tourism, 127Ecomic, 184n15 “economies of worth,” 38–39 Edelman, Marc, 172ethical citizenship, 190 ethical: claims, 34, 39; consumerism, 97; consumption, 5–6, 8, 96–97, 99, 111, 194; food choices, 118; food movements, 5–6, 11, 16, 100, 130, 132, 139, 146, 158, 183, 190, 206–7; foods, 3–4, 7, 10–11, 19, 41, 94, 97, 183, 193, 206, 214–5; food system, 3, 211–2, 215–6; framework, 3; projects, 38; standards, 99, 112; value systems, 2 ethics, 19, 19n1, 28, 32, 35, 38, 41, 95, 137, 158, 216; “ethics of care,” 8; “everyday ethics,” 8; food, 9, 19, 27, 41, 131; “ordinary ethics,” 7–8, 12; “subsistence ethics,” 9; vegetarian, 144 European Economic Commission (EEC), 36 European Union (EU), 1, 13, 26, 28, 29, 74, 87, 104, 215

fair trade, 10–11, 18, 98, 130, 134, 136, 195 fake, 79, 94–95, 99–100 Falun Gong, 162 farmers’ market, 6, 18, 69–70, 72, 83, 85, 89, 124, 189, 200, 214 “farmhouse fun,” 127, 137 farmhouse tourism, 133 Fehérváry, Krisztina, 35 fi liality, 50, 60 fi lial obligations, 52 food: activism/activists, 16, 191; and memory, 8, 64n2; democracy, 16; foreign, 194; insecurity, 58; justice, 5, 13, 208n3; politics, 34, 183; regime, 147, 160; risks, 25, 39; safety, 3, 26–27, 37, 56, 74, 94, 112, 117, 126, 134, 138; scandals, 3, 94–95; security, 173; sovereignty, 16, 190–1; system, 2–3, 10–11, 18–19, 63. See also ethics: food FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique), 212 gardening, 188, 196–9, 203. See also community gardens GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), 37 Geertz, Clifford, 78 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. See GATT genetically modified (GM): crops, 110; seeds, 183n3 genetically modified organisms (GMOs), 94, 98, 103, 110, 113; and farming, 94; foods, 1, 194, 215 “geographic nationalism,” 76 Georgia (Republic of), 2 global food system, 211, 138 globalization, 18, 46, 95, 97 Granja Urbana, 180–1 “grannies,” 105–7, 109, 111, 214 Great Leap Forward, 58, 60–61, 63, 120, 123, 212 green foods, 2, 126–7 Green Tillers, 133–6, 138 Guangdong, 44, 47 Gudeman, Stephen, 46 Guthman, Julie, 13 Hann, Chris, 63 Harms, Eric, 147 Harvey, David, 72 healthfulness, 128, 134, 136, 189, 192–3, 198–9

index healthy bodies, 192 heritage foods, 17 Hindu philosophy, 160 Hoi An, 144, 164n2 “humanely produced” foods, 195 Humphrey, Caroline, 45 imported food, 75, 93 industrial: agriculture, 75, 190; farming, 159; food, 2, 171; food production, 2, 30, 75, 199; food system, 17, 44, 47, 168, 189 industrialized agriculture, 4 informal economies, 39–40 informal markets, 27–28 informal network, 27, 74, 199 “iron rice bowl,” 57 Jankowiak, William R., 117–8 “ jumping scale,” 171–2 Keith, Lierre, 159 Kunming, 116 Kunming City Vegetable Company, 123 labeling, 31 Lambek, Michael, 7, 19n1 late socialism, 144, 146–7, 153 Lefebvre, Henri, 72 Leitzmann, Claus, 161 Leninist, 173, 176 Lithuania, 4, 12, 25, 69, 128, 131 local foods, 16–7, 70, 75, 79–85, 89, 123, 129 localism, 71 locality, 71, 122, 128, 137 locavorism, 10 Lora-Wainwright, Anna, 50, 65n9 Low, Setha, 71–72 Lunar New Year, 50, 55, 57 Maclachlan, Patricia L., 98 Maoism and the Mao era, 14, 63, 124, 125, 132 market socialism, 1, 2, 17, 118, 213–5 Massey, Doreen, 72 materiality, 8, 73 meal rotation, 51 Meixian, 44, 47, 51 Mencius, 66n16 mente, 94, 101–2, 106–8, 113n4 milk vending, 27–28, 31, 38, 40 Miller, Daniel, 8 Mintz, Sidney W., 44, 62

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mistrust, 10, 129, 132 mock meat, 149, 164n1 Monsanto, 1, 171, 183n3 moral critique, 60, 63, 105 moral economy, 9, 25, 46–47, 61–62, 96, 183 moral frameworks, 50 “moral horizons,”117, 119, 138 morality, 8, 19n1, 28, 34, 41, 45, 57, 60, 63, 110, 152, 200; judgments, 50, 57, 59; justification, 159; obligations, 44–46, 50, 62–63, 97, 138; orders, 31, 40–41; signifier, 44–45; standards, 161; systems, 38, 60 Mozambique, 212 Mozambique Liberation Front. See FRELIMO mutuality, 46 National Association of Small Farmers, 175, 180 nationalism, 168, 196, 199. See also biogeographic nationalism “natural” foods, 4, 75–76, 83–84, 86, 89, 93, 95, 106–8, 110, 127–9 neoliberal capitalism, 2, 18, 192, 200 neoliberalization, 36 nutrition. See civic life: civic nutrition nutritionism, 10 open-air markets, 77, 105 “operational ownership,” 174 organic: agriculture, 103–4; farms and farming, 102–3, 131, 133, 135; foods, 4, 6, 16, 93, 99, 105, 107, 130, 168; products, 100, 102, 107, 112 organics, 10, 12–13, 18, 71, 95, 98, 125, 168, 189–91, 198, 201, 206, 214 parcelero, 167–8, 174–82 Parish, Stephen, 45 patrimony, 169, 177 PEAC (Pesticides Eco-Alternative Centre), 131–2, 136 peasantry, 14, 212 peasants, 4, 14, 16–17, 59, 63, 121–2, 129, 132, 171, 184, 194, 197, 213 personal responsibility, 27. See also social responsibility Pesticide Action Network, 132 Petryna, Adriana, 207n1 place, 70–73, 89 political economy, 62, 146

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index

“positive circle,” 49–50 postsocialism, 2, 17–18, 28, 93, 111, 146, 174, 183, 188, 213–5 post-Soviet, 69, 71, 73, 75, 78, 89, 201, 205, 207n1 privatization, 73 qigong, 162 quality, 26, 34–35, 40, 50, 71, 85–86, 89, 105, 125–6, 129, 189, 194–5, 200 radical (state) socialism, 10, 18, 117, 119, 125 raw milk, 25, 27, 30–31, 40, 81 reconnect/reconnection, 4, 89–90, 118 reform-era China, 59 reform socialist/reform socialism, 1, 118–9 regulatory regime, 28 relationalities, 76 relational understandings of place, 72–73. See also place rice, 52–53, 64–65n7 Robotham, Dan, 66n17 rural and urban, 69, 73, 89, 120 rural-urban community, 129 rural-urban divide, 119. See also urban-rural divide Russia, 1, 4, 14, 76, 128, 168, 188 safe foods, 4, 129 safety (of food), 125, 129. See also food safety SAPARD (Special Accession Program for Agriculture and Rural Development), 29 scalar politics, 169, 172, 177 scientific Marxism, 176, 180 Scott, James C., 9 self-sacrifice, 10, 117 self-sufficiency, 123 semisubsistence: agriculture, 28, 39; economies, 40; farming, 30 Single Farm Payment, 37 Slow Food, 10, 12, 16, 41, 136–7, 189, 191, 198–9, 206 small-scale: farmers, 74–75, 102, 130, 167, 176–7, 215; producers, 81; techniques, 195 Smith, Adam, 66n17 socialist food systems, 212 social justice, 192 social obligations, 61 social trust, 95, 99, 109–112. See also trust Sofia, 93

Soviet Union, 5, 9, 14–15, 77, 172, 205, 212 spatial context, 70 spatiality, 70–71 spatial logic, 13, 15 Stalin, Joseph, 212 standardization of food, 64n2 State Food and Veterinary Service, 30–31, 39, 81, 85 state, role of, 3, 9–12, 18, 97, 99, 112, 215–6 state socialism, 3, 10, 12, 17–18, 25, 95, 98, 119, 129, 139, 183, 201 Strathern, Marilyn, 31 “subversive consumption,” 147 Supreme Master Ching Hai International, 153. See also Ching Hai sustainability, 167, 190, 199, 206 sustainable agriculture, 191 “sustainable socialism,” 167–8, 176 Sutton, David, 64n2 “sworn sisters,” 54, 65n14 Thévenot, Laurent, 38–39 Thompson, E. P., 61–62 Thompson, Stuart, 52 trust, 79, 83, 89, 129, 134, 204. See also social trust United Nations, 13, 171 United States, 98, 170, 171 urban-rural: distinctions, 13; divisions, 123, 129, 137–8; relations, 118 usufruct, 174–5 Vanloqueren, Gaëtan, 172 vegetarian food, 145, 149, 154, 163, 164n1; restaurants: 131, 155. See also ethics: vegetarian vegetarianism, 17, 60, 66n16, 153, 155, 158–9, 161–2 Verdery, Katherine, 174 Via Campesina, 184n4 Vietnam, 3, 4, 60, 144, 175 Vietnamese New Year, 164n4 Vilnius, 69 voluntary product certification, 95, 103, 109. See also certification Yan, Yunxiang, 53, 109–110, 138 Yunnan, 121–23, 214