The Politics and Sociality of Dangerous Food in Contemporary China
1: Modalities of Trust and Transparency in Chinese Alternative Food Networks
Sunday, March 27, 2022
10:45am – 12:15pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
University of Aarhus, Denmark
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
In the aftermath of recent food safety incidents, PRC state regulators are pushing certification and traceability as technologies that allow the public renewed trust in the foodstuffs available on the conventional market. These solutions intend to interject between producers and consumers a scientific knowledge of the available produce. Following Luhmann, we argue that if such knowledge was in fact available, consumers would not need to extend trust as there would be no risk involved. Nonetheless, by way of its certification, the state remains the final guarantor of food safety and quality, and trust in food on the market therefore remains tied to an abstract trust in state agencies. In this paper, we draw on ethnographic fieldwork with producers and consumers in Northern China to explore alternative modalities of trust and transparency in use in Chinese food networks. These range from the organization of special produce for privileged collectivities to daigou import networks, andto reliance on schemes of certification or participation in community supported agriculture, where consumers and producers become personally acquainted. In each case, we find attempts to reduce risk and uncertainty through modes of trust and documentation that bypass the state as final arbiter of safety and danger.