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Understanding quality food through cultural economy: the “politics of quality” in China’s northeast japonica rice


  • Amy Zader



This paper seeks to clarify and strengthen the ways that cultural economy is used as an analytical tool and methodological approach to studying agro-food systems. The theoretical concept of cultural economy has received much attention in economic and cultural geography over the past decade. However, use of the term remains arguably vague and ambiguous. This paper argues that cultural economy is most constructive when regarded as a new epistemological approach to society and the economy. A focus on the ways that food is known as “quality” represents the material and symbolic practices that contribute to a new way of thinking about the economy. This point is illustrated in a case study of japonica rice grown in northeast China. A unique combination of social, economic, political, historical, and geographical factors come together in this region to produce rice that is generally identified within China today as “quality” rice. Situating northeast japonica rice in a greater context of a “politics of quality” in Chinese society, this case emphasizes the value of cultural economy to understand agro-food systems. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Amy Zader, 2012. "Understanding quality food through cultural economy: the “politics of quality” in China’s northeast japonica rice," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 29(1), pages 53-63, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:29:y:2012:i:1:p:53-63
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-011-9316-z

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jane Dixon, 1999. "A cultural economy model for studying food systems," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 16(2), pages 151-160, June.
    2. Freidberg, Susanne, 2004. "French Beans and Food Scares: Culture and Commerce in an Anxious Age," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195169614.
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    Cultural economy; Quality food; China; Japonica rice;


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