Exemplary Agriculture

Exemplary Agriculture: The Origins of Independent Organic Farming in China

Sacha Cody

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Abstract

Drawing on evidence collected in Shanghai and the surrounding countryside, this article argues that exemplary models and norms—used to engineer public and private morality appropriate for the upheavals of modernization—are not the sole creation of the Chinese state or media. Instead, self-appointed exemplary models, amongst ordinary citizens, are present in China. The self-appointed exemplary models I investigate practice organic farming, and by providing safe, quality foods, they aim to mitigate some of the risk perceived to be inherent in Chinese modernity. Through 18 months of ethnographic investigation amongst a group of independent organic farmers (university educated with successful urban careers who are new to farming) in and around Shanghai, this article discusses the role of self-appointed exemplary models in fostering alternative moralities and parallel visions for Chinese modernity. Their missionary zeal to ‘do good’ is analyzed through Børge Bakken’s (2000) concept of the exemplary society.

Keywords: China; exemplarity; food safety; morality; risk

Download Full Text – Cody 2014

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