Stabilizing Quality in Inner Mongolian Milk
Lecture | January 31 | 4 p.m. | 180 Doe Library
Franck Bille, Visiting Scholar, UC Berkeley Mongolia Initiative
Megan Tracy, Sociology and Anthropology James Madison University
In this paper, I examine how actors attempt to transfer material and symbolic value and transfer notions of human quality across other notions of quality, such as product quality and the presumed caliber of particular places where production occurs. This transference of quality is embedded, for example, in notions that ethnic Mongolians are pre-disposed to produce a quality dairy product. I consider the manner in which various activitiessuch as milking cows, producing indigenous foods, and advertising seek to stabilize notions of quality (as attached to particular objects and practices) via claims to notions of quality that are often presumed by actors to be stable and based on measurable characteristics that go into building a quality Xno matter what that X might be. In this exploration, I revisit notions of human qualitya focus of anthropological attentionand bring it into dialogue with work like Callons on how objects are qualified. These discussions are grounded in data collected within Chinas domestic dairy industry in Inner Mongolia both before and after the industrys epic product safety scandals.