[Agro-food Branchen, Nahrungsmittelmärkte und Global Value Chain – Zwischen lokaler Tradition und globalen Wertschöpfungsketten: Produktion, Distribution und Konsum von Lebensmitteln als Gegenstand der Soziologie] at the 39th sociology congress of the German Sociological Association at University of Göttingen, 28 September 2018
Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne)
At the five day congress of sociology (24-28 September), a session took place presenting convention theory applied in the analysis of food, food markets, food production, food consumption and value issues around food. The session was organized by Lisa Suckert (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne) and Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne). The organizers introduced into the session and sketched the tradition of economics of convention (EC) as an important and long lasting approach in these field of social research. Also, the phenomenon of food was identified as offering a kind of “crossroads” to different research fields as economic sociology, cultural sociology, life style analysis etc. But also the whole question of value and quality was related to food issues in EC for some decades now (see the contributions in Allaire/Daviron 2017 and the review article of Ponte 2016). The session then had three lectures.
Linda Hering and Nina Baur (both Technical University of Berlin) presented their research project “Standards for freshness in Germany and Thailand – a historical inspired comparison of pattern of consumption and production” [Frischestandards in Deutschland und Thailand. Ein historisch angeleiteter Vergleich von Konsum- und Produktionsmustern].
This Berlin group explores the ways how food was offered to consumers at sales points in Berlin and Bangkok, focusing on presentation, situational embeddedness and (concepts of) freshness. The research reconstructed the quality convention, intermediairies and objects involved. Linda Hering and Nina Baur emphasized the important role of the local gatekeepers and technical innovations for the establishement of concepts for food freshness.
Lisa Suckert relied on her PhD-project “Discursive construction of ecological product quality – the discovery of the region as quality dimension for organic milk” [Die diskursive Konstruktion ökologischer Produktqualität – Die Entdeckung der Region als Qualitätsmerkmal für Bio-Milch] to present discursive networks and national developments of value chains for milk in Germany (see Suckert 2015). She started her lecture with the problem of the uncertainty of product quality and identified the different strategies of regional milk producers (diaries) to develop marketing strategies based on discursive concepts of “region”.
But the different diaries base their discursive strategies on different discursive foundations to mobilize a knowledge concept of “quality”. The study combined field theoretical elements with EC to grasp the market position of diaries also.
Xiomara Quinones Ruiz (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna) gave a talk about her ongoing research on coffee value chains, starting from Colombian coffee production. Her lecture “Interacting and evolving quality conventions: An institutional Analysis of international Coffee Value Chains”
In Colombia first developments of fairtrade or organic coffee, and the protection of the coffee origin through geographical indications could be identified by Xiamara Quinonez-Ruiz. But she also found cultural impediments in Colombia, where people where accustomed to new ways of producing coffee and new tastes of differently produced coffees. The project identifies the transformation/reorganization of dominant quality conventions of quality chains, the involved intermediaries and technologies.
The session demonstrated the emergence of a field of conventionalist aggro-food studies in the German speaking countries and was also a start for a planned book project (in the new Springer VS series “sociology of conventions” https://www.springer.com/series/15571).
Allaire, Gilles/Daviron, Benoit (eds.) (2017): Transformations et transitions dans l’agriculture et l’agro-alimentaire. Versailles: QUAE.
Ponte, Stefano (2016): Convention theory in the Anglophone agro-food literature. Past, present and future. Journal of Rural Studies 44(4), pp. 12-23.
Suckert, Lisa (2015): Die Dynamik ökologischer Märkte. Eine feldanalytische Betrachtung des Marktes für Bio-Molkereiprodukte. Konstanz: UVK.