SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

How to Be Modern: China's Search for "Good Food"

Dr Joy Zhang (University of Kent)

Date: 2 December 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 2 December 2019Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G3

Type of Event: Seminar

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With the world’s largest population to feed, modernising the food system has always been a paramount socio-political concern in China.  Yet recent fieldwork in 3 Chinese cities suggests that there are two conflicting views on what a ‘modern’ agriculture should look like. For the government, modernisation implies a rational calculation of scale and a mirroring of global trends. Thus, good food production necessitates an integration of funding, standardisation, and a scaling-up of the industrial chain. But an alternative interpretation of modernity, promoted by civil society, has been gaining ground. For this camp, modernisation is about channeling global resources to empower and motivate individuals. Good food production is then established through a ‘rhizomic’ spread of new practices, which are inspired by world possibilities but are deeply rooted in the local context.

This seminar investigates the ongoing social negotiation of ‘good food’ in China. It demonstrates how a non-Western society responds to the twin processes of modernisation and globalisation and provides insights on the varieties of modernity in the making.


Joy Y. Zhang is the Director of Studies of Sociology at the University of Kent. 

Her work on science governance and environmental politics contribute to the sociological investigations on Cosmopolitanism and subaltern politics, for they focus on the breaking down of epistemic boundaries formed by disciplinary, geo-political and state-society power struggles. She is the author of two books: The Cosmopolitanization of Science: Stem Cell Governance in China (2012) and Green Politics in China: Environmental Governance and State-Society Relations (2013). She has led projects funded by the Wellcome Trust, the ESRC Future Research Leaders scheme and the British Council. She is currently a co-investigating US-China ethical governance on CRISPR funded by the US National Science Foundation.


This event is open to the public and free to attend, however registration is required. Online Registration.

Chair: Professor Steve Tsang (SOAS)

Organiser: SOAS China Institute

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Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4823