SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

Personal Trust and Stranger Solidarity: Competing Moral Economies of Chinese Organic Farming

IMG - Anders Hansen
Dr Anders Sybrandt Hansen (Aarhus University)

Date: 21 January 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 21 January 2019Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G3

Type of Event: Seminar


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


The widespread phenomenon of unsafe food on the Chinese market has been argued to be both symptomatic of moral disregard for the well-being of strangers, and productive of social distrust. In response to the ongoing food safety crisis some agricultural producers have turned to organic farming, and this seminar discusses the moral reasoning of farmers based on ethnographic fieldwork at one such organic farm in northern China. While the business model of the farm is shown exactly to hinge upon building up personal trust in customers, turning strangers (shengren) into associates (shuren), the entire project of organic farming and attendant visions for the future countryside is undergirded by strong expressions of abstract solidarity with conventional farmers framed in the language of moral economy (Thompson; Scott). Engaging with theories of Chinese relational ethics (Fei; Stafford; Yan), I argue that crosscutting solidarities that do not fit the equation of physical and social distance with moral distance make up an important part of the moral landscape of contemporary China.


Anders Sybrandt Hansen is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and China Studies at Aarhus University specialising in ethnographic research into contemporary Chinese society and culture. He has written on university students’ engagement with the Communist Party of China, on Chinese migrants’ integration with the global capitalist economy, and on the experience of Chinese students abroad. He is currently doing a project on food safety, ethics, and market in contemporary China: “Moral Economies of Food in Contemporary China.” His publications include “Guanhua! Beijing Students, Authoritative Discourse and the Ritual Production of Political Compliance” (2017), “The Temporal Experience of Chinese Students Abroad and the Present Human Condition” (2015), “Purity and Corruption: Chinese Communist Party Applicants and the Problem of Evil” (2013) and “Learning the Knacks of Actually Existing Capitalism: Young Beijing Migrants and the Problem of Value” (2012).

Chair: Dr Jakob Klein

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