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CREES Noon Lecture. “Ambivalent Consumers and the Limits of Certification: Organic Foods in Postsocialist Bulgaria.”

Wednesday, December 4, 2013
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

In this lecture, Jung will discuss Bulgarian consumers’ discourses and practices of organic foods by examining the tension and contradictory perspectives regarding the consumption of certified organic foods. While Bulgaria became the country with the strictest regulations against GMO farming in the EU thanks to the strong support for organic and sustainable agriculture by Bulgarian consumers, certified organic foods are not popular. Many consumers express skepticism in the regulatory process of certification and question the authority of those who do the certifying. Although Bulgarians consider themselves as strong advocates for organically produced foods, they are less inclined to purchase certified organics. At the same time, however, they also insist that they buy organic foods whenever possible. This ambivalence and seeming contradictions are informed by the historical experiences of state socialism and postsocialist transitions that have shaped the moral and ethical framework of these consumers. The role of the state, as well as the relationship to the state that consumers have cultivated, are important to understand the issues of ethical foods and food movements in contemporary Bulgaria.

Yuson Jung is assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Wayne State University. Her research explores issues of consumption, food, globalization, postsocialism, and European integration. She is completing a book manuscript Balkan Blues: Everyday Consumption and the Poverty of the State based on ethnographic fieldwork in Bulgaria, and has been studying the cultural politics of wine to examine the intersection of global food politics and transnational governance from the perspectives of Bulgarian wine producers. Her work has appeared in Anthropological Quarterly, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, Food, Culture, and Society, and as chapters in several edited volumes (Wine and Culture, eds. R. Black and R. Ulin, Bloomsbury, 2013; Food and Everyday Life in the Post-Socialist World, ed. M. Caldwell, Indiana University Press, 2009). She has also co-edited Ethical Eating in the Postsocialist and Socialist Worlds (with J. Klein and M. Caldwell, University of California Press, forthcoming 2014). Most recently, she has started a new collaborative research project (with Andrew Newman) entitled “Just Food for Detroit: Groceries, Ethics, and Governance in the Resilient City” which examines urban food politics and the controversy related to the arrival of the Whole Foods Market in the city.

Yuson Jung, assistant professor of anthropology, Wayne State University