Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
Grocery store shelves are lined with products carrying labels that appeal to consumers desires for commodities that are socially just. Often constructed on romantic images of the local, ethical, traditional, and authentic – research shows these discourses can be misleading, highly contested, and contradict the very processes that produced the commodity. Ethic based discourses often can be manipulated in bureaucratic fashions for the purpose of capitalist accumulation and may not convey accurately which activist, corporate, or political agenda is being carried out. Still, in a globalized food economy, these symbols, logos, and labels are important to consumers who hope to make informed decisions on their food choices. There exists a paradox of trying to produce a socially just commodity within free market economies. This paper explores this paradox examining how claims of Buddhist values, organic farming, and social enterprises are part and parcel of a global commodity chain connecting Taiwan to the east coast of Canada. These commodities gain legitimacy through a variety of discourses that are part of alternative Buddhist marketplaces, yet steeped in conventional markets. For some the intensified corporatization is seen as inauthentic due to a supposed opposition of values found in conceptual binaries that are viewed as antithetical to the very projects a group looks to achieve. Based on multi-sited ethnographic research in Canada and Taiwan, I show, it can be the very marketing, branding, and commodification that can act as a form of legitimation for a movement itself.