Wednesday, Nov. 22: Natalja Czarnecki presents at the MaIOW

Wednesday, November 22, 4:30-6:00pm. Rosenwald 329

The Medicine and Its Objects Workshop presents: Natalja Czarnecki (Anthropology)

Something in the Way He Says ‘Babushka Production’: Managerial Experts, Sincere Regulation, and Food Safety Reform in Post-Soviet Tbilisi, Georgia

 with opening comments by Eugene Raikhel (Comparative Human Development)

 In 2014, Georgia and the EU signed an Association Agreement, after which the Georgian National Food Agency, a department of the Ministry of Agriculture, began a process of “harmonizing” its legal food safety codes in accordance with those of the EU and of global organizations such as the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization.  In this context of regulatory reform, this chapter offers an ethnographic account of the making of sincere, regulatory authority – here embodied in the figure of the “managerial expert” positioned within a state bureaucracy, the National Food Agency.  By comparing different feminizations of the Georgian food-producing countryside as invoked and imagined at sites of my fieldwork in Tbilisi between 2013 and 2016, I hope to demonstrate the moralized politics involved in contemporary discourses around the objects and limits of transnational food safety regulatory regimes’ claims to trustworthiness.

I will examine the kind of feminization of the countryside emergent in a day-long conference on the “Future of Food Safety in Georgia,” wherein EU and global regulatory experts organized and moderated a discussion on regulatory policy and responsibility between Georgian state and private-sector interests.  In this idealization, the countryside (embodied by “small-scale family farmers”) is understood in variably gendered ways, depending on the position from which it is invoked.  According to EU and other transnational experts at the conference, in paternalistic terms: vulnerable and in need of care and reform; fertile but cheap, lacking in relative market value; and inexperienced.  To the Georgian experts and to other experts who attended the conference from former socialist Eastern Europe, this paternalistic characterization of the countryside is different in its terms of moral valuation; it is in need of “care” and perhaps archaic, but it is also deeply familiar, an object of masculinized affection.

The Georgian food safety manager-expert emerges as someone in a particular kind of “proximate distance” to its object of regulation, managing his/her position as oriented to both the authority of technocratic codes emanating from the EU, but also sincerely caring about his/her very familiar object of regulation, here the pastoral countryside. I will discuss what these processes of gendering might tell us about the kind of moral authorities that are claimed and emergent in the politics of transnational regulatory regimes at EU and global “peripheries.”

To receive the paper, or if you have any questions or require assistance to attend, email the workshop coordinator: Kieran Kelley (kierankelley@uchicago.edu)

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Nov. 8: Anne-Sophie Reichert presents “Leben im Versuch”

Wednesday, November 8, 4:30-6:00pm, in Rosenwald 329

The Medicine and Its Objects Workshop welcomes:

Anne-Sophie Reichert (Anthropology)

Leben im Versuch: Experimental Culture in Hellerau, Germany (1910-1914) 

This paper traces the formative period of Germany’s first garden city Hellerau, located in the vicinity of Dresden to house the famous Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau. It focuses on Hellerau’s peculiar experimental culture, examining the exploratory and innovative spirit that pervades the overall life and work ethos, architecture and pedagogy of the village. I begin by outlining the historical context of the project Hellerau. In the archives, Hellerau was repeatedly described as an experiment or a laboratory. I consequently address how this scientific language, one largely employed by scientists and doctors in the metropolis at the time, traveled to a furniture factory in the Saxonian countryside. Following, I offer a reading of Hellerau’s laboratory life that takes the arts and sciences into view from an integrated perspective. I argue that if we look at Hellerau from a standpoint that does not stop at the objects and practices conventionally analyzed and hence established by various and possibly antagonistic disciplinary standards, we can ascertain that what it meant to conduct an experiment was not solely defined within the confines of the scientific laboratory. On the contrary, in Hellerau experiments were carried out across the arts and sciences, in the private and in the public, in the factory and on stage. Therefore, the repertoire of experimental language and practice did not belong exclusively to the natural sciences but crossfertilized and developed between artistic, scientific and socio-political realms to the end of advancing modern social life. In this sense, Hellerau’s experiments embody a central aspect of the experience of modernity at the turn of the 20th century: that of life as always unfinished and perpetually evolving, as open-ended and instable, forever.

Please join us for a lively discussion and refreshments always unfinished!

To receive the paper, or if you have any questions or require assistance to attend, email the workshop coordinator: Kieran Kelley (kierankelley@uchicago.edu)

To subscribe to our mailing list, visit: https://lists.uchicago.edu/web/subscribe/medicineanditsobjects