“Re-Making Place: The Social Construction of a Geographical Indication for Feni”
A range of social movements mobilise around and seek to valorise ‘place-based’ imageries. There is, these movements argue, vitality in place. And this constitutes a crucial element of critiques of power/globalisation. As anthropologists remind us, people continue to construct some form of boundaries around place, however permeable and transient those boundaries might be. In the context of global agrifood, socially generated marks indicating conditions of origin have emerged that speak to a different set of moral economies. In this constellation Geographical Indications appears as a remarkable place-based intellectual property. The paper seeks to appreciate GIs as the juridical reification of a placed-based stabilisation of cultural norms. However, rather than idealise GIs, the paper also probes a ‘politics in place’. This is achieved through a fieldwork-based case study of the recently acquired GI for Feni. The paper juxtaposes accounts and observations on Feni distilling with the specifications that constitute the GI. In explaining the social construction of authenticity that sediment in the registered GI, the paper draws attention to the exclusionary effects of this translation of a cultural object into intellectual property. Enabling the GI are the dual rhetoric that animates global and local discourse on GIs: one a rhetoric of hope that is enveloped by a seduction of plenty (exports) and the other a rhetoric of fear that is constitutive of a threat of misappropriation (e.g. Basmati).