Milk ties : a commodity chain approach to Greek culture
The thesis explores aspects of contemporary Greek culture as it emerges from the study of production, distribution and consumption of dairy products. Contrary to views of commoditisation as cultural homogenisation, this research is based on the premise that commodity chains constitute a central mechanism for the negotiation of cultural meaning and the construction of social relations in contemporary societies. As part of material culture studies, the research draws on insights provided by a variety of disciplines, such as social anthropology, human geography, cultural studies and marketing. In its totality, the thesis allows for a study of the transition to a highly marketised economy, considering simultaneously multiple levels of meaning formation and identity construction related to food. With particular focus on representations of time and space, the traditional and the modern, a variety of sites are explored, where cultural meaning is produced and negotiated: the marketing department of dairy companies, advertising agencies, small food stores, supermarkets and consumer households, while special reference is made to a rural-urban network of food provisioning established as a result of extensive internal migration. Fieldwork within those contexts is complemented with a consideration of global processes, such as the EU regulation on geographical indications and scientific claims about the Mediterranean model of diet. Dairy products are approached as the link between the various contexts of meaning that emerge through their circulation in society, and as mediators in the construction of social relations.