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Spice Chains: Vietnamese Star Anise, Global Markets and the Making of an Indigenous Commodity

English title Spice Chains: Vietnamese Star Anise, Global Markets and the Making of an Indigenous Commodity
Applicant Derks Annuska
Number 162454
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Ethnologisches Seminar Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Ethnology
Start/End 01.04.2016 - 31.03.2019
Approved amount 183'913.00
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Keywords (8)

Vietnam; globalization; anthropology of pharmaceuticals; Asia; biography of things; commodity chains; culture of food; ethnic groups

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Sternanis ist ein sternförmiges Gewürz, das hierzulande vor allem als Dekoration und als aromatische Zutat in Weihnachtsgebäck oder in bestimmten Tees und alkoholischen Getränken bekannt ist. Ursprünglich aus dem südwestlichen Teil von China und dem Nordosten von Vietnam stammend, hat Sternanis eine lange Geschichte als Bestandteil des legendären chinesischen Fünf-Gewürze-Pulvers und von Gerichten wie ph?, der vietnamesischen Nudelsuppe, sowie in der traditionellen vietnamesischen und chinesischen Medizin. Neuerdings wird Sternanis auch in der pharmazeutischen Produktion des Grippemittels Tamiflu sowie in der Kosmetik verwendet
Lay summary

China und Vietnam sind weltweit die wichtigsten Produzenten von Sternanis. In Vietnam wird das Gewürz vor allem von ethnischen Minderheiten in den nordöstlichen Provinzen, insbesondere in der Provinz Lang Son, angebaut. In 2007 wurde „Lang Son Sternanis“  als eingetragene Marke registriert, um damit  das Gewürz auf den heimischen und globalen Märkten zu fördern und die Position der lokalen Produzenten auf dem unbeständigen Gewürzmarkt zu stärken.

Dieses Projekt zielt darauf ab, diese Schnittstellen zwischen der gelebten Praxis der Gewürzproduktion und dem weltweit wachsenden Markt für Gewürze zu erforschen. Anhand eines, „multi-sited“, “biographischen“ Ansatzes wird die Sternaniswarenkette vom Ausgangspunkt als Waldprodukt über den Transport und Handel bis zu seiner Endverwendung in lokalen Speisen, modischen Getränken und globalen Medikamenten verfolgt. Dabei geht es nicht nur um die wirtschaftliche Wertschöpfung, sondern vor allem um die Prozesse, durch welche Sternanis von einem Waldprodukt zu einer globalen Ware gemacht wird. Auch die sozialen Akteure und Beziehungen, die dabei involviert sind, und die verschiedenen, sich ändernden Bedeutungen von Sternanis spielen eine wichtige Rolle.

Damit leistet dieses Projekt einen wichtigen ethnographischen Beitrag in einem noch kaum erforschten Teil Vietnams, einen theoretischen Beitrag zur Debatte über das „soziale Leben der Dinge“ in Zusammenhang mit Globalisierung, sowie auch einen praktischen Beitrag an den Bemühungen humanitärer Organisationen, die die Position lokaler Produzenten in den globalen Gewürzwarenketten versuchen zu verbessern. 

Das Projekt ist Teil eines grösseren, interdisziplinären Kooperationsprojekts zu Gewürzhandel in Vietnam, das von Vietnam-Forscherinnen der Universität Zürich und der McGill University in Montreal koordiniert wird.

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 29.01.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Flex crops or flex livelihoods? The story of a volatile commodity chain in upland northern Vietnam
Turner Sarah, Derks Annuska, Ngô Thúy Hạnh (2019), Flex crops or flex livelihoods? The story of a volatile commodity chain in upland northern Vietnam, in The Journal of Peasant Studies, 46(2), 276-296.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Faculty of Sociology, University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University Vietnam (Asia)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof.Dr. Sarah Turner, Dept. of Geography, McGill University, Montreal Canada (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Precarity and Opportunity: Understanding the cultural rationales and social implications of economic transformations Talk given at a conference Mother Nature's Gift or Unstable Commodity? Dealing with marginality in the star anise commodity chain 13.12.2018 Zurich, Switzerland Parsfield Matthew;
Canadian Council for Southeast Asian Studies Conference Talk given at a conference Bastard Spice or the Champagne of Cinnamon? Vietnamese Cinnamomum Cassia and the Global Market 26.10.2018 Toronto, Canada Derks Annuska;
Sussex Asia Centre Seminar Series Individual talk Cinnamon Chains in Vietnam: Global Markets and the Making of a Speciality Product 02.05.2018 Sussex, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Derks Annuska;
Workshop organised by Van Quan College of Management and Administration, Lang Son Province People’s Committee Individual talk Spice Chains: Vietnamese Star Anise from Lang Son 18.08.2017 Lang Son, Vietnam Parsfield Matthew;
European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) Conference Talk given at a conference Bastard Spice or the Champagne of Cinnamon? Vietnamese Cinnamomum Cassia and the Global Market 16.08.2017 Oxford, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Derks Annuska;
The Role of the Middle Class in the Process of Modernisation of Vietnam: from Theory to Practice Talk given at a conference Spice Chains and Rural Modernization 24.03.2017 Hanoi, Vietnam Parsfield Matthew;
Departemental Seminar Series, Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern Individual talk Spice Chains: Vietnamese Star Anise, Global Markets and the Making of an Indigenous Commodity 31.05.2016 Bern, Switzerland Derks Annuska; Parsfield Matthew;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Getrocknete Sterne UZH Magazin German-speaking Switzerland 2018
Media relations: print media, online media Wie kleine Dinge eine ganze Welt erzählen Horizonte German-speaking Switzerland 2017

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
134132 A Social Biography of the Coal Briquette: Exploring Vietnam through an Ordinary Commodity 01.02.2011 Fellowships for advanced researchers

Abstract

Star anise is a star-shaped spice growing on a type of evergreen tree that is native to Northeast Vietnam and Southwest China. With its distinctive aromatic flavour, star anise is an important ingredient in ph?, the famous Vietnamese noodle soup, in the legendary Chinese five-spice powder that spices up meat dishes as well as in diverse teas and alcoholic drinks. Moreover, star anise has a long history of use in traditional Vietnamese and Chinese medicine and, more recently, in the pharmaceutical production of the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu and in cosmetics. China and Vietnam are the main producers of star anise worldwide. In Vietnam, the spice is mainly grown in the north-eastern provinces, most importantly in Lang Son province. Since 2007, Lang Son star anise has become a registered brand as part of a strategy to promote the spice within domestic and global markets, and to strengthen the position of local producers - which are mostly members of ethnic minority communities - within a volatile spice market. The production and export of spices like star anise goes back to colonial times, but its cultivation stagnated during the long war and the collectivization of forest and farming activities during the socialist period. The spice market has picked up again after the launch of economic reform policies since the mid-1980s, and in particular with rising market demand and prices in the 1990s (Tugault-Lafleur and Turner 2009). As a highly valued ingredient in the production of food, beverages and medicine, star anise now finds its way to markets in Hanoi, China and beyond. The long history of the trade in star anise, the social and ethnic constellations involved in its production and the different uses of the spice both in and beyond Vietnam make it an excellent product from which to start exploring the intersections of the lived practices of spice production with the globally expanding market for spices (Saxer 2013). The proposed project seeks to investigate these interconnections by taking a ‘biographical’ approach to the star anise chain, following it from its starting point as a forest product harvested by local producers, through its transportation and trade within Vietnam as well as abroad, to its final use in soup bowls, modern drinks and pharmaceutical drugs. Considering the different actors, locations and dynamics involved in the star anise chain, the project will adopt a multi-sited approach, combining fine grained ethnographic research among local producers, traders and users with geographical mapping exercises, secondary and internet data analysis and expert interviews. The project seeks to answer two sets of interrelated questions that explore the “social lives” of star anise as well as those of the actors involved in the star anise chain: 1) What role does star anise play in the lives and livelihood strategies in upland Vietnam? What are the ethnic, economic and social relations governing the different nodes in the production, trade and use of star anise? What can the star anise chain tell us about relations between upland and lowland Vietnam? 2) Where does Vietnamese star anise go? How can we account for the changing uses and status of star anise in the domestic as well as global market for spices? How is “Vietnameseness” invoked in the marketing of star anise on the global market? And, who benefits? The proposed study will be part of a larger, interdisciplinary collaborative project on spice trade in Vietnam coordinated by Annuska Derks of the University of Zurich and Sarah Turner of McGill University, Montreal.
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