BREAD INSTEAD: BAKING UP VALUES AND SHAPING MORAL BEINGS IN THE ECONOMIES AND SOCIALITIES OF BREAD PRODUCTION, DISTRIBUTION AND CONSUMPTION IN MODERN JAPAN, TAIWAN, EAST AND SOUTHEAST ASIA
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This dissertation examines the production, distribution and consumption of bread in urban sites in contemporary Japan and Taiwan, countries commonly associated with rice as the predominant staple food. Through investigating the bread-eating and making practices in cosmopolitan centers and rural areas of these two countries made possible through the global movement of wheat, I elucidate how the residents understand, establish, and complicate notions of identity and modernity. I situate bread-related practices in the sociological sense of modernity as a condition and analyze how subjects navigate this space and present themselves as modern. People express themselves in these individual pursuits of activities—through hobbies, professions they have (at least more freely for the most part) chosen, consumerist activities such as buying and eating food. I first came upon the phenomenon of the widespread consumption of bread in a small-sized city in northeastern Japan, while conversing with youth who emphatically insisted on a preference for bread over rice, and then through frequent subsequent encounters in Tokyo. Such pronouncements of preference for the baked product echo in Taiwan, where Japanese bakery chains, as well as local mom-and-pop bakeries, have proliferated in major cities, extending their reach to smaller towns and rural areas as well. I argue that people see themselves as modern through these bread enterprises and I assert how their food-related activities and imaginations of themselves are a part of modernity—in which consumers act as (mostly) autonomous decision-makers about their social activities, social networks and food practices. I also examine labor migration and ethnicity vis-à-vis bread production as forms of interrogating centers and peripheries in Sinospheres (areas of Chinese diaspora) in migration and circulations of bread-related knowledge in and about Southeast Asia.
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