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Spectral Jade : Materiality, Conceptualisation, and Value in the Myanmar-China Jadeite Trade

Möller, Henrik LU (2019) In Lund Dissertations in Sociology 123.
Abstract
Hosting a cultural history of 8.000 years in China, jade has seen a revival in China’s current era. Jadeite is the most expensive type of jade, and the vast majority of jadeite is mined in Myanmar’s Kachin State and sold in China.
Spectral Jade is a study of trade, carving, and use of jadeite. The dissertation is based on ethnographic research in different nodes of the jadeite commodity chain, including 12 months of fieldwork in Ruili, a hub for jadeite trade on China’s border with Myanmar. Using jadeite as a lens for examining China’s economy, society, and cosmology, and its impact in Myanmar, the dissertation explores eight themes in eight chapters: Materiality, Configuration, Opacity, Visibility, Congruity, Fissure, Order, and... (More)
Hosting a cultural history of 8.000 years in China, jade has seen a revival in China’s current era. Jadeite is the most expensive type of jade, and the vast majority of jadeite is mined in Myanmar’s Kachin State and sold in China.
Spectral Jade is a study of trade, carving, and use of jadeite. The dissertation is based on ethnographic research in different nodes of the jadeite commodity chain, including 12 months of fieldwork in Ruili, a hub for jadeite trade on China’s border with Myanmar. Using jadeite as a lens for examining China’s economy, society, and cosmology, and its impact in Myanmar, the dissertation explores eight themes in eight chapters: Materiality, Configuration, Opacity, Visibility, Congruity, Fissure, Order, and Potential. The chapters explore how interplays between materiality and conceptuality create value in the jadeite industry.
The dissertation first discusses how jadeite markets are structured by ethnic armed conflict, policies, economic growth, infrastructure, networks, relationships, capital, technologies, and by the materiality of jadeite itself. Jadeite prices boomed from 2008, but markets for high-, and mid-grade jadeite saw a recession from 2014 due to an anti- corruption campaign and declining economic growth in China. This shifted demand towards cheaper jadeite types and amber, which now see booming markets facilitated by online trade. The dissertation employs an institutional analysis to account for these short-term fluctuations in the jadeite market. But Chinese consumer demand for jade is also underpinnned by a cosmology that changes at a slower pace than policies and economic growth.
Secondly, the dissertation discusses Chinese cosmological assumptions that posit jade as an animated agent, which interacts with humans across a range of registers. Some argue that China has become to too full and material at the expense of an emptiness and spirituality valued in Taoist and Buddhist thought, and describe jade as a spiritual anchor in a rapidly changing society and economy. Exploring relations between jade and humans in different contexts, the dissertation points to a holistic Chinese cosmology that orders the world through analogies and iterations (similarities) and posits oppositions (differences) as mutually constitutive, rather than mutually exclusive.
Theoretically, the dissertation adds a post-anthropocentric perspective to Lévi-Strauss’ argument that nonhumans are ‘good to think’. In line with new materialist and ontological approaches, the dissertation makes a case for a closer scrutiny of how particular properties of nonhumans - in this case jadeite - afford perspectives for people engaging with them, including ethnographers.
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author
supervisor
opponent
  • Professor Bubandt, Nils Ole, Aarhus University
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
jade, china, Yunnan, Ruili, Myanmar, Kachin, borderland, Ethnicity, trade, Craft, markets, guanxi, masculinity, Materiality, ontology, Conceptual, nonhuman, Holism, analogism, Taoism, Nationalism, authenticity, Spirituality, Value, morality, ethnography, narratives
in
Lund Dissertations in Sociology
volume
123
pages
377 pages
publisher
Lund University
defense location
Edens hörsal, Allhelgona kyrkogata 14, Lund
defense date
2019-12-13 10:15:00
ISSN
1102-4712
ISBN
978-91-7895-346-2
978-91-7895-347-8
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
53faa757-999d-4424-949d-eed1b089a653
date added to LUP
2019-11-18 11:39:54
date last changed
2019-11-20 08:45:52
@phdthesis{53faa757-999d-4424-949d-eed1b089a653,
  abstract     = {Hosting a cultural history of 8.000 years in China, jade has seen a revival in China’s current era. Jadeite is the most expensive type of jade, and the vast majority of jadeite is mined in Myanmar’s Kachin State and sold in China.<br/>Spectral Jade is a study of trade, carving, and use of jadeite. The dissertation is based on ethnographic research in different nodes of the jadeite commodity chain, including 12 months of fieldwork in Ruili, a hub for jadeite trade on China’s border with Myanmar. Using jadeite as a lens for examining China’s economy, society, and cosmology, and its impact in Myanmar, the dissertation explores eight themes in eight chapters: Materiality, Configuration, Opacity, Visibility, Congruity, Fissure, Order, and Potential. The chapters explore how interplays between materiality and conceptuality create value in the jadeite industry.<br/>The dissertation first discusses how jadeite markets are structured by ethnic armed conflict, policies, economic growth, infrastructure, networks, relationships, capital, technologies, and by the materiality of jadeite itself. Jadeite prices boomed from 2008, but markets for high-, and mid-grade jadeite saw a recession from 2014 due to an anti- corruption campaign and declining economic growth in China. This shifted demand towards cheaper jadeite types and amber, which now see booming markets facilitated by online trade. The dissertation employs an institutional analysis to account for these short-term fluctuations in the jadeite market. But Chinese consumer demand for jade is also underpinnned by a cosmology that changes at a slower pace than policies and economic growth.<br/>Secondly, the dissertation discusses Chinese cosmological assumptions that posit jade as an animated agent, which interacts with humans across a range of registers. Some argue that China has become to too full and material at the expense of an emptiness and spirituality valued in Taoist and Buddhist thought, and describe jade as a spiritual anchor in a rapidly changing society and economy. Exploring relations between jade and humans in different contexts, the dissertation points to a holistic Chinese cosmology that orders the world through analogies and iterations (similarities) and posits oppositions (differences) as mutually constitutive, rather than mutually exclusive.<br/>Theoretically, the dissertation adds a post-anthropocentric perspective to Lévi-Strauss’ argument that nonhumans are ‘good to think’. In line with new materialist and ontological approaches, the dissertation makes a case for a closer scrutiny of how particular properties of nonhumans - in this case jadeite - afford perspectives for people engaging with them, including ethnographers.<br/>},
  author       = {Möller, Henrik},
  isbn         = {978-91-7895-346-2},
  issn         = {1102-4712},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {11},
  publisher    = {Lund University},
  school       = {Lund University},
  series       = {Lund Dissertations in Sociology},
  title        = {Spectral Jade : Materiality, Conceptualisation, and Value in the Myanmar-China Jadeite Trade},
  url          = {https://lup.lub.lu.se/search/ws/files/71964864/Dissertation._Henrik_Kloppenborg_M_ller.pdf},
  volume       = {123},
  year         = {2019},
}