Worosz, M. R. 2006. Pits, pests, and the industrial tart. Ph.D. Dissertation, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA.
Standards are used to achieve control over, replication of, and consistency in attributes that are valued. Thus, standards are often seen as synonymous with quality. But, standards do not necessarily capture the full range of virtues that might be attributed to an entity—-social benefit, trust, and/or reputation. Because these characteristics are difficult to quantify, various forms of imagery are increasingly used to link an entity to a set of symbols and/or narratives that create the perception of and justification for quality while masking or mystifying an entity’s undesirable features.
Using archival documents and photographs; interviews and participant-observation; industry, state, and federal statistics; and marketing and instructional imagery I followed the “social life” of the commercial tart cherry throughout its production, processing, and marketing. This commodity system analysis provided a robust case study for asking: (1) how quality might be conceptualized and defended throughout an entity’s history, what kinds of criteria must be met, to what extent are they necessary, and for whom and/or for what purpose do they serve; and (2) what actors intervene to produce quality, what visual and rhetorical devices do they use, and how might this imagery be used to shape and/or reinforce quality.
Quality is often associated with alternative agrifood products, but this study demonstrates that quality is equally important in the context of a bulk commodity system. It contributes to the agrifood literature by demonstrating how imagery can function as a mediator between an entity and claims about an entity. It shows how images can be used to illustrate whether or not an entity is imbued with or exudes a desired intrinsic or extrinsic characteristic, and link an entity to a dynamic range of qualities that can be drawn on in context-specific ways. This flexibility provides an industry/group with a means of expressing agency and autonomy. However, images of quality can also be misleading; they can lead one to believe an entity can be anything and all things. Thus, engaging in this strategy may ultimately contribute to an industry/group’s loss of power to create, justify, and frame what quality will and/or ought to be.Sign in to download PDF back to index