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Abstract

This dissertation is an ethnographic account of the moral politics of food safety in post-Soviet Georgia. It focuses on the uneasy articulation and production of “global food safety” in the post-Soviet context, centering on the intersections of Georgian popular food politics, regulatory expertise, and global as well as European Union (EU)-designed reforms of food safety laws and governance in the capital city of Tbilisi. It is based on three years of fieldwork within different institutional contexts of food safety reform: Georgian experts in food safety at the National Food Agency (NFA), food vendors at outdoor popular food markets, and household matriarchs tasked with provisioning and caring for their families every day. These chapters examine how public recognitions of and claims to trustworthy regulatory authority are made possible, articulated, and valued. These processes of claiming and recognizing authority, as they unfold in daily life, have unintended and ironic consequences that allow us to think about authority and trust as potent sites of political meaning-making. In more general terms, this ethnography demonstrates what daily decisions about food in the post-Soviet context, such as deciding what to eat or feed one’s family, can tell us about the making of moral authority and why it matters, about collective forms of belonging and sovereignty, and the gendered ways in which these processes unfold.

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