"We have all lived and breathed tea." Gendered moral economies of factory tea production in Western Georgia
Keywords:Georgia, tea, factory work, gender, moral economy
Scholarship on Georgian food and drinking culture has been expanding in the past decades. However, scholars have focused mostly on private spaces of food preparation and consumption, as well as on domestic practices of hospitality. This paper tries to expand the scope of these studies by looking at spaces previously omitted: namely spaces of industrial food production. Building on the results of fieldwork conducted in Western Georgia (the Samegrelo region) between 2016 and 2017, as well as several short field trips in 2015, this paper focuses on gendered moral economies of tea (Camellia sinensis) production in a context of economic change in Georgia.
This paper follows people who produce one commodity: tea. Although not broadly considered a legitimate part of Georgian foodways, it is imprinted in the lives of the people who both used to and still do work in tea manufacturing. The analysis focuses on one main protagonist: a tea technologist employed at a factory. In so doing, it demonstrates the moral economies in which downgrading, migration and coping strategies are embedded.
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