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

Forskningsoutput: AvhandlingDoktorsavhandling (monografi)


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.


Enheter & grupper

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Sociologi


Tilldelande institution
Handledare/Biträdande handledare
Tilldelningsdatum2019 dec 13
  • Lund University
Tryckta ISBN978-91-7895-346-2
Elektroniska ISBN978-91-7895-347-8
StatusPublished - 2019 nov 18

Bibliografisk information

Defence details Date: 2019-12-13 Time: 10:15 Place: Edens hörsal, Allhelgona kyrkogata 14, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Bubandt, Nils Ole Title: Professor Affiliation: Aarhus University ---


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