The “Organi-vore’s” Dilemma: A Comparative Analysis of Organic Food Advertising in China and the U.S.


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This essay compares organic food advertisements in China and the U.S. and focuses on the cultural and ideological factors that interrupt the cross-cultural translation of the idea of “organic.” My analysis shows that organic foods in China, at its nascent stage of mass marketing, is represented as a luxury product targeted at the upper and upper-middle class consumers. Their ads highlight the elite status of the consumers and are symptomatic of the social desire to distance the elites from the masses, the rich from the poor, and the urban from the rural. The American ads, nevertheless, structure the notion of “organic” around an imagined harmonious community. By addressing “the common people,” they reflect the traditional rhetoric of populism and the founding ideology of social equality. These ads attempt to mask the fundamental inequality embedded in the production and consumption of the organic food. I argue that organic food, as it is absorbed into the industrial capitalist system, has nothing holistic about it. The notion of “organic”, on the one hand, is a consumerist fantasy that covers the anxiety surrounding food (e.g. food as contagion, food as a scarcity, or food as an excess); on the other hand, it is a symptom of deep-seated social inequality and class antagonism that have always motivated the production and consumption of food.

Academic Division

History and Society


Advertising and Promotion Management | Film and Media Studies

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