Copying, Counterfeiting, and Capitalism in Jingdezhen’s Porcelain Industry

Copying, Counterfeiting, and Capitalism in Jingdezhen's Porcelain Industry

Maris Gillette - Associate Professor of Anthropology, Haverford College

Friday, November 14, 2008 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Room 103, Henry R. Luce Hall See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 6511

Copying and counterfeiting dominate contemporary porcelain production in Jingdezhen. A set of ideas about markets and a specific organization of production encourage ceramists to copy and counterfeit as they try to make a profit from producing porcelain. Jingdezhen ceramic industry workers view market relations as impersonal, market actors as privatized, and market activity as dishonest and potentially extremely lucrative. They produce porcelain using a highly specialized, multi-part division of labor that is unregulated by the state. These ideas and this method of ceramics production facilitate deceptive behavior by Jingdezhen producers. These same producers respond to others’ fraudulent acts by personalizing their market participation in order to protect themselves. Porcelain entrepreneurs try to work and do business with kin, people who share a native place attachment, and former co-workers. This network-building is motivated by the belief that individuals with whom you share a personal connection will not cheat you. Ideas about atomized individuals and dishonest markets, on the one hand, and strategies to personalize market activity, on the other, characterize contemporary capitalism in Jingdezhen (and perhaps China more broadly). This contradiction exemplifies the dual process by which capitalism affects how people think and what they do, while at the same time pre-existing ideas and practices inform how capitalism operates in a particular setting.