The Importance of Place: Re-territorialising Embeddedness

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Abstract

Sociologists have used the concept of embeddedness to examine the relationships between social networks, social capital, cultural and cognitive elements and the construction of markets. Yet important questions remain regarding how local and extra-local actors actively construct embedded markets and how networks exhibit both embedding and disembedding tendencies. I use qualitative data on a case study of Comté cheese, an origin-labelled cheese produced in eastern France, to develop a more critical and precise analysis of what embeddedness means in the context of (localised) food systems. I demonstrate the importance of horizontal and vertical forms of embeddedness. The expansion of the market and the entry of extra-local actors into the chain put a strain on the proximity and close ties that have historically constituted the basis of the social embeddedness of the Comté supply chain. The institutions that the Inter-professional Committee for Gruyère from Comté has developed, the support offered by the French state and the actors' shared belief in terroir are forms of vertical embeddedness that all act to re-embed the Comté supply chain in its particular territory, even in the context of these destabilising forces.

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