Sarah Besky

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Cornell U.

Grant number

Gr. 9681

Approve Date

October 4, 2018

Project Title

Besky, Dr. Sarah, Cornell U. Ithaca, NY - To aid research and writing on 'Market Qualities: Indian Tea And The Composition Of Value' - Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

SARAH BESKY, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, was award a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship in October 2018 to aid research and writing on “Market Qualities: Indian Tea and the Composition of Value.” The book based on this project explores the place of quality in contemporary capitalism through attention to the one of the world’s most recognized and popular products: mass-market black tea. In the Indian tea industry, the term “quality” has two meanings. First, quality indexes taste. Second, quality refers to social relationships, including market transactions. The book traces how contemporary tea industry reformers have mobilized notions of quality in attempts to refit a colonially rooted product and industry for a 21st century global democracy. Attention to “quality” at a time when India is trying to secure a place as a global economic leader shows how, together, the materiality of plants and aesthetic and technoscientific practices mediate—and perhaps impede—economic and political reform. The book examines how quality became a discrete category of knowledge from the final decades of British rule in India to the early years of Indian independence. This historical work is paired with ethnographic research both on plantations and among an array of Indian experts, from soil scientists and chemists to professional tea tasters and traders.


Besky, Sarah. 2020. Tasting Qualities: The Past and Future of Tea. Oakland: University of California Press