The Stamp of Identity

cowU.S. food makers have spent a lot of money building their brands….

In much of my work I find it useful to start with trying to understand or account for what, on first glance, seems like the easy examples, then look for increasingly messy analogical situations that can be explained in much the same fashion — a strategy that complicates the seemingly straightforward and simplifies the apparently complex. So when it comes to understanding human identity not as a public display of a self-evident, inner quality but, instead, as the naturalized result of thoroughly public contests over place and rank, maybe a good place to start is with trade disputes over making and selling cheese.

For here the implications of branding — and it is worthwhile to mull over where the term comes from…. — and investment are more than apparent, implications that might be useful in thinking through other identification techniques (this is religious, that’s political, he’s Australian, she’s Dutch, etc.) in a more nuanced way than just seeing them as the neutral vehicles that express our inner desires.

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