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Affective Trades – Global Values Conflicts and Humans' Perceptions of Wildlife

Project Description:

In recent decades, concern about species considered endangered has increased worldwide. From bush meat to whaling, the consumption of some species provokes what can be considered cultural conflicts, with the defenders of so-called traditional practices often clashing with international NGOs. Together, these conflicts concerning the protection and consumption of animals articulate three core domains of today’s anthropological research: the studies of moral economies; globalization processes; and the nature of human-nonhuman relationships. The present research proposal aims to examine these three issues by focusing on one central dimension: their affective economy. The intention is to approach the question of wildlife protection and consumption with reference to the feelings the issue generates amongst various groups of actors, and to examine how these sentiments can be linked to these groups’ material conditions of life. The chosen ethnographic research case for this study is the international trade of seahorses. This trade takes place between a country considered as "a hotspot of biodiversity": Madagascar ; and a country often accused of endangering species for its traditional cuisine and medicine: China. Following the international trade of these animals' bodies, this study aims to examine the way the people involved in seahorse trade, seahorse consumption, or seahorse protection (namely Malagasy fishermen, Chinese merchants, Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors and consumers, and international nature conservation NGOs) charge this animal with affective meaning within their own lives. Taking this specific trade as a lens to understand how, and in what material, political, and humane conditions, various forms of attachment to wildlife develop, this research promises to examine globalization processes at the level of individuals’ feelings. 

Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pettier


Freie Universität Berlin

Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology

CRC 1171 "Affective Societies"

Principal Investigator

Co-organizer of the DFG Research Network "Anthropology and China(s): Co-constructions of Ethnographic and Academic Regions" from the German Anthropological Association’s Regional Group Anthropology of China

Institut für Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie
Landoltweg 9-11
14195 Berlin

Brief personal description 

Doctor in social anthropology with a large interdisciplinary background in social sciences and a specialization in Chinese society, my main research thematics concern sentiments, affect, and morality, and their relationships with political and economic conditions.

Academic Education


PhD in Social Anthropology and Ethnology of the EHESS Paris (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, France), with a specific ‘European PhD’ label and highest honors.


BA in Chinese Language and Civilization, from Langues'O [French National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO), Paris.]


MA in Political Sciences, Compared Politics of Asia, at Sciences Po Paris, with high honors.


MA in Anthropology, at the EHESS Paris, with highest honors.


BA in Political Sciences, from Université Lyon 2.


BA in Sociology and Anthropology, from Université Lyon 2.

Academic Work Experience


P.I. of personal project, financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Freie Universität Berlin. Germany.

2020 (spring-summer semester)

Visiting Professor (W2 Vertretungsprofessor) for Public Anthropology. University of Bremen. Germany.


Invited Visiting Scholar and Adjunct Professor at the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), USA.


Dahlem Research School Postdoctoral Fellow at the Free University of Berlin, Germany. Employed within the Affective Societies Collaborative Research Center.


Postdoc Research Fellow at the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology of the University of Cologne, Germany.


Research Fellow and Junior Scientific Coordinator at the Political Sciences Department of Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany, within the Interdisciplinary Center for East Asian Studies [Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Ostasienstudien], for the interdisciplinary research program "Protecting the Weak", financed by the Volkswagen Foundation.


Temporary Assistant Professor (ATER) in Political Sciences at the Université Paris Est Créteil (UPEC), France, in the department of International Exchange and Administration.


Adjunct professor in charge of a course on Anthropology of East Asia (China, Korea, Japan) for undergraduate students at Université Paris 8, France.


PhD contract from the French National Ministry for Higher Education and Research.

University of Bremen

-“Kulturtheorien in Geschichte und Gegenwart”
-“Wirtschaft und Kultur”
-“Transforming China(s): Current Social and Cultural Dynamics in the Chinese World”
-“Is this Love? Anthropological Perspectives on Romantic Attachment and Marriage Across Societies”

University of California, Los Angeles

-“Ideology and Social Change in Contemporary China” (Anthro 163P)

University of Cologne

-“Economics and Morality” (taught with Tijo Salverda)
-“Gender and Sexuality in China”

-“The Anthropology of Emotions — Comparative Perspectives”
-“The Anthropology of Love — Comparative Perspectives”

Université Paris Est Créteil (UPEC)

-“Sociology of China — An introduction to Chinese society”

-“The sociology and psycho-sociology of Organizations”

-“The body, between nature and culture, an introduction to sociology”

École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)
-“Sociology and Affect” (taught with Sébastien Roux (CNRS) and Manuela Salcedo).

Université Paris 8

-“Anthropology of Eastern Asia – China, Korea, Japan”

Research Seminars:

Freie Universität Berlin

-“Gender and Affect” (with J.C. Lanca, Sophie Nikoleit and Matthias Lüthjohann)

École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)

-“A ‘moral crisis’ in China? Anthropological gazes on the debates and tensions of Today's China” (with Elisa Cencetti).

-“The Political Economies of Sentiments” (with  Manuela Salcedo, Mathieu Trachman, and Michela Villani).

Current Research Project:

Affective Trades – Global Values Conflicts and Humans' Perceptions of Wildlife


Previous Research Project (PhD defended at the EHESS in October 2015):

The Sentimental Wars. A Moral Anthropology of China’s Urban Marriage Market in the Years 2000s.

This ethnographic study, based on fieldwork research carried out in Beijing and Chengdu between 2006 and 2010, explored the transformation of the urban marriage market in China. It did so through the prism of one social institution : the xiāngqīn, a traditional form of marriage intermediation, which is presently undergoing a reinvention. Through a series of places (marriage agencies, parental and bachelors’ gatherings), my study examined a number of twentieth century key issues (the opposition to arranged marriages, the political place of love, the importance of social ties (guānxì), the role of traditional thoughts like "confucianism", etc.) The study examined this phenomenon in its actuality and its transversality, giving accounts of its social, economic, and historical dimensions, and awarding a particular importance to what I name the "affective scope" of the research. The study revealed the "sentimental politics" behind it, as they were helpful to think the social and cultural discriminations it holds. It payed careful attention to the intellectual debates concerning the place awarded to love in the Chinese society, which have been particularly relevant through the modernization process. Furthermore, it elaborated a critical analysis of their present uses. Through them, and through the omnipresent moral debates on today's China’s public stage, the transformation of the Chinese subject is observed. The study of this phenomenon therefore allows an exploration of the social and personal consequences of the political, economic, and demographic changes experienced by Chinese society from thirty years onward and the pressure it induced on the younger generations.

This PhD thesis is accessible online on the French Open Archives Repository HALhttps://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-01972770/document 

Following Project 

Desire Economics: Affect and Social Competition in Chinese Megacities

This project follows my previous research concerning the phenomenon of marriage markets in present-day China, the importance granted to love in the Chinese political context, and my theoretical work on the importance of affect in the ethnographic understanding of society (Pettier 2016). It is based on a long-term ethnographic research carried out in the cities of Beijing and Chengdu between 2006 and 2010, and will examine the affective dynamics of the Chinese society and the notion that it may be undergoing “moral crisis.” The project’s ambition is to provide a sensitive ethnography of the affective economy behind the social competition for economic success operating amongst today’s Chinese new generations. In particular, it will focus on questions of intimacy, sexuality, social pressures to attain success, self-sacrifice, and individual engagement in professional careers. Allying a long-term ethnography of China with the most recent theories of affective economy and politics, this research will focus on the affective drive, which I will refer to here as a “desire economics,” behind the extreme level of socio-economic competition experienced by Chinese new generations.

On Affect and Morality in Human-Animals Relationships:

-2021, "Saving China’s Dogs. Social Transformation and Moral Conflicts in Chinese Society.” Critical Asian Studies 53(1): 71-88. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14672715.2020.1830817

-2019, “Re-Enchanting the World: Seahorses’ Magic and the Global Trade of Affect for Wildlife,” in Michael Bollig and Stefanie Gänger (eds.), “Forum: Commodifying the “Wild”: Anxiety, Ecology and Authenticity in the Late Modern Era,Environmental History 24(4): 711-717. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1093/envhis/emz033#_i26 [Open Access]

-2018, “Animal Protection in China and Japan. The ambiguous status of companion animals in rapidly changing societies,” co-authored with Kazushige Doi, as part of the volume Protecting the Weak in East Asia. Framing, Mobilisation and Institutionalisation, edited by Iwo Amelung, Moritz Bälz, Heike Holbig, Matthias Schumann, and Cornelia Storz. London: Routledge: 196-223. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9781351255554-8/animal-protection-china-japan-kazushige-doi-jean-baptiste-pettier

On Love and Matchmaking:

-2022, “‘A Question of Bank Notes, Cars, and Houses!’ Matchmaking and the Moral Economy of Love in Urban China.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 64(2): 510-536. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history/article/question-of-bank-notes-cars-and-houses-matchmaking-and-the-moral-economy-of-love-in-urban-china/B7C5FEFEFEF9229E27197921FC2734F3# [Open Access]

-2020, “Marrying the Perfect Child. Middle Class Norms and Intergenerational Arrangements in the Marriage Corners of Urban China.” Ethnography 0(0): 1-22. https://doi.org/10.1177/1466138120960512 [Open Access]

-2019, “La réinvention des marieuses. Ethnographie d’une agence matrimoniale en Chine urbaine,” L’Homme 229: 77-98. https://www.cairn.info/revue-l-homme-2019-1-page-77.htm [Open Access]

-2019, "The reinvention of matchmakers. Ethnography of a Marriage Agency in Urban China,” L’Homme 229: I-XXII. https://www.cairn-int.info/abstract-E_LHOM_229_0077--the-reinvention-of-matchmakers.htm [Open Access]

-2019, “Love: Culturally Specific or Universal?,” in Hermann Kappelhoff, Jan-Hendrik Bakels, Christina Schmitt, and Hauke Lehmann (eds.), Emotionen. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch [Emotions. An interdisciplinary handbook], Stuttgart/Weimar: J.B. Metzler: 195-199. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-476-05353-4_29

-2018, “Ambivalences affectives. Le critère sentimental dans le choix du conjoint en Chine urbaine contemporaine” [Affective Ambivalences. The Sentimental Criteria in Mate Choice in Today’s Urban China], in Capdeville, Catherine and Delphine Ortis, Les institutions de l’amour: Cour, amour, mariage. Enquêtes anthropologiques en Asie et dans l’océan indien [Institutions of Love: Courtship, Love and Marriage in Asia and the Indian Ocean], Paris: Presses de l’Inalco: 155-79. https://books.openedition.org/pressesinalco/18576 [Open Access]

-2017, "La fatalité des meiren : Usages de l’histoire des marieuses traditionnelles comme justification à l’intermédiation matrimoniale en Chine contemporaine” [The Fate of Meiren: Uses of the History of Traditional Matchmakers as a Justification for Marriage Brokering in Contemporary China], Études Chinoises2017-1 (XXXVI-I): 79-103.

On Gender and Sexuality in China:

-2022, “‘Feeling Under Pressure’: Realities of Sex, Love, and Dating in China,” “BEHIND THE SCENES,” Comparative Studies in Society and History website. https://cssh.lsa.umich.edu/2022/05/26/feeling-under-pressure-realities-of-sex-love-and-dating-in-urban-china/ [Open Access]

-2018, "La morale et le désir. Sexualité, genre et inégalité en Chine.” Autrepart 86: 3-21. https://www.cairn.info/revue-autrepart-2018-2-page-3.htm

-2018, "Morality and Desire. Sexuality, Gender and Inequality in Contemporary China,” Autrepart 86: I-XVIII. https://www.cairn-int.info/article-E_AUTR_086_0003--morality-and-desire-sexuality-gender.htm

-2010, "Politiques de l’amour et du sexe dans la Chine de la ‘révolution sexuelle’” [Politics of love and sex in the China of the ‘sexual revolution’], in Genre, Sexualité et Société, n°3 "Révolution / Libération" | Spring 2010. http://gss.revues.org/index1381.html [Open Access]

On Affect, Social Theory, and Research Methodology:

-2022, “The Paradoxical Agora. The Social and the Political in between the People in the Marriage Markets of China.” Social Analysis 66(1): 21-43. https://doi.org/10.3167/sa.2022.660102 [Open Access]

-2022, “Affected Methodologies – A few steps on the way.” In Nothing personal?! Essays on Affect, Gender and Queerness. Edited by Omar Kasmani, Matthias Lüthjohann, Sophie Nikoleit and Jean-Baptiste Pettier, b_books, Berlin, Germany: 197-207. https://assets.website-files.com/60d457a01bc1c5809984212e/61f05968260a7a6e4eee4d0f_nothing_personal_affect_gender_queerness_bbooks(2022).pdf?fbclid=IwAR17FdRTTRub3_uD3c4RBtLTo45YIT1Jw5rkiLuuvKQmzHLVQAco9cQs5Vo [Open Access]

-2016, “The Affective Scope: Entering China’s Urban Moral and Economic World through Its Emotional Disturbances,” Anthropology of Consciousness, 2016, Vol. 27(1): 75-96. https://doi.org/10.1111/anoc.12054