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Howard Cooper

This is a personal essay on Rabbi Lionel Blue and his idiosyncratic relationship to God. Although he had a first-class mind, Lionel Blue thought the mind was limited in relation to religious experience, and that Jews couldn't and shouldn't trust in material things, but had to learn to trust the intangibility of the spirit. Everyday life was a vehicle for holiness: food, cooking, religious items of the home were all valued, as was humour as a way of conveying religious truths. He was a religious pragmatist, finding out what works religiously and using that, rather than relying on tradition. His focus was on the everyday realities of people's lives rather than abstract theology.

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Can Consumer Demand Deliver Sustainable Food?

Recent Research in Sustainable Consumption Policy and Practice

Cindy Isenhour

From Slow Food and farmers' markets to ecolabels and fair trade an unprecedented number of consumer-based alternative food movements have risen in response to concerns about the environmental and social effects of industrialized agriculture. Some research suggests that these movements are successful in their efforts to reconnect communities, demystify global food chains, and produce sustainable foods, which are healthier for the planet and human bodies. Yet other scholars argue that the contemporary focus on consumer responsibility in policy and practice indicates much more than a process of reflexive modernization. The devolution of responsibility to consumers and the dominance of market-based solutions, these scholars argue, reflect the growing influence of neoliberal environmental governance. From this perspective these movements are naive in their assumption that consumers have the power necessary to overcome the structural barriers that inhibit significant change. These critics argue that the focus on consumer responsibility excludes those without access to consumer choice, reproduces social hierarchies, and fails to deliver the political and redistributive solutions necessary to achieve sustainability. Drawing on research across the social sciences this article surveys the existing evidence about the effectiveness of consumer-based movements in their attempts to create sustainable food systems.

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Food Sovereignty

A New Rights Framework for Food and Nature?

Hannah Wittman

Food sovereignty, as a critical alternative to the concept of food security, is broadly defined as the right of local peoples to control their own food systems, including markets, ecological resources, food cultures, and production modes. This article reviews the origins of the concept of food sovereignty and its theoretical and methodological development as an alternative approach to food security, building on a growing interdisciplinary literature on food sovereignty in the social and agroecological sciences. Specific elements of food sovereignty examined include food regimes, rights-based and citizenship approaches to food and food sovereignty, and the substantive concerns of advocates for this alternative paradigm, including a new trade regime, agrarian reform, a shift to agroecological production practices, attention to gender relations and equity, and the protection of intellectual and indigenous property rights. The article concludes with an evaluation of community-based perspectives and suggestions for future research on food sovereignty.

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Mapping the Food Movement

Addressing Inequality and Neoliberalism

Teresa Marie Mares and Alison Hope Alkon

In this article, we bring together academic literature tracing contemporary social movements centered on food, unpacking the discourses of local food, community food security, food justice, and food sovereignty. This body of literature transcends national borders and draws on a rich genealogy of studies on environmental justice, the intersections of race, class, and gender, and sustainable agro-food systems. Scholars have emphasized two key issues that persist within these movements: inequalities related to race and class that shape the production, distribution, and consumption of food, and the neoliberal constraints of market-based solutions to problems in the food system. This article claims that food movements in the United States would be strengthened through reframing their work within a paradigm of food sovereignty, an approach that would emphasize the production of local alternatives, but also enable a dismantling of the policies that ensure the dominance of the corporate food regime. The article concludes by offering a critical analysis of future research directions for scholars who are committed to understanding and strengthening more democratic and sustainable food systems.

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From Biotech to Nanotech

Public Debates about Technological Modifi cation of Food

Jennifer B. Rogers-Brown, Christine Shearer and Barbara Herr Harthorn

Technological modifications of food are being marketed as novel products that will enhance consumer choice and nutritional value. A recent manifestation is nanotechnology, entering the global food chain through food production, pesticides, vitamins, and food packaging. This article presents a detailed literature review on risk and benefit perceptions of technological developments for food and agriculture, including our own research from US deliberative workshops on nanotechnologies. The article suggests that many of the public concerns discussed in the literature on biotechnology in food are being raised in qualitative and quantitative studies on nanotechnologies for food: although nanotechnologies are generally perceived to be beneficial, many people express particular uneasiness about nanotechnological modifications of food. The article argues that these concerns represent material examples of unresolved social issues involving technologies and the food industry, including questions about the benefits of nanotechnology for food, and the heightened values attached to food as a cultural domain.

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'Love Goes through the Stomach'

A Japanese–Korean Recipe for Post-conflict Reconciliation

Stephanie Hobbis Ketterer

Mimicking research and practice that demonstrates the importance of seemingly mundane acts for resolving protracted conflicts, this article enquires into the potential contributions of food-related practices to post-conflict reconciliation. Based on fieldwork with a Japanese–South Korean reconciliation initiative (Koinonia), the argument is made that food-related practices can create the spatio-temporal conditions necessary to mitigate successfully situations that may otherwise be characterised by misunderstandings, animosity and an unwillingness to move beyond dividing lines. It is demonstrated that food-related practices have the capacity to influence reconciliation positively throughout the three stages that are perceived as vital for building lasting relationships between conflicting parties: encouragement of participation in reconciliation events (stage 1), encouragement of positive interaction during reconciliation events (stage 2) and sustainability of reconciliation events after participants re-enter daily life and the likely negative perceptions of the Other therein (stage 3).

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Another (Food) World Is Possible

Post-industrial French Paysans Fight for a Solidaire Global Food Policy

Chaia Heller

If the post-war industrial model entails a mix of technological and chemical interventions that increase farm productivity, then post-industrial agriculture (emerging in the 1970s) constitutes agricultural surpluses, as well as an array of trade, aid and biotechnology practices that introduce novel foodstuffs (processed and genetically modified) on an unprecedented scale. While industrial agriculture reduces the farming population, the latter gives rise to new sets of actors who question the nature and validity of the industrial model. This essay explores the rise of one set of such actors. Paysans (peasants) from France's second largest union, the Confederation Paysanne, challenge the industrial model's instrumental rationality of agriculture. Reframing food questions in terms of food sovereignty, paysans propose a solidarity-based production rationality which gives hope to those who believe that another post-industrial food system is possible.

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Katja's canteen

Complex intersections of the public and the private in the South Bohemian countryside

Haldis Haukanes

This article discusses notions of "public" and "private" in the postsocialist Czech Republic through a comparative examination of food practices in families and in the canteen of an agricultural cooperative in South Bohemia. Different meanings of public and private will be outlined, making up a complex set of referential contexts for the interaction between canteen personnel and customers. Analysis of daily life in the canteen revealed that the personnel tended to personalize customer relations. It is argued that this inclination cannot be explained first and foremost as the influence of market-oriented postsocialist public debates on public-private relations. The canteen is a key provider of services to the community but is not run according to market principles or driven by the logic of profit. Its friendly atmosphere is predicated on the moral practice and personal skills of its employees and is embedded in local cultures of food sharing. By exploring daily practice and interaction in the canteen, the article critically examines implications for the feminist concept of emotional labor that have emerged in studies on capitalist, profit-driven enterprises.

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The Incredible Edible Movement

People Power, Adaptation, and Challenges in Rennes (France) and Montreal (Canada)

Giulia Giacchè and Lya Porto

All over the world, different forms of urban food gardens (family gardens, school gardens, community gardens, allotment gardens, and so on) are flourishing. These initiatives vary in terms of space, actors, functions, and forms of organization. This article explores community garden typologies, focusing on Incredible Edible (IE) initiatives. We propose a theoretical discussion of IE initiatives and the differential adaptation of this model in contrasting contexts, specifically the city of Rennes, in France, and the city of Montreal, in Canada. The investigation of IE in both case studies is predicated on a qualitative methodological approach. A key conclusion is that the IE movement survives largely because of the input of volunteers. However, its longer-term sustainability requires resources and investment from municipal institutions if a real transition to edible cities is to be attained.

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Louise Nelson Dyble

David Pimentel and Marcia Pimentel, Food, Energy and Society, 3rd ed. (Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2008), xix + 380 pp.

James E. McWilliams, Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We can Truly Eat Responsibly (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009), 258 pp., Pb US$14.99.

C. Claire Hinrichs and Thomas A. Lyson, eds., Remaking the North American Food System: Strategies for Sustainability (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2008), 384 pp., Hb US$45.00, Pb US$29.95.

David Burch and Geoffrey Lawrence, eds., Supermarkets and Agri-food Supply Chains (Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2007), xiv + 330 pp.