The relationship between food, politics and identity among food activists

Authors: Lauren J Blake*, Royal Veterinary College / Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH) / Sheffield University
Topics: food systems, Qualitative Research, Social Geography
Keywords: food, activism, activists, social change, identity, politics, oral history, life story, qualitative research methods
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The relationship between food and identity is an established topic within the social sciences, and to some extent, the relationship between food, identity and politics. But what about those working directly in the political, activist landscape of food (to some extent food experts), and seeking to create change? What is special about food - the everyday and visceral nature of it - as a topic of activism? What role does foodie-ism play? How has food politicised these activists? How have their politics led them to, and shaped their work in, food activism? How do they express and perform their politics and identity through food, quite literally 'eating their politics'? And is there uniformity and consensus among those in the food movement and in their food practices? (If not, what does this mean for coherent policy change towards ethical, healthy and sustainable food?). The research was based on 17 oral history life story interviews of food activists in Britain, and thematic analysis of the data. The recorded interviews form a public archive in the British Library. This methodology allows rich narrative and biographical insight into the personal and private as well as professional and public relationships with food over a lifetime. Particularly pertinent to the precarious present, it contextualises the historical, socio-cultural and political influences, and navigation of changes within them. Incorporating an example on the topic of vegetarianism, and some direct quotes, the paper examines the nuances, tensions, expressions and ways that food shapes identity and politics, and vice-versa.

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