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The food movement as polyphonic

Authors: Stephanie R Lim*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Food Systems, Ethnicity and Race, Field Methods
Keywords: Food justice, methodology, epistemology, feminist research, polyvocality
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


For the past decade, food justice scholarship has engaged concepts of racism, material disparities, and procedural inequities. Seminal texts in this field conceive of food justice as increasing access to healthy and sustainably-produced food in low-income communities and communities of colour. Gibb & Wittman’s (2013) framework echoes these distributive and procedural concerns, also including recognition injustice, which asks, “whose knowledge counts…which experiences, practices, and ways of knowing are normalised, and which are rendered invisible, deprecated, or stigmatised”?
Our paper explores recognition justice through the comparable concept(s) epistemic justice. The latter more specifically asserts that what demands “recognition” are centuries of epistemic racism and sexism, advanced and mutually constituted through imperial conquest, and whose enduring and intersectional effects are the fabric of contemporary conditions of inequality.

We share an urban youth-driven food stories initiative (Renfrew-Collingwood Food Stories, 2015-2017) in conversation with a scholarly analysis of the project itself. Here, community-based research meets an activist imperative to interrupt the violence perpetuated wherever justice work centres colonial knowledges and priorities. Drawing on Indigenous and postcolonial feminist literature, we adapt Bakhtin’s (1973) theory of polyphony to present our voices in equal, unmerged juxtaposition. Form and content work together to highlight-and-decenter academia’s epistemic authority.

Provoking critical reflection on relationality and knowledge, we suggest that both distributive and procedural justice require a collective recognition of the political consequences of knowing and telling in particular ways. Further, that the realization of food justice demands profound transformations of white supremacist foundations and structures lying hidden in plain sight.

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