EATING IN AN UNCERTAIN WORLD: AN ESSAY ON THE EXCLUSIONS AND ERASURES OF LOCAL FOOD

Date
2019
Authors
Pahk, Sang-hyoun
Contributor
Advisor
Steger, Manfred
Department
Sociology
Instructor
Depositor
Speaker
Researcher
Consultant
Interviewer
Annotator
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher
Volume
Number/Issue
Starting Page
Ending Page
Alternative Title
Abstract
The common sense about local food is that it is essentially a virtuous project. Unlike the global food system which is designed to maximize corporate profits above all else, local food systems are said to be responsive to human and ecological needs. Both academic advocates and popular writers highlight the potential for food system localization to generate attachments to place and community that change how people “relate to food.” Critics, however, identify consistent patterns of exclusion in empirical studies of local food, and note troubling “blind spots” in local food politics with respect to labor issues. The most influential positions in the field argue for a critical localism that preserves the features that make local food promising while addressing injustices and exclusions. What they miss, however, is how “local” works as a category of desire -- something that popular advocates of local food seem to appreciate better than academics do. This means that localness is not simply a guide to organizing markets and supply chains, or evaluating the virtues of foodstuffs. In order for it to become that guide, it must first be realized as a meaningful idea -- one that is worth the material and emotional investment necessary to become an organizing principle in social life. The problem, I argue, is that what makes local food compelling is also what makes it exclusionary. Based on a critical reading of the literature, a discourse analysis of popular media, and participant observation in several local food markets in San Francisco, CA in 2014, this dissertation examines the realization of “local” as compelling and lively, and then draws out some of the consequences of that realization. In popular discourse, I identify a characteristic style of reasoning and desiring -- including an articulation of specific ways of knowing and relating to place that are valorized as natural -- that I describe as the fantasy of “real food.” In empirical chapters, I examine how this fantasy shapes local food markets, and demonstrate its influence in both ordinary market interactions and in market management. In particular, I describe how farmers markets have become constituted as vital sites for enacting local desires and local knowledge. I illustrate how problems in farmers markets come to be identified and articulated as problems of contamination, thus prompting an understanding of appropriate social action in food systems as a pursuit of purity. The result is a seemingly comprehensive view of food and place that heightens the resonance of specific issues, including taste, community, and connection to the land. However, this also has the effect of rendering other concerns less intelligible -- including issues relating to domestic foodwork, migrant farmworkers, and other concerns operating at nonlocal scales which cannot be known or addressed in the characteristic style prescribed by the fantasy of real food. Thus, unlike other scholars in the field who would preserve localism while address its worst tendencies, I argue that the exclusions and erasures are built into the very practices that realize localness in the world.
Description
The common sense about local food is that it is essentially a virtuous project. Unlike the global food system which is designed to maximize corporate profits above all else, local food systems are said to be responsive to human and ecological needs. Both academic advocates and popular writers highlight the potential for food system localization to generate attachments to place and community that change how people “relate to food.” Critics, however, identify consistent patterns of exclusion in empirical studies of local food, and note troubling “blind spots” in local food politics with respect to labor issues. The most influential positions in the field argue for a critical localism that preserves the features that make local food promising while addressing injustices and exclusions. What they miss, however, is how “local” works as a category of desire -- something that popular advocates of local food seem to appreciate better than academics do. This means that localness is not simply a guide to organizing markets and supply chains, or evaluating the virtues of foodstuffs. In order for it to become that guide, it must first be realized as a meaningful idea -- one that is worth the material and emotional investment necessary to become an organizing principle in social life. The problem, I argue, is that what makes local food compelling is also what makes it exclusionary. Based on a critical reading of the literature, a discourse analysis of popular media, and participant observation in several local food markets in San Francisco, CA in 2014, this dissertation examines the realization of “local” as compelling and lively, and then draws out some of the consequences of that realization. In popular discourse, I identify a characteristic style of reasoning and desiring -- including an articulation of specific ways of knowing and relating to place that are valorized as natural -- that I describe as the fantasy of “real food.” In empirical chapters, I examine how this fantasy shapes local food markets, and demonstrate its influence in both ordinary market interactions and in market management. In particular, I describe how farmers markets have become constituted as vital sites for enacting local desires and local knowledge. I illustrate how problems in farmers markets come to be identified and articulated as problems of contamination, thus prompting an understanding of appropriate social action in food systems as a pursuit of purity. The result is a seemingly comprehensive view of food and place that heightens the resonance of specific issues, including taste, community, and connection to the land. However, this also has the effect of rendering other concerns less intelligible -- including issues relating to domestic foodwork, migrant farmworkers, and other concerns operating at nonlocal scales which cannot be known or addressed in the characteristic style prescribed by the fantasy of real food. Thus, unlike other scholars in the field who would preserve localism while address its worst tendencies, I argue that the exclusions and erasures are built into the very practices that realize localness in the world.
Keywords
Sociology, farmers markets, local food
Citation
Extent
144 pages
Format
Geographic Location
Time Period
Related To
Rights
All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Rights Holder
Email libraryada-l@lists.hawaii.edu if you need this content in ADA-compliant format.