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Negotiating a Food Future: The Politics and Practice of Alternative Food Networks in China

Hall, Natalie LU (2016) SIMV31 20151
Graduate School
Social Anthropology
Master of Science in Development Studies
Abstract
This thesis focuses on organic agriculture and alternative food networks in China, which have emerged in the midst of widespread food safety scares. Based on two months of ethnographic research with representatives and participants of alternative food networks dealing with organic food in Beijing and Shanghai, in this paper I investigate cases of ecological and community supported agriculture farms, farmers’ markets, and recreational garden plot rentals and discuss the elements of “alternativeness” that makeup these projects. Critical studies have argued that adopting a binary view of alternative and conventional food initiatives risks over-simplifying the complex relationship between these, as well as the differences between the... (More)
This thesis focuses on organic agriculture and alternative food networks in China, which have emerged in the midst of widespread food safety scares. Based on two months of ethnographic research with representatives and participants of alternative food networks dealing with organic food in Beijing and Shanghai, in this paper I investigate cases of ecological and community supported agriculture farms, farmers’ markets, and recreational garden plot rentals and discuss the elements of “alternativeness” that makeup these projects. Critical studies have argued that adopting a binary view of alternative and conventional food initiatives risks over-simplifying the complex relationship between these, as well as the differences between the “alternatives” (Sonnino and Marsden 2006). I address this issue by adopting a critical stance to the concepts of “alternativeness” and ethical consumption and problematizing them. I do so by focusing on the practice and politics of alternativeness in alternative food networks in China and on the operation of actors and structural forces which co-construct food as ethical. I argue that in practice alternative food networks in China display complex and contradictory characteristics which do not neatly align with either alternative or conventional food systems (see Schmullias 2014). The practice of alternativeness is neither an escape from capitalism altogether nor is it void of transformative agendas, rather it is a practical alterity where business and activism intertwine. Further, this shift in consumption habits is best understood as a pragmatic response to pervasive uncertainty around food safety and the widespread denigration of social and institutional trust. Finally, we need to take into account historical and current political, social and economic contexts in order to understand the local manifestations of alternative food networks in China. (Less)
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author
Hall, Natalie LU
supervisor
organization
course
SIMV31 20151
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
Alternative food networks, Recreational garden plots, Farmers’ markets, Social movements, China
language
English
id
8571208
date added to LUP
2016-02-01 13:50:29
date last changed
2016-02-01 13:50:29
@misc{8571208,
  abstract     = {This thesis focuses on organic agriculture and alternative food networks in China, which have emerged in the midst of widespread food safety scares. Based on two months of ethnographic research with representatives and participants of alternative food networks dealing with organic food in Beijing and Shanghai, in this paper I investigate cases of ecological and community supported agriculture farms, farmers’ markets, and recreational garden plot rentals and discuss the elements of “alternativeness” that makeup these projects. Critical studies have argued that adopting a binary view of alternative and conventional food initiatives risks over-simplifying the complex relationship between these, as well as the differences between the “alternatives” (Sonnino and Marsden 2006). I address this issue by adopting a critical stance to the concepts of “alternativeness” and ethical consumption and problematizing them. I do so by focusing on the practice and politics of alternativeness in alternative food networks in China and on the operation of actors and structural forces which co-construct food as ethical. I argue that in practice alternative food networks in China display complex and contradictory characteristics which do not neatly align with either alternative or conventional food systems (see Schmullias 2014). The practice of alternativeness is neither an escape from capitalism altogether nor is it void of transformative agendas, rather it is a practical alterity where business and activism intertwine. Further, this shift in consumption habits is best understood as a pragmatic response to pervasive uncertainty around food safety and the widespread denigration of social and institutional trust. Finally, we need to take into account historical and current political, social and economic contexts in order to understand the local manifestations of alternative food networks in China.},
  author       = {Hall, Natalie},
  keyword      = {Alternative food networks,Recreational garden plots,Farmers’ markets,Social movements,China},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Negotiating a Food Future: The Politics and Practice of Alternative Food Networks in China},
  year         = {2016},
}