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International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Published by Michigan State University

Official publication of the Research Committee on Sociology of Agriculture and Food (RC-40)
of the International Sociological Association (ISA)

Editors: Raymond Jussaume, Claire Marris and Katerina Psarikidou

Frequency: 3 issues per year 
ISSN: 0798-1759

Volume 25, Issue 1 (2019)

Practices of Food Provisioning in Alternative Food Networks:

How Different Practitioners Engage in Different Practices, Depending on Their Emotional Energy                            1-20

Authors: Esther J. Veen (a) and Simona D'Amico (b)

Affiliations: (a) Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen University; (b) Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT)

Abstract            PDF


In this article we combine social practice theory and interaction ritual theory to better understand the dynamics of learning processes in alternative food networks, and how these influence levels of alternative food network engagement. We apply this combination to the study of a solidarity purchasing group in southern Italy. We show that the levels of emotional energy built up between different groups of people within this solidarity purchasing group explain the extent to which participants are willing and able to overcome the practical difficulties associated with being part of the solidarity purchasing group, and change their routines accordingly. We recognize two different groups of users, with different levels of emotional energy; they vary according to the extent to which participants share motivations and understandings. The two groups attach different meanings to their involvement and associate those meanings with different activities that solidarity purchasing group engagement entails. We conclude that the two groups engage in different social practices – even though they are part of the same solidarity purchasing group. This finding provides insights into the heterogeneity both within and between alternative food networks as described in the literature; it explains different degrees of involvement, as well as reasons not to incur the practical costs associated with solidarity purchasing group involvement by quitting. Our study applies the idea of Weenink and Spaargaren that emotional energy can function as an explanatory force regarding why people engage in certain practices, and it sheds more light on how to define a practice.

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