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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 16 Issue 2 (2009)

‘Local Food’ As a Contested Concept:

Networks, Knowledges and Power in Food-based Strategies for Rural Development                                                  21-35

Author: Hillary Tovey
Affiliation: Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


Abstract            PDF

This article reports on a contestation around the meaning of ‘local food’, between a group engaged in ‘alternativizing’ food exchanges building on a vision of cooperative knowledge-sharing and opportunity-sharing, and one engaged in ‘reform’ of the conventional system. The latter envisions the formation of individual entrepreneurs and a top-down provision of commercial and production knowledges, emphasizing ‘innovation’ in food products as the way to gain access to the global system. The contestation is ongoing in a single space, where the two visions of advancing the local food project coexist and are found within separate but overlapping networks. The paper suggests that the struggle between them is not only over strategies to improve economic returns to such producers, but also over the social forms and relations of production seen as appropriate for ‘rural development’ in the Irish context. The ‘ambiguities’ of the relations of power across space, while not affecting the market discourse of local food, work to disorganise and destablise relations within the alternative network and to make the project of an alternative local food system vulnerable to transition into forms more compatible with capitalist development policy.

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