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Class, food, culture: exploring 'alternative' food consumption

Paddock, Jessica 2011. Class, food, culture: exploring 'alternative' food consumption. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Contributing empirically, methodologically and conceptually to the body of work that remains unconvinced of the ‘death of class’ (Pahl 1989), this thesis explores the resonance of class culture in contemporary ‘alternative’ food practice. Indeed, arising from disenchantment with conventional industrial food production and supply chains, ‘alternative’ food networks aim to provide a means to reconnect consumers, producers and food (Kneafsey et al. 2008). By taking seriously the act of shopping for food as culturally meaningful and not merely a practice of routinely provisioning the home (Lunt and Livingstone 1992) this thesis then argues that ‘alternative’ food practice provides a platform for the performance of class identities. That is, both structurally and culturally, class is thought to matter to people (Sayer 2011), and is elucidated and reproduced through food practice. By means of mixed methods data collection; participant observation, survey, semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis, this study provides support for a Bourdieusian approach to class analysis. In particular, the thesis makes use of Bourdieu’s toolkit of concepts by conceiving of class as a relative ‘position’. This is understood to be achieved via the moral derision of the ‘other’, where participants draw moral boundaries between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods and the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ who partake in its consumption. In this way, the field of ‘alternative’ food practice seems not only ground from which to observe class. Rather, ‘alternative’ food is understood to be appropriated as a resource of ‘distinction’ (Bourdieu 1984) that is then figured in the very maintenance and reproduction of class culture. This interface between class, food and culture may prove consequential for those seeking substantive alternatives to conventional foodways. Crucially, it is argued that by imagining less socially and culturally uniform strategies to promote ‘alternative’ food practice, we may unlock their potential to provide an equitable and sustainable food future. To this end, by elucidating the moral significance of class in the field of ‘alternative’ food practice, this thesis has wider implications in carving a role for sociological enquiry in the emerging field of ‘sustainability science’ (Marsden 2011).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2017 03:26

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