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Contested space: The contradictory political dynamics of food banking in the UK

Williams, Andrew ORCID:, Cloke, Paul, May, Jon and Goodwin, Mark 2016. Contested space: The contradictory political dynamics of food banking in the UK. Environment and Planning A 48 (11) , pp. 2291-2316. 10.1177/0308518X16658292

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This paper offers a critical reappraisal of the politics of food banking in the UK. Existing work has raised concerns about the institutionalisation of food banks, with charitable assistance apparently – even if inadvertently – undermining collectivist welfare and deflecting attention from fundamental injustices in the food system. This paper presents original ethnographic work that examines the neglected politics articulated within food banks themselves. Conceptualising food banks as potential spaces of encounter where predominantly middle-class volunteers come into contact with ‘poor others’ (Lawson and Elwood, 2013), we illustrate the ways food banks may both reinforce but also rework and generate new, ethical and political attitudes, beliefs and identities. We also draw attention to the limits of these progressive possibilities and examine the ways in which some food banks continue to operate within a set of highly restrictive, and stigmatising, welfare technologies. By highlighting the contradictory dynamics at work in food bank organisations, and among food bank volunteers and clients, we suggest the political role of food banks warrants neither uncritical celebration nor outright dismissal. Rather, food banks represent a highly ambiguous political space still in the making and open to contestation

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
T Technology > TX Home economics
Uncontrolled Keywords: Food banks, neoliberalism, welfare, volunteering, encounter, political sensibilities
Publisher: SAGE Publications (UK and US)
ISSN: 0308-518X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 June 2016
Date of Acceptance: 13 June 2016
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 14:50

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