Enacting the alter-native: A theoretical reframing of local food initiatives in Aotearoa/New Zealand
This thesis revolves around the contestation of global food culture and offers a contribution towards reframing popular understandings of food and food provisioning. The global demand for ethically produced, quality and traceable food represents a clear contestation of food system configuration and the ecological turn that the food system has experienced. This thesis explores the tensions occurring within the food system that result from non-uniform, non-coherent and non-stable relationships: particularly the relationships between production and consumption, conventional and alternative and global and local, which cause tensions due to strong dichotomization of these binaries. The tendencies to globalize and standardize in a production-driven paradigm have been countered by an ecological turn that became relevant in recent times and has led to the reconfiguration of parts of the food system under the impulse of social movements.Focused on the Aotearoa/New Zealand context, this thesis analyses local food initiatives implemented by Māori, proposing a subset of alternative food initiatives that develop different dimensions of Māori food economy and draw differently on Māori cultural practices and claims to authenticity to shape their alterity. Māori history intertwines with the colonial history of Aotearoa/New Zealand, as they engage in hybrid systems composed of traditional values and contemporary practices. Māori activities seem to be centred on ecological values and traditions; on local and restrained dimension of economic activities; on community orientation and spiritual connection. This thesis proposes an enlarged and more comprehensive ontological way to look at such phenomena, dispensing with the classic dichotomous thinking that appears to characterize the agri-food studies, here represented by the global-local, conventional-alternative and production-consumption binaries.This thesis creates the opportunity to analyse local systems implemented by Māori and proposes an enlarged and more comprehensive ontological way to look at such phenomena, by dispensing with the classic dichotomous thinking that appears to characterize many agri-food studies; here represented by the global-local, conventional-alternative and production-consumption binaries.Using a grounded theory method, the thesis narrative commences with the theoretical framework provided by Food Regime Theory (Friedmann and McMichael, 1989) and then uses the analytical tools provided by Convention Theory (Boltansky and Thévenot, 1986) and Post-Capitalist Politics (Gibson-Graham, 1996) in order to propose a post-structuralist political economy reading of recent experiments in Māori food provisioning and commerce. This framework demonstrates the importance of a Māori ‘order of worth’ in shaping new economic networks in ways that cannot be understood from the traditional dichotomizations. As illustrated by three case-studies, a shift in focus from structural arrangements to the non-uniform and non-stable constituency of the food system allows for the emergence of a configuration that is more properly read as a continuum in which marginal economies inform and shape the dominant ones and open up spaces for engagement and social change.
Advisor: Campbell, Hugh; Rosin, Christopher
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Sociology, Gender and Social Work
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Alternative Food Networks; Post-Structuralist Political Economy; Aotearoa/New Zealand; Local Food Systems; Post-Capitalist Politics; Convention Theory; Agri-food Studies; Food Regime Theory
Research Type: Thesis