Notes from the ESRS conference (3)

At the ESRS conference, currently ongoing, there are a few working groups situated around empirical and theoretical work on ” Alternative Food Networks (AFNs)” . Different studies have identified many different alternative food initiatives and networks which are situated outside the consolidated agro-industrial complex both physically and in their socio-political organisation.

The working groups show different cases from Europe and beyond in which participant involvement is being analysed. How participants of AFNs frame their involvement varies. The frames are often overtly political referring to marxist ideologies and anarchist principles or quite the opposite. The latter – no overt political statements – can be found in the cases presented by Esther Veen on two urban agricultural initiatives in the Netherlands.

Participants were extremely hesitant to frame their membership in political terms and were outright rejecting ‘ oppositional’  language. They were downplaying the significance of their membership, not prepared to place it in broader ideas of societal change, but framed it instead as a personal choice, as something nice to do and as their little contribution to make the world better.

Particularly in one case, this contrasted starkly with the initiator of that case who strongly voiced his political statements and discontent with the agro-industrial system. The audience to the presentation suggested that one of the explanatory factors could be Dutch culture which generally avoids politization but focuses on the ‘ tolerance’  of leaving you to do your thing while I do mine. Certainly, so far food has not underwent the same level of politization as is the case in Britain. But further unpacking is needed of these initiatives in order to firmly conclude at this point.