Food citizenship and the market, IRSA (2)

It was very stimulating the hear the speech of Boaventura de Sousa Santos last Monday also because we use his theories in some courses. He pointed to the hegemonic epistemologies of the West which render other knowledges invisible and/or insignificant. However, the current economic/financial crisis in Europe creates turbulence in conceived concepts. Who knows the West can learn from other epistemologies such as from indigenous people in the South to overcome the theoretical exhaustion, he provoked. Also Patricia Allen challenged us to “illuminate our epistemological frameworks and interrogate our ideology constructions” (such as ideas on the free market).

But what if concepts have such hegemonic power that they disappear into the background as taken for granted stepping stones in conversations, writings and analysis? While many of us are aware of and very critical about particular neo-liberal frameworks of the free market, the concept of ‘market’ itself is something we seldom think we can do without. The logic of our everyday lived experience of capitalist market relations is silently inside our analysis, even if we are talking about civic food networks where citizens take initiatives to form new food networks.

These food networks are often conceptualised as better alternatives to the corporate industrial food economy, but we tend to forget that they take place in the overall framework of capitalism and its market rationalities nevertheless. This becomes apparent when studies of food self-provisioning (home growing of food as traditional practice in e.g. Eastern Europe) are contrasted to cases of Civic Food Networks. Whereas in CFNs consumers are starting new direct relations of provision with producers (localised form of goods in exchange for money) and are called food citizens, in the case of home growing for self consumption there is no market relation, no perceived act of citizenship but at the same time food is often shared with friends, family and neighbours. In fact, this kind of traditional food self-provisioning without apparent political reasons, sits uneasy in the working group on Civic Food Networks which has the triangle of State – Market – Civil Society as its basis. Through the lens of Boaventura de Sousa Santos, the sociology of absences (self-provisioning) acts to render hegemonic concepts (market relations assumed necessary) visible.