We are living in the age of the celebrity farmer, in which farmers can gain “rock-star” status for their sustainable farming techniques and gastronomic partnerships – but also for their identity, self-branding, education, and marketing activities on social media (Phillpov and Goodman 2017). Social media platforms such as Instagram, and the companies that profit through them, have the potential to reinforce dominant identities and “brands.” At the same time they are also being used to make more marginalized identities, food knowledges, movements, and narratives visible (Wilson, forthcoming). The interplay between these food spaces, identities, and technologies is investigated through the concept of digital foodscapes (Goodman et al. 2017).
The digital foodscapes of agri-food work are changing the face of farming, and have the potential to upset and challenge existing stereotypes and perceptions of farm workers and rural spaces. In the U.S. for example, where 60% of farmers are foreign born (largely from Central and South America) and 30% are women, the image of farmers as white and male still dominates in mainstream media and food marketing. In a different vein, the current political landscape in the U.S. could give the (erroneous} impression of rural spaces as white, right wing and nationalist, and urban spaces as diverse, liberal and progressive. The visibility of other kinds of farmer identities in digital foodscapes may play an important role in interrupting, bringing to light, or challenging the “demographic fever dreams and fantasies” that shape perceptions of the rural and urban (Gokariskel et al.).
This research will develop comparative case studies in connection with social media accounts and hashtags that promote the activities (and identities) of women farmers (e.g. @Womenwhofarm) and queer farmers (e.g. @Queerswhofarm) on Instagram. The research will explore which identities are made visible, how, where, and for whom. While also applying feminist and queer theory to critically examine the kinds of identities and performances that gain traction and power in these digital foodscapes, and who might be excluded. The overall aim of this research is to develop a better understanding of the role that social media technologies can play in reimagining agri-food work, workers, and spaces.
Start date: Spring or Summer 2019
- You have some training in qualitative methods and critical social theory
- You are an interested in gender and sexuality and sustainable agri-food systems
- You are willing to develop new methodologies and tools for analysing social media
- You are registered for one of the following MSc programmes: MID, MCS, MLP, MFT, or MOA
- You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or relevant social science courses)
Questions? Please get in touch!
Supervisor: Oona Morrow (RSO) firstname.lastname@example.org
Works Cited & Further Reading:
Farm Aid: Immigration and the food system (2019) https://www.farmaid.org/blog/fact-sheet/immigration-and-the-food-system/ (last accessed 3/8/19)
Gokariskel, B., Neubert, C., & Smith, S. (2019). Demographic Fever Dreams: Fragile Masculinity and Population Politics in the Rise of the Global Right. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 44(3), 561–587.
Gokariskel et al. (2017) CALL FOR PAPERS (AAG 2017): Demographic fantasies and fever dreams: taco trucks, lesbian farmers, burkini bans, and the basket of deplorables
Gold, M. and Thompson, B. (2019) U.S. Statistics on Women and Minorities on Farms and in Rural Areas. USDA, https://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/us-statistics-women-and-minorities-farms-and-rural-areas
Goodman, M. K., Johnston, J., & Cairns, K. (2017). Food, media and space: The mediated biopolitics of eating. Geoforum, 84(Supplement C), 161-168.
Jarosz, L. (2011). Nourishing women: toward a feminist political ecology of community supported agriculture in the United States. Gender, Place, and Culture, 18(3), 307–326.
Leslie, I. S. (2017). Queer farmers: Sexuality and the transition to sustainable agriculture. Rural Sociology, 82(4), 747-771
Morrow, O., Hawkins, R., & Kern, L. (2015). Feminist research in online spaces. Gender, Place & Culture, 22(August), 526–543.
Phillipov, M., & Goodman, M. K. (2017). The celebrification of farmers: celebrity and the new politics of farming. Celebrity Studies, 8(2), 346-350.
Queerswhofarm (2019) https://www.instagram.com/queerswhofarm/ (last accessed 3/8/19)
Slocum, R., & Saldanha, A. (Eds.). (2016). Geographies of race and food: Fields, bodies, markets. Routledge..
Wilson, A. (forthcoming) Vegan Instagram Influencers: A critical analysis of the discourses around food, consumerism, and responsibility. Msc Thesis: Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen University
Womenwhofarm (2019) https://www.instagram.com/womenwhofarm/?hl=en (last accessed 3/8/19)