The defining characteristics of alternative food initiatives in Ireland: a social movement battling for an alternative food future?
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University College Cork
Alternative food initiatives (AFIs) have been described as an attempt to change and improve aspects of how the food system operates. They are focused around more traditional, local and sustainable food production and circulation. AFIs such as farmers’ markets, allotments and community gardens, share a desire to reduce the number of steps food goes through from production to plate. The role of these initiatives in the food system, and their potential to impact real change, has however been questioned. Working to better understand this issue is a central concern of this research. To do this a two tier analysis has been deployed. The first tier involves identifying the characteristics and general dynamics of AFIs. Bourdieu’s theory of practice, and the theories of field and capital, are the concepts applied. The research then uses these findings in the second tier of analysis concerned with relating AFI characteristics and dynamics back to their key traits, positive and negative, as well as arguments made about AFI’s role identified from previous research. Another part of this second tier of analysis is exploring if AFIs, the producers, consumers, organisations and groups that make up this phenomenon, can be considered a social movement. AFIs can be referred to collectively as a social movement, but are not often explored theoretically from this perspective. AFIs in Ireland provide the empirical context for this research. A series of qualitative interviews in four areas of Ireland, as well as evidence from primary and secondary sources are analysed. The research finds that AFIs can be understood as the potential beginnings of a lifestyle social movement. Leaders are of central importance to its development. It is also found that an important role of AFIs is revitalising, supporting and contributing to food culture.
Bourdieu , Alternative food networks , Alternative food initiatives , Farmers' markets , Grow your own , Social movements
Murtagh, A. 2015. The defining characteristics of alternative food initiatives in Ireland: a social movement battling for an alternative food future? PhD Thesis, University College Cork.