RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


139 Eater-Eaten Material Formations In, Against, and Beyond Consumer Relationships
Affiliation Food Geographies Working Group
Convenor(s) Suzanne Hocknell (University of Exeter, UK)
Chair(s) Suzanne Hocknell (University of Exeter, UK)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Session abstract In popular culture and in the media consumers are rebuked for being fatter than is good for health, more reliant on animal products than is good for the climate, and more reliant on global networks than is good for communities. Consuming well is framed as a responsibility to ourselves, our families, institutions and nation; and to the future of our planet. To this end, a multitude of campaigns attempt to re-educate consumers into ‘better’ / more caring food consumption practices by unveiling some of the bodies, relationships, ecosystems or power structures entangled behind the label. Such campaigns, however, do little to trouble the conceptualisation of non-human bodies as a resource that can be commoditised.
The bodies and relationships of consumer and consumed are co-constructed and remade with-in the structures, tellings, affects, and performances of consumption. Naming the Other as consumable frames the eater and the eaten as different kinds of things. Naming the Other as consumable frames the Other as a thing that can be reduced to commodity. A thing that may be cared for, but is destined to cease to become. Yet eating is already and always excessive to framings where one consumes the Other. Eater and eaten fold together, co-creating new material formations within and beyond the body of the eater (Probyn 2000), (Mol, 2008). This session invites papers that explore the co-creation of eater-eaten material formations in, against, and beyond consumer relationships. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:How the bodies and relationships of consumer and consumed are co-constructed and re-made within the beliefs, tellings, affects, and performances of consumption; The limitations of framing eater and eaten as consumer and consumed;Material formations co-created within eater-eaten encounters, practices and systems; Human and non-human resistance to consumed-consumer relationships;Possibilities for convivial eater-eaten encounters, practices and systems
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Lost in the supermarket? The metaphor of the consumer as a tool for improving access to food
Laura Colebrooke (Cardiff University, UK)
The mundane necessity of a trip to the supermarket is central to many other food practices, yet is often overlooked in the study of sensory food knowledge. This is despite the ways in which, as we move around supermarkets, our affective and sensory experiences are deliberately enrolled in the project of buying food. Sights, smells, sounds, spaces, tastes and affects are all manipulated in the hope of engendering particular reactions with food.

Critical scholars of consumption are keen to dissociate the richness of cultural and embodied food practices from the act of buying food (Graeber 2011, Wilk 2004), yet this disconnection is perhaps a luxury afforded only to those who are spared the worry of knowing where their next meal will come from.

Following the assertion that food practices are always already messy entanglements which traverse bodies (Mol 2008) I consider the limits and potentials of the metaphor of 'consumption' in the performance of the supermarket shop for those who are food insecure. To do so I use findings from two organisations which enable or recreate a supermarket experience for those who struggle to access food. The first through though providing transport and the second by distributing emergency food aid through a mock supermarket setting. Through these mobile food encounters, I consider: What capacities emerge through the particular configurations of settings, materials devices and affects of the supermarket model? How might these enrich our understanding of consumption? And can a supermarket make space for a more-than-human ethics of care?
Plants eating fish? On the relations of consumption in aquaponics
James Gott (University of Southampton, UK)
My current research delves into an emerging field of food production known as 'aquaponics' – the combination of aquaculture with hydroponics in a multitrophic ecosystem. Thrusting together fish, plants, bacteria and technology into novel formations, these (eco)systems often seek to challenge current modes of global consumption by closing energetic and nutritional loops. The promise of food production with a reduced ecological footprint and has captured the imaginations and energies of diverse groups ranging from university research networks, the industrial food industry, and community activists alike. My ethnographic and participatory investigations aim to follow some of these groups as they pioneer food futures. Thus far, these ambitions have taken me to two very different aquaponic assemblages. Firstly, Belgium, into the Integrated and Urban Plant Pathology Laboratory of Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, where I worked with scientists analysing the performance of a prototype urban "Plant and Fish Food" unit – an ecosystem built into a shipping container with integrated greenhouse on top. Secondly, I am an active member of the 'Bristol Fish Project', a community supported aquaponics project in Europe's Green Capital 2015, where we seek to learn what is at stake when our cosmopolitical present is actively engaged with. Utilizing the theoretical resources from the fields of more-than-human Geographies, animal-studies and STS, I aim to discuss how eating and being eaten are brought into a very proximate and intimate relief in the everyday running of these systems.
Barriers and opportunities for reducing meat consumption in Scottish consumers
David McBey (University of Aberdeen, UK)
David Watts (University of Aberdeen, UK)
There is a growing body of research arguing that meat consumption patterns in the Western world, and increasingly elsewhere, are environmentally unsustainable. Added to this are health and ethical concerns surrounding the (over)eating of meat. In response, it is argued that action must be taken in order to reduce meat consumption. However, putting such change into action presents a variety of challenges that need to be addressed from multiple disciplinary perspectives.

This paper discusses the findings of research being conducted by the authors which attempts to understand, using qualitative methods, the barriers and opportunities that exist to the acceptance of a diet comprising less meat and more plant-based proteins among groups of Scottish consumers that are considered, on the basis of their socio-demographic characteristics, to be more or less likely to be receptive to making such a change. It will be argued that a better understanding of consumer (non)acceptance of efforts to promote a lower meat diet, based on a qualitative understanding of their meat consumption practices and beliefs, is a vital if the ethical, public health and environmental sustainability challenges of heavy meat consumption are to be addressed successfully.
Introducing activist bodywork: anthropophagy in anti-apartheid and anti-trafficking activism
Hugh Crosfield (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
The paper introduces activist bodywork as the empirical and sensate methods deployed by boycotting and ethical consumption movements. Studying activist bodywork means placing bodies and animate materialisms at the heart of social movement politics. In bringing scholarship on the material production of bodies to recent geographical research on food and ethical consumption, the paper argues that social movements use commodities and bodies to cultivate specific emotions crucial to activism. I propose that analyses of these socio-material connective practices sheds new light on the public ethics of campaigning organizations and discloses a material critique of the ways in which connective tropes between producers and consumers are co-opted as forms of moral and cultural capital. These arguments are developed through an engagement with the anti-apartheid campaigns of the Dutch anti-apartheid organization, Boycott Outspan Action, and the chocolate activism of the contemporary anti-trafficking coalition, Stop The Traffik.
When bodies eat food politics
Ann Bartos (University of Auckland, New Zealand)
This paper experiments with how we come to know food and food politics. Through an autoethnographic sensory journey, this paper presents a challenge: what happens when intellectual knowledge is confronted with corporal sensations? Political economic accounts of the current state of unsustainable, unethical, and uncooperative agricultural production and consumption prepare us to understand injustice with our minds. However, eating food, regardless of how politically correct it may be, requires us to learn and understand food in visceral, embodied, and intimate ways. This can leave us with distinctly uncomfortable sensations while our body and mind attempts to reconcile contradictions that arise. This paper attempts to imagine what is politically possible if we are to eat with both our minds and our bodies.