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Is it local?: A study about the social production of local and regional foods and goods
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social and Economic Geography.
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Local and regional products are often attributed positive qualities, such as a potential for developing Europe’s rural regions economically and reconnecting producers and consumers in more sustainable food systems. However, they are broad categories that include many different understandings. What is a local or a regional (food) product? Who gets to define and construct what products qualify as regional products and local food’? And most interestingly, what do these processes of meaning creation look like? This dissertation investigates the processes in which meaning and value are attributed to regional and local products. These processes are conceptualised as qualification and include sense-making, curating, positioning and labelling.

Paper I focuses on sense-making and studies consumers’ everyday food choices. The study shows how these consumers talk similarly about local food but engage in surprisingly different food practices. I explain this finding by demonstrating how local food ideas are translated in practices influenced by identity work, social negotiation and logistics in the everyday. Paper II studies the role of curation for consumers’ ‘quest for good (local) food’. It shows how intermediaries, such as food apps and food boxes, curate, i.e. sort, evaluate and ascribe value(s) to products that, in turn, inform consumers’ food choice. Paper III focuses on positioning and presents a historical case study of the regional product Zeeland madder. I demonstrate that even if the link between a regional product and a place is highly unique, the ways in which a product obtains its regional identity is based on recognisable patterns in qualification. Paper IV focuses on labelling and evaluates theoretical explanations for the uneven distribution of labelled regional food over Europe through a statistical analysis. The findings highlight the need to differentiate between mechanisms for regional labels and those for regional food.

I argue that the variety of understandings and practices constituting local and regional foods and goods often lie out of view; the general tendency is to assume that we all intuitively know what local and regional is. In this dissertation I problematise this tendency through an explicit focus on the processes that socially produce local and regional products.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Kulturgeografiska institutionen , 2014. , 69 p.
Series
Geographica, ISSN 0431-2023 ; 5
National Category
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-234568ISBN: 978-91-506-2428-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-234568DiVA: diva2:758621
Public defence
2014-12-12, Auditorium Minus Gustavianum, Akademigatan 3, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Formas
Available from: 2014-11-21 Created: 2014-10-21 Last updated: 2014-11-21
List of papers
1. Fridge stories.: How Swedish consumers qualify local food in everyday life
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Fridge stories.: How Swedish consumers qualify local food in everyday life
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Abstract. A growing group of Swedish consumers has become interested in local food. Various scholars and policymakers laud this development and consider the growing popularity of local food as a development towards a more sustainable food system. However, alongside its growing popularity, recent studies also problematise local food. They emphasise that local food lacks a generally accepted definition, thus inviting different connotations, such as sustainable, short-supply chain, small-scale. Studies also identify an uncritical usage of the concept that leaves unclear what local food and local-food practices entail. This study sets out to clarify what local-food practices are through answering the following question: How do people – interested in local food – source and value their food? Drawing on in-depth interviews, mapping exercises of food sourcing, and a discourse analysis, the study examines local-food choices of Swedish consumers. The central finding is it that though at discursive level consumers’ local-food ideas resemble each other, local-food practices differ widely. Local food is thus an open concept, harbouring many different practices. The study clarifies how consumers actively give meaning to local food and translate it into meaningful values influencing their food choice, a process that is here labelled as ’qualification’. The study furthermore demonstrates how social negotiation, identity work and the logistics of everyday life are key structuring elements in qualification processes of local food.

Keyword
local food, food practices, food discourse, everyday life, qualification
National Category
Other Humanities not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-234985 (URN)
Funder
Formas, 2009-310
Available from: 2014-10-27 Created: 2014-10-27 Last updated: 2014-10-27
2. Curating the quest for 'good food': The practices, spatial dynamics and influence of food-related curation in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Curating the quest for 'good food': The practices, spatial dynamics and influence of food-related curation in Sweden
2015 (English)In: Geoforum, ISSN 0016-7185, E-ISSN 1872-9398, Vol. 64, 205-216 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

What is ‘good food’? Is it fair trade, local, organic or ethically produced? With an ever-expanding array of products and ‘qualities’ to consider, consumers in the global North may find it increasingly difficult and time-consuming to make the ‘right’ choices. As a result, a range of intermediaries, including food apps and collective buying groups, are emerging to support people in their food choices. While intermediation refers to all activities linking producers and consumers, this paper narrows the focus and considers one important, yet poorly understood, intermediary function within the food marketplace: ‘curation.’ Although the concept of curation has long been associated with museums and art worlds, curatorial practices are evolving in the contemporary marketplace and are performed by a growing range of actors operating in physical, temporary and virtual spaces. Rather than acting as brokers or gatekeepers, curators interpret, translate and shape the marketplace by sorting, organizing, evaluating and ascribing value(s) to specific products. They also offer general and personalized recommendations to consumers. Drawing on interviews and participant observation, this paper aims to contribute to the existing literature on curation by examining curatorial practices, the motivations behind them and the values they create for consumers. As geographers we are particularly interested in how specific spatial dynamics shape curation and its outcomes. The findings suggest a need to nuance and extend existing conceptualizations of curation and to consider a wider and more dynamic range of actors (food apps), spaces (blogs) and values such as inspiration, convenience and sense of community.

National Category
Social Sciences Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-234986 (URN)10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.06.024 (DOI)000359887800021 ()
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 2009-310
Available from: 2014-10-27 Created: 2014-10-27 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
3. The making and re-making of a regional product: The case of Zeeland madder
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The making and re-making of a regional product: The case of Zeeland madder
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Regional products play an increasingly important role in European economies and policies. The economic value of these products is considerable, and they are frequently regarded as significant generators of rural and regional development. But what processes underlie the formation of a regional product? While literature has rightly called for attention to be paid to the contextual nature of regional products, this article aims to take a progressive step within the discourse and explore if – given the contextual nature of regional products – specific patterns can be identified that serve to make products regional. To this end I investigate the qualification of a reinvented agricultural product, madder (Rubia tinctorum), which was grown to produce dyestuff, in Zeeland, The Netherlands. Based on the case of Zeeland madder and a comparison with other regional products I identify five qualification patterns, namely essentialism, strategic positioning, identity work, internal mobilisation and localising control. These patterns cross the divide between economy and culture and show how both elements become interwoven in the process of making products ‘‘regional’’. Moreover the patterns usefully highlight the hybridity of regional products, i.e. their association with alternative food networks and conventional food networks.

National Category
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-234988 (URN)
Funder
Formas, 2009-310
Available from: 2014-10-27 Created: 2014-10-27 Last updated: 2014-10-27
4. Why are labels of Geographical Indication unevenlydistributed across Europe?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Why are labels of Geographical Indication unevenlydistributed across Europe?
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-205269 (URN)
Available from: 2013-08-15 Created: 2013-08-15 Last updated: 2014-01-13

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