Mixing space: affinitive practice and the insurgent potential of food

Coles, Benjamin

Recent debate in human geography has challenged the problematic "alternative"/"conventional" duality that characterises contemporary food provision. Within this binary, alternative food networks and initiatives (AFIs and AFNs) are positioned in opposition to more conventional, agri-capitalist modes of food production and distribution. Framing food around materially, discursively and spatially distinct, albeit relational, geographies not only reinforces this binary but also reaffirms the hegemony of agri-capitalism that alternative provision seeks to undo. Focusing on examples of artisanal and industrial bread production in the UK and the USA, this paper challenges such ontological framings. Drawing from conceptual insights into diverse economies and alternative economic spaces (e.g. Gibson-Graham, 1996:2004; Lee and Leyshon, 2003) and adopting an integrative approach to practice (Shove and Pantzar, 2005; Hand and Shove, 2007), this paper examines the practices that constitute artisanal and industrial baking. Specifically, it focuses on the ways in which embodied practices constitute the spaces of production for such foods. While acknowledging the considerable distances between the geographies that circumscribe these alternative and conventional foods, this paper argues that practices of food production narrow these distances, thereby destabilising the alternative/conventional binary. The geographies of food may mobilise an array of places, materials and ideologies, which are suggestive of two opposing systems of food provision, but practices of food production reveal an array of marginal spaces that challenge this. By reorienting critical attention onto these marginal spaces, the differences between artisanal and conventional food become blurred – and the affinities produced through normalised discourses and materialities of food are contested, resisted and disrupted. I argue these spaces are insurgent and that they come together through affinitive practices, which result in the potential for radical change within food provision.

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Coles, Benjamin: Mixing space: affinitive practice and the insurgent potential of food. 2016. Copernicus Publications.

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