Food has long been a site and tool of social transformation, however, in recent decades the multi-functionality of food – as labour, nourishment, culture and commodity – has sparked even greater interest in the possibilities of food system transformation, and transformation through food. As interest in food system transformation has grown and diversified, the food movement has undergone a significant evolution, transitioning from small placed-based initiatives to a complex ecosystem of diverse actors and organizations (Levkoe 2014). This has resulted in a considerable shift in its orientation towards the state, capitalism and its theory of change. Amid concerns that food movement discourse has pivoted towards individualizing and market-based neoliberal conceptualizations of social change, along with an increasingly collaborative and multi-stakeholder orientation to strategies of change, we can the (re)emergence of two new frames: commoning and confrontation. On the one hand, there is a growing interest in, and discussion of, food system commoning – spaces and social relations built on the collective use and ownership of shared resources and a practice of being in-common with one another. At the same time, there are calls for food movement actors to adopt a more confrontation food politics, to target and push back against the manifestations of corporate and state power rather than focus on the construction of alternative enclaves or models of food done differently.
This project brings these two parallel food movement discourses into conversation, tracing and evaluating the ways in which food movement actors attempt to articulate and enact visions of food system transformation that embody a collective and confrontation food politics.
Rather than view commoning and confrontation as an either/or dichotomy, this research will explore the possibilities for an integrated food politics which attends to both of these frames, opening up new ways of conceptualizing and engaging in food systems transformation.