Ethical foods after the global recession: navigating anxiety, morality and austerity (EN)
Giovanni Orlando
Cristina Grasseni (Utrecht University)
Heather Paxson (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Wednesday 11 July, 11:30-13:15, 14:30-16:15, Thursday 12 July, 9:00-10:45 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

Disquiet for the status quo has been a primary factor in the production and consumption of ethical food. This workshop will look at the role that a 'new' anxiety—that produced by the current altering of the relation between market and society—has on such moral-economic endeavours.

Long abstract:

Food plays a crucial role in generating, expressing and easing the anxiety that is intrinsic to capitalist modernity. Anthropologists have identified in particular 'ethical' foods as powerful symbols of people's current preoccupations about health, nature and others, humans and non. If these preoccupations have been the driver behind the production and consumption of such foods up to now, new powerful sources of anxiety have hit the globe since 2008: recession and austerity. The worries they provoke are different from those that led the growth of ethical food in the past, and potentially threaten its existence as we know it. Though it appeals to values, normativity and personal motivation, in fact, ethical food remains based on the possibility of selling and buying value-added commodities. Recession and austerity cast such possibility into deep uncertainty. We thus call for ethnographies that investigate the many ways in which producers and consumers may be seen to re-act across the world to the centrifugal pulls of these different sentiments. How do the former cope, in action and discourse, with their intention to produce responsibly, but also with consumers' 'belt-tightening'? How do the latter face up, for themselves and for others, to their desire to make principled purchases vis-à-vis declining incomes and poor job prospects? Or isn't austerity an issue for those involved in such matters? Ethical foods and the financial crisis offer an unprecedented opportunity to illuminate the long-standing debate about the role of affect and values on economy. This workshop will explore such opportunity.