Accepted Paper:

What is natural food? Dichotomies at the Farmers' Market  

Author:

Ewa Kopczynska (Jagiellonian University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper problematizes the concept of naturalness in the FM’s clients representations of natural food. Since their definitions crosscut the nature-culture opposition, the demarcation line between natural and unnatural food rather goes along different models of human-nonhuman coproduction.

Paper long abstract:

The paper problematizes the concept of naturalness in the collective representation of natural food. Based on the analysis of interviews with Polish farmers' markets clients (Malopolska region), it reveals the cognitive frames, values and behaviors composing "the natural". Buying fresh food at farmers' market is a complex process, where accurate distinction are made. Therefore choosing the natural food is demarcating fresh and bad, local and imported, seasonal and non-seasonal, produced traditionally or industrially. Moreover, the definition of natural food comprises relationship between humans and non-humans (animals, land). The results of analysis demonstrate that FM's clients' concept of natural food production is not based on nature-culture opposition. Natural food is defined as being part of socionature, social-natural system characterized by particular ethics, cultural norms, patterns of relations. It is defined in opposition to food produced in "inhuman" way, i.e. immoderate, without respect, morality and compassion. The category of rotten food appears to be precisely regulated in kind of culture-nature 'rulebook'. According to these rules the expected intervention of nature (weather conditions, insects, microorganisms etc.) in growing apples is very different than accepted non-human contingencies in meat or dairy production. Therefore some 'natural' dirt on carrots is welcomed and it makes the carrots raw and pure, but the same dirt on cheese make it spoiled. In my paper I will argue that the cognitive frames of everyday food practices crosscut the nature-culture opposition. The demarcation line between natural and unnatural food rather goes along different models of human-nonhuman coproduction.

Panel P103
From nature to culture? Lévi-Strauss' legacy and the study of contemporary foodways