Accepted Paper:

"Chaos in the street, order in the kitchen": an ethnography of dumpster diving and activism amongst squatters in London  


Giovanna Capponi (University of Roehampton)

Paper short abstract:

Skipping (the British term for “dumpster diving”) is the action of collecting edible goods from the bins. This urban foraging technique redefines the notions of what is clean, edible and desirable, but it also represents a critique of the capitalist economic system.

Paper long abstract:

This paper, based on my fieldwork in London in 2012/2013, describes the consumption practices of some communities of squatters in London. One of most widespread and iconic practices connected to squatting is skipping: an urban foraging technique which implies recycling and transforming objects and food items that are collected from the bins. This peculiar way of providing goods not only serves as a survival strategy for low-income social categories living in the metropole, but also aims at criticising the large waste and the poor distribution of resources (not only housing properties) of the capitalist economic system. As already addressed by Dylan Clark in his work "The Raw and the Rotten: Punk Cuisine" (2004), Lévi-Strauss' culinary triangle, helps us interpreting how squatters and activists re-culturalise food items that have been saved the dumpsters and from the production-distribution chain. During this process of re-ordering food, squatters challenge the notion of what is clean, edible, desirable and exploitable according to new ethical and political criteria. These practices do not only involve personal choices of consumption, but also collective performances where re-claimed food is accumulated, prepared and re-distributed outside the community. The ways in which food is acquired, ordered and consumed reflects the composition and the organisation of the different social spaces, as well as their success in the political struggle.

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