London food co-ops: Negotiating structures, ideals and practicalities
(University of Exeter)
Paper short abstract:
Building on almost two years of ethnographic fieldwork with food co-ops in London, this paper explores the interplay between the structures, practices and ideals of the food co-op in creating inclusions and exclusions
Paper long abstract:
'There's always power' Lisa tells me as we discuss the 'flat structure' of Fareshares, a volunteer-run, not-for-profit, wholefood food co-op in London, UK. The consequences of this have included members accruing too much power, finding spaces to behave in combative ways, or (inadvertently) creating a less inclusive environment for people of different backgrounds or abilities. Inevitably, grassroots, retail food co-op participants bring their own (potentially conflicting) values, societal norms (Kadir, 2016) and lived experiences (Poletta, 2012) with them to these spaces. As well as informing the food that a co-op stocks, this has the potential to shape the rationality and social practices of the co-op and its members for better or for worse. Building on almost two years of ethnographic fieldwork with food co-ops in London, this paper explores the interplay between the structures, practices and ideals of the food co-op in creating inclusions and exclusions. As well as looking at the day to day dynamics of the food co-op, I argue that inclusion/exclusion can be a nexus within the co-operative imaginary in which participants try to differentiate or self-exclude their activities from mainstream economic or societal structures while also attempting to build a new and 'better' system out of the old. While this porosity between inside and out contributes to many of the daily tensions within food co-ops it can also be fundamental to ideals of transformation.
Ethnographies of food inclusion and exclusion [Anthropology of Food Network]