Food Citizens? Advisory Board Meeting in Leiden
In January 2020, the team took a break from their respective field sites and travelled back to Leiden to take stock of their research progress and to host its third Advisory Board meeting at their home institution, the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology of Leiden University.
On January 20th, 2020 the Food Citizens? ERC team hosted its third Advisory Board meeting at their home institution, the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology of Leiden University. As the project proceeds and the three PhD candidates are conducting fieldwork in Gdańsk (Poland), Turin (Italy) and Rotterdam (The Netherlands), the team took a break from their respective field sites and travelled back to Leiden to take stock of their research progress.
In the course of a full day of presentations and discussions, Food Citizens? researchers benefitted from the Advisory Board’s expertise in collective food procurement initiatives, food banks, food policy and their relation to notions of citizenship, diversity and solidarity across diverse cultural and political contexts.
The members of the Board, from their unique perspective, provided food for thought and pointed toward potential directions for the team’s research goals. Colin Sage (visiting professor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo) studies food policy governance and civic engagement in sustainable food systems. Franscesca Forno from the University of Trento specializes in social movements and the reconfiguring of consumerism. Agata Bachórz researches food cultures in the post-socialist context at the University of Gdańsk. Jan-Willem van der Schans specializes in food chains, sustainability and entrepreneurship. Cees Bronsveld researches for the municipality of Rotterdam among other topics on urban agriculture and food policy.
Anthropologist Celia Plender from the Center for Rural Policy Research of Exeter University opened the day by presenting her research on two food cooperatives in London, particularly their closely interwoven connection with the history of mutualism and charity work in the United Kingdom. Defending notions of mutual aid and cooperation, those projects have provided persisting solidarity within a rapidly gentrifying urban environment. Making food affordable and accessible while providing fair prices to producers doesn’t come without tensions. Questions of inclusion, collective solidarity versus individual ethical commitments, and dependency on larger neoliberal economic structures remain highly relevant.
The team postdoc Federico De Musso presented a prototype of multimodal ethnography. Though an interactive documentary platform designed by him, we digitally navigated his fieldwork in the Pyrenees and “met” his research participants. By simulating fieldwork, this interactive platform allows one to follow the anthropologist in the field, be confronted with the choices one needs to make and come a step closer to the making of ethnographic knowledge. This initiated team discussion of how we can use an interactive digital platform for the Food Citizens? project.
Which entry point does Turin, Gdańsk and Rotterdam open up for anthropological research in the field of collective food procurement in European cities? Which social actors are involved? How do food politics correspond to or diverge from the overall sociopolitical climate of each case study? These were some of the questions the PhD candidates Maria Vasile, Ola Gracjasz and Vincent Walstra tackled during the presentation of their fieldwork research. In Turin, from neighborhood markets and Solidarity Purchase Groups (GAS), to urban gardens and food gleaning initiatives, a number of initiatives differently associate with ‘solidary’ and ‘diversity’, against the backdrop of significant urban transformations. In Gdańsk, rapid gentrification brings to the fore some unresolved tensions with the socialist past, as well as the challenges of capitalist restructuring. Social distrust and lack of trust in the state coexist with voluntarism associated with charitable giving. In Rotterdam, indicative of the social dynamics and politics of the harbor city, social entrepreneurship is readily taken up by diverse actors as the neoliberal paradigm becomes more pervasive in the Dutch second largest city - next to problems of gentrification, displacement and a shrinking public, non-commercial, sphere.