Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Food Citizens? Collective Food procurement in European cities: solidarity and diversity, skills and scale

Cristina Grasseni’s project "Food citizens? Collective food procurement in European cities: solidarity and diversity, skills and scale" examines the premises and consequences of collective food acquisition in three European cities (Rotterdam, Turin and Gdańsk).

2017 - 2022
Cristina Grasseni
European Research Council European Research Council

Food as a mediator of citizenship 
Considerable attention goes to ‘smart’ urban food procurement, with little notice of the cultural diversity within Europe.  For a growing urban population (80% by 2050), food is a mediator of relations within social networks, not only a commodity or nutrient. Eaters are not just consumers but social actors whose meaning-making depend on faith, gender, age, income, or kinship. How we procure and share food is thus central to cultural understandings of citizenship: the project studies in-depth nine cases of collective food procurement across three European cities, asking if collective food procurement networks indicate emerging forms of ‘food citizenship’, or if they concomitantly co-produce hegemonic notions of participation and belonging – and either way, how.

Sustainability in three European cities 
Challenging stereotypical imaginaries of European urbanites, multilevel comparison in Rotterdam, Turin and Gdańsk will investigate three types of collective food procurement networks (a. urban foraging; b. short food chains; c. local food governance) in post-industrial cities, considering the dimensions of solidarity, diversity, skill and scale of action.

Aims and Methods
Ethnographically, we investigate how collective food procurement networks engage with and through food: how do they interpret and articulate solidarity? Which skills do they acquire or lack? How do they operate across and within diverse communities? Do they scale ‘up’ or ‘out’, and how?

Conceptually, we deliver a critical theory of food citizenship, adding a ‘meso’ level of sociocultural analysis to food scenarios, which mostly focus on the ‘macro’ (food systems) or ‘micro’ (individual deliberations and habituated reflexes) scale.

Methodologically, we match in-depth fieldwork observation with participants’ narratives, using pioneering digital visual media to deliver collaborative and immersive ‘thick descriptions’ of their experiences and trajectories. Societal and local government stakeholders have granted access and will benefit from comparative insights.

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