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Politics of possibility

May 14, 2012

I love that phrase – “politics of possibility”!

In their analysis of the Otago Farmers’ Market, Parkins and Craig found that it promoted an “openness—to time, new knowledges, new (forms of) social exchanges in new contexts—which “render[s] the familiar city space unfamiliar” (94). Their analysis is so interesting, but I couldn’t help wondering what role literature might play here… in its depictions of food, city spaces, social exchanges, etc… this is something I just need to think about more. Meanwhile, ….

Parkins and Craig write: “While most of those surveyed drew a connection between the farmers’ market and an enhanced sense of community, this was not perceived as either a static quality or a confirmation of an already established community. Rather, the farmers’ market was seen as an active process of community-building in ways which required respondents to reevaluate or think differently about their situatedness in local everyday spaces. One respondent, for instance, noting that the market has “helped engender a sense of community,” singled out the greater ease of “talking to strangers at the market” which resulted in a wider sphere of interaction and a greater awareness of diversity within the local. Another respondent recorded that the market had encouraged her “to think about the benefits of living here” in new ways, while a third stated, “I just feel very grateful to the people who managed to make the concept actually happen.” Feelings of gratitude, interest and engagement, that is, did not reconfirm existing feelings of familiarity and belonging; instead, they provided people with opportunities to foster an active awareness of intersubjective ways of being. Such responses reveal a reflexive understanding of place, one in which the familiar was rendered unfamiliar in positive ways.” (95)

In the space of the farmers’ market, then, we may see a small, but far from trivial, example of “openness”—to difference, to the other—which an ethical community requires.” (95)

Parkins and Craig continue: “Farmers’markets, “as a nexus of the mundane and the alternative” (Holloway and Kneafsey 2004: 272), are particularly rich in possibility for thinking about the spatialization of affect as a political opportunity for transforming subjects and communities. At a time when the boundaries of the political are increasingly susceptible to “new linkages,” participation in farmers’ markets may be understood not only as a means of challenging conventional food networks but making possible a “living politics of social life” (Highmore 2004: 319; see also Beck 1999: 40; Holloway and Kneafsey 2004: 278–9).” (95)

Parkins and Craig also write: “Gibson-Graham, for instance, discovered that pleasurable gatherings (often focused on food) provided the most productive opportunities for generating dialogues and conversations through which participants could begin to reorient their understandings and practices of community, citizenship and the economy, to see things otherwise and participate in a “politics of possibility” (Gibson- Graham 2003: 65–7; 2006b: xxvii).” (94)

(I loved this article, by the way)


Ref: Wendy Parkins and Geoffrey Craig (2009) ‘Culture and the Politics of Alternative Food Networks’ Food, Culture & Society 12(1)March; 77-103

Reference is made to:  Gibson-Graham, J. K. 2002. Beyond Global vs. Local: Economic Politics Outside the Binary Frame. In: A. Herod and M. W. Wright (eds) Geographies of Power: Placing Scale. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 25–60.   Gibson-Graham, J. K. 2003. An Ethics of the Local. Rethinking Marxism 15(1): 49–74.   Gibson-Graham, J. K. 2006a. The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.   Gibson-Graham, J. K. 2006b. A Postcapitalist Politics. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.    Holloway, L. and Kneafsey, M. 2004. Producing-Consuming Food: Closeness, Connectedness and Rurality in Four Alternative Food Networks. In: Holloway, L. and Kneafsey, M. (eds) Geographies of Rural Cultures and Societies. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp.262–282.

FYI: the abstractfor Parkins and Craig’s article (cited above) reads: 

“Much of the existing research on emerging alternative food networks has not sufficiently recognized the importance of culture and we seek to address this omission. Through two case studies of global and local forms of alternative food networks respectively, we demonstrate the centrality and complexity of the workings of culture in the places, practices and politics of alternative food networks. Firstly, a study of Slow Food’s Terra Madre forum illustrates the negotiation that occurs between cultural formations and global flows in an attempt to deploy cultural values to protect and enhance alternative food networks. Secondly, the Otago Farmers’ Market is examined as an instance of an affective cultural space which can engender the formation of ethical subjectivity and political potential. In each case, our analysis is motivated by a desire to explore the political possibilities of alternative food networks.”

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