Cultivating hope while getting into trouble with Community Food Initiatives

Session Convenors: 
Esther Veen (esther.veen@wur.nl)
Oona Morrow (oona.morrow@wur.nl),
Stefan Wahlen (stefan.wahlen@wur.nl)
Anke de Vrieze (anke.devrieze@wur.nl)

Community food initiatives (CFIs), such as community gardens or food waste initiatives, are often framed as hopeful solutions to our troubled food system. Yet the actual interrelations of hope and trouble are rarely interrogated in locally specific contexts. Hope and trouble are often employed in partial and limiting ways. CFIs are critiqued for being too hopeful, reproducing existing troubles (e.g. racism, power, privilege, and exclusion). Other readings strategically avoid the dominance of trouble, to leave space for hope and possibility. Neither approach is sufficient. Moreover, binary effects of hope and trouble can create methodological tensions that affect our own abilities to engage in action research that is both critical and reparative, hopeful and troubling.

The aim of this session is to develop new methodological, theoretical, and practice-based approaches for interrogating CFIs as sites of hope and trouble. Exploring diverse organizational forms, actors, benefits, and impacts enable an understanding of their hopes, best intentions, and generative capacities as well as their troubles, failures, and limitations. We are interested in new stories and tools for helping researchers and community food initiatives “get into trouble” in our food system.

We welcome empirically, methodologically, and/or theoretically driven papers and discussions that engage with the hope and trouble of community food initiatives, such as:    

  • Food waste initiatives
  • Food banks
  • Community gardens
  • Alternative food networks
  • Solidarity purchasing groups
  • Food Cooperatives
  • Social enterprises
  • Food advocacy organizations

We propose a format of two successive sessions. The first session follows the general structure of paper presentations followed by time for questions and short discussions. We use the second session for more thorough in-depth discussion. The first hour will be used for a world cafe setting to discuss recurrent themes in groups. We will use the last forty minutes for a ‘talk show’: we ask a representative from each table to come forward. We will then discuss the findings of each group by way of a talk show format: one interviewer asks questions to the representatives, potentially leading to discussions or an exchange of ideas. With this set-up we hope to elicit lively discussions on the topic, from various viewpoints and entry points.

Please contact the convenors to indicate whether you would like to present a paper and/or whether you would like to participate in the world cafe. Paper abstracts due by February 1st.

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