April 24, 2015
In a presentation today called “Two, One, or No Local Food Movement(s) in North Carolina? The Significance of Local Activism in the Current Conjuncture,” Don Nonini and Dorothy Holland, both of the UNC Department of Anthropology, presented their findings from a multi-sited ethnographic study of local food activism in four regions of North Carolina. After describing the objectives, methodology, and the rationale for four different sites, they summarized their broad finding: there are major differences between food security and sustainable agriculture activisms, and neither one constitutes a social movement.
Although they found considerable social activism around local foods, they asked: in what sense was this activism significant or transformative? They employed the work of J.K. Gibson-Graham in A Postcapitalist Politics (2006) to query the political status of local food activism in North Carolina. Nonini and Holland concluded that although local activisms around either food security or sustainable agriculture have not generated social movements, they nonetheless play a critical role in democracy under the current political conditions of dominant neoliberal discourse and the operation of the U.S. corporate state.
At a time in American politics when effective democratic politics by citizens are blocked and demobilized at state and national levels, said the researchers, local efforts around issues such as food production provide a crucial setting for vital democratic practice, allowing for the play of agency and of the imagination, and the cultural construction of new figured worlds.