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Don Nonini and Dorothy (Dottie) Holland–Co-PIs. In a multi-sited ethnographic study of local food activism in four regions of North Carolina, the researchers found 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, Nonini and Holland 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, conclude 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.

Read more about this project in CURS Winter 2015 newsletter. The preliminary results of this National Science Foundation-funded study were featured in the American Ethnologist, and other movement comparisons based on this research can be found in Outlines-Critical Practice Studies.