STRUCTURES AND MEANINGS IN SUBSISTENCE FOOD PRODUCTION: A PLURALISTIC, HORIZONTAL, POST-CAPITALIST SOCIAL MOVEMENT IN THE GLOBAL NORTH
Colby, Ashley Lynn
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Set in three distinct geographic field sites – urban, suburban and rural – in and around the larger Chicago metropolitan area, this dissertation explores how environmental sociology can be used to understand populations taking part in subsistence food production. My findings suggest that subsistence food production is part of a pluralistic, horizontal and amorphous set of social innovations that may be adaptations to both a post-capitalist future as well as a future of increasing environmental crises. Positive findings include how subsistence food producers are making community connections across surprising dimensions of difference, are enacting exciting pro-environmental behaviors whether or not they identify as environmentalists and are often engaging in the experimentation and development of alternative social arrangements. Negative findings include the fact some social meanings associated with subsistence food production are tied to class and can reinforce social boundaries, and that the decision to take part in subsistence food production follows a neoliberal logic of individualized political activism. Implications for this research suggest that in order to more fully understand emergent alternatives to environmental and other social problems, researchers must both cast their gaze on marginalized communities as well as embrace imperfect, paradoxical findings.