Alternative food networks

Alternative food networks

Damian Maye and James Kirwan Countryside and Community Research Institute, Cheltenham, UK

Abstract: A significant volume of social science research effort is being directed at examining food systems that are regarded as being in some way ‘alternative’ to ‘conventional’ ways of food provisioning. This article provides an up-to-date critical review of this work on alternative food networks (AFNs), with particular emphasis on debates about definition, the types of AFN studied and the main concepts applied to their analysis. An assessment of where debates on AFNs currently stand shows how the politics and practices of AFNs have come under critical scrutiny from sociologists and other agri-food scholars. The article ends by considering recent calls to move beyond a prevalent ‘alternative’–‘conventional’ dualism and makes suggestions for future theoretical and empirical studies, including a call for greater application of standard sociological categories of power, class, inequality and social justice. 

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