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Alternative Food Networks, Relocalisation and the Urban Food Provision Regime, via the Multi-Level Perspective

Wed, September 4, 8:00 to 9:30am, Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, Floor: Five, Grand Ballroom B

Abstract

The food provision regime is contested as unsustainable by increasingly numerous food actors, often dubbed Alternative Food Networks (AFNs), who advocate transition, particularly through local producer/consumer reconnection, or re-localization. Linking sociotechnical transitions research to AFN studies, this thesis embeds AFNs into the Multi Level Perspective (Geels 2007), as niches in mutual friction with the regime. Regime reconfigurations, as evidenced in the internal questionings of three core regime institutions with regard to alternative and re-localized practices of agri-food production and distribution, are interpreted through archives and documentation using text analysis software and ethnographic observation. A birds-eye view of AFNs in the Paris Region, based on interviews and documentation, provides insights on a felicity of technological and organizational innovations, albeit motivated by heterogeneous values and approaches. The frictions thus empirically observed at the border between niches and regime, and multiple hybridities engendered, follow through into the thesis case-study of a hybrid AFN based on a tech-platform model with lightweight workforce and infrastructure (e.g. Airbnb, Uber), which structures a network of local food provisioning across France and abroad. Offering unusually rich and accessible data in an open-data manner, The Food Assembly is analyzed through mixed-methods using advanced textual analysis and network mapping software, as well as interviews, questionnaires and observations, to offer an exhaustive characterization of this hybrid AFN, which can powerfully reconfigure the AFN landscape. Its model, its polarization on certain food practices, and its spatial provisioning discrepancies, inform on the regime’s capacities and limitations in absorbing (AFN) critiques and innovations.

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