Food Studies Reading Group: Visceral Politics, Vital Materialism, and Food Politics!

Published by Ferne Edwards on the 23rd June 2016.

Food Studies Reading Group: Visceral Politics, Vital Materialism, and Food Politics!

For our first food studies reading group on 16th June we chose three review pieces, published in the journal Progress in Human Geography, authored by Michael Goodman, Ian Cook et al., and Chaira Tornaghi. This journal publishes review pieces on specific debates and concepts in human geography – so we thought it could be a good starting place for taking the pulse on contemporary debates in food geography and becoming familiar with a diversity of concepts and approaches. SHARECITY researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds in anthropology, political science, psychology, earth sciences, urban studies, and geography. Our hope in choosing these pieces is that they could provide us with a shared vocabulary for grounding our diverse research interests in food studies.

The three articles converged around the themes of political ecology, visceral geographies, vital materialism, and food politics. The articles by Goodman and Cook et al. introduced us to a lot of new theories and concepts around affect, vibrant materialism, and visceral geographies that opened up the scales, relationalities, and strategies for practicing and analysing food politics. The paper by Cook at al. was based on an online blog conversation as a part of a three paper series reviewing work within and beyond the territories of ‘food geographies.’ Tornaghi’s paper, alternatively, discussed urban agriculture from a historical planning perspective with the goal to define an agenda for a critical geography of urban agriculture. We were impressed by how each of these pieces sought to bring together divergent perspectives, theoretical approaches, knowledge and understandings in new ways.

Our conversation circled around the themes of power and privilege, and the desire and demand for “good” food that infuses everyday food practices and food politics. Topics of discussion included representational / non-representational methods and theories; critical animal geographies and the place of animals in the city; how different foods become appropriate at different times and contexts, such as during times of austerity; the influence of politics and economy on taste; and the role of affect, emotion, and reflexivity in food research. Food geographies proved to be fertile grounds for exploring the differences between individual and collective social action and for what it means to live “the good life.” As of all robust discussions, we came away with wanting to delve deeper into various aspects of the research and now have a long list of papers we’d like to discuss for next time!

Thanks especially to Holly and Sean for joining our reading group. You each brought unique perspectives on food, activism, political economy, and postcolonial and social theory that greatly enriched our discussion. More scholars are welcome so feel free to spread the word!

The next Reading Group is:

12:45pm – 2:00pm, Thursday, July 14, 2016
The Freeman Library, Museum Building, Trinity College Dublin

We’ll be in touch about possible readings very soon! If you know of someone who would like to attend the Reading Group or have any questions, please email Ferne or Oona at or


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