Is it local? A study about the social production of local and regional foods and goods
Sammanfattning: Local and regional products are often attributed positive qualities, such as a potential for developing Europe’s rural regions economically and reconnecting producers and consumers in more sustainable food systems. However, they are broad categories that include many different understandings. What is a local or a regional (food) product? Who gets to define and construct what products qualify as regional products and local food’? And most interestingly, what do these processes of meaning creation look like? This dissertation investigates the processes in which meaning and value are attributed to regional and local products. These processes are conceptualised as qualification and include sense-making, curating, positioning and labelling.Paper I focuses on sense-making and studies consumers’ everyday food choices. The study shows how these consumers talk similarly about local food but engage in surprisingly different food practices. I explain this finding by demonstrating how local food ideas are translated in practices influenced by identity work, social negotiation and logistics in the everyday. Paper II studies the role of curation for consumers’ ‘quest for good (local) food’. It shows how intermediaries, such as food apps and food boxes, curate, i.e. sort, evaluate and ascribe value(s) to products that, in turn, inform consumers’ food choice. Paper III focuses on positioning and presents a historical case study of the regional product Zeeland madder. I demonstrate that even if the link between a regional product and a place is highly unique, the ways in which a product obtains its regional identity is based on recognisable patterns in qualification. Paper IV focuses on labelling and evaluates theoretical explanations for the uneven distribution of labelled regional food over Europe through a statistical analysis. The findings highlight the need to differentiate between mechanisms for regional labels and those for regional food.I argue that the variety of understandings and practices constituting local and regional foods and goods often lie out of view; the general tendency is to assume that we all intuitively know what local and regional is. In this dissertation I problematise this tendency through an explicit focus on the processes that socially produce local and regional products.
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