Articles | Volume 71, issue 3
Geogr. Helv., 71, 189–197, 2016

Special issue: Theorien der Praxis in der Geographie

Geogr. Helv., 71, 189–197, 2016

Standard article 24 Aug 2016

Standard article | 24 Aug 2016

Mixing space: affinitive practice and the insurgent potential of food

Benjamin Coles Benjamin Coles
  • Department of Geography, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK

Abstract. Recent debate in human geography has challenged the problematic "alternative"/"conventional" duality that characterises contemporary food provision. Within this binary, alternative food networks and initiatives (AFIs and AFNs) are positioned in opposition to more conventional, agri-capitalist modes of food production and distribution. Framing food around materially, discursively and spatially distinct, albeit relational, geographies not only reinforces this binary but also reaffirms the hegemony of agri-capitalism that alternative provision seeks to undo. Focusing on examples of artisanal and industrial bread production in the UK and the USA, this paper challenges such ontological framings. Drawing from conceptual insights into diverse economies and alternative economic spaces (e.g. Gibson-Graham, 1996:2004; Lee and Leyshon, 2003) and adopting an integrative approach to practice (Shove and Pantzar, 2005; Hand and Shove, 2007), this paper examines the practices that constitute artisanal and industrial baking. Specifically, it focuses on the ways in which embodied practices constitute the spaces of production for such foods. While acknowledging the considerable distances between the geographies that circumscribe these alternative and conventional foods, this paper argues that practices of food production narrow these distances, thereby destabilising the alternative/conventional binary. The geographies of food may mobilise an array of places, materials and ideologies, which are suggestive of two opposing systems of food provision, but practices of food production reveal an array of marginal spaces that challenge this. By reorienting critical attention onto these marginal spaces, the differences between artisanal and conventional food become blurred – and the affinities produced through normalised discourses and materialities of food are contested, resisted and disrupted. I argue these spaces are insurgent and that they come together through affinitive practices, which result in the potential for radical change within food provision.

Short summary
This paper examines artisanal and industrial baking practices to develop the notion of affinitive practice and insurgent space – practices through which affinities can be developed resulting in spaces with the radical potential to challenge the spatial logic of neo-liberal capitalism. It argues that if agri-capitalism seeks an automated and disembodied food system, than affinities through embodied experiences and practices within food production can challenge this hegemonic trope.