Sowing the Seeds of a Collective Autonomy: An Analysis of Post-Capitalist Possibilities in Food-Based Livelihoods

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Wilson, Amanda




This dissertation explores the existence and diverse manifestations of post-capitalist possibilities within food-based livelihoods in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. Highlighting the experiences, motivations and relationships of farmers interested in a food economy 'done differently,' my research analyzes how these possibilities are reconciled with day-to-day negotiations of making a living. Food has long been a driver and tool of social change, however, in recent years there has been a groundswell of interest in food provisioning as a site of social and economic experimentation in both academic and popular discourse. This excitement is juxtaposed against an increasingly difficult situation for farmers, as they struggle to stay afloat in the face of an often hostile political and economic climate. Farmers offer a unique vantage point to explore post-capitalist possibilities because their experimentation and envisioning of alternatives is deeply grounded within their livelihood and the challenges they face to sustain it.

Drawing on new theoretical and analytical tools provided by poststructuralist approaches to political economy and ANT, as well as the diverse economies and Alternative Food Network literatures, this project calls for an understanding of the economy and food provisioning that is situated and in flux, holding space for the material needs of survival as well as the values, desires and relationships that give our lives and livelihoods meaning. Through in-depth conversations with farmers, as well as interviews with key stakeholders in alternative and local food movements, and an auto-ethnographic analysis, my project curates a collection of stories and experiences that speak to a particular kind of farm, farmer subject and food network within a diverse and complex food landscape. This research suggests that the kind of experimentation taking place points towards an emerging collective autonomy: post-capitalist possibilities based in a disengagement from hegemonic forces and structures by building relationships of mutual aid and reciprocity and a collective sense of self. Through a complex process of coping and prefiguring, these farmers are finding innovative ways to make ends meet that are both reactive and transformative in their orientation.






Carleton University

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