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Creating Food Commons

From Commodity to Common Pool Resource

Time: Fri 2024-05-31 09.30

Location: E3, Osquars Backe 2 and 14, Campus, public video conference

Video link:

Language: English

Subject area: Planning and Decision Analysis, Urban and Regional Studies

Doctoral student: Naomi Lipke , Urbana och regionala studier

Opponent: Universitetslektor Kristina Lindström, Malmö universitet

Supervisor: Professor Karin Bradley, Urbana och regionala studier; Dr Pernilla Hagbert, Urbana och regionala studier

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QC 20240513


Researchers, environmentalists, social justice activists and policy makers have long discussed the inherent environmental and social problems prevalent in food systems. This thesis explores ways in which foodsharing can be interpreted as a movement towards a future set of economic relationships that values environmental limits and the right of individuals to access food. Contributing to a growing body of literature, I argue that foodsharing demonstrates the ability for people to organize using alternative digital tools for collection and distribution of readily abundant resources without the need for significant government or business intervention, producing a type of commons relationship. 

The aim of the thesis is to explore what foodsharing, as a process of commoning, can teach us about alternative forms of economic and social exchanges. If alternative economic organizations are important for a just transition, social scientists need to go beyond arguments for their relevance to study their actual strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to support them. Drawing on theories of commons, prefigurative politics and just transitions, this thesis looks at an alternative economy organization which succeeds despite working against the status quo, to show where the social system around it is not designed to support it and asks what it might need to reach further. 

This is explored through the qualitative case study of a well-established foodsharing organization in a medium size city on the West coast of Sweden. Research questions focused on the political ideas used by the organization, the ways in which it was organized, and the reasons for and resolution of conflict. Through interviews, observations, and online research the case is elaborated upon and analyzed to reveal the unique dynamics of the studied organization. These include very specific rules for collecting and distributing food that aim to maintain transparency, solidarity, and fairness. The foodsharing organization displays some characteristics of a food commons and in other instances characteristics of a gift economy. The main contribution is a closer look at the resulting interpersonal and organizational dynamics of one alternative economy organization in order to illuminate some challenges of organizing and maintaining similar ventures in the future. If alternative economic organizations have social benefit, then they will need to be supported in the ways in which are appropriate to their form and politics.