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Mucky Carrots and other proxies : problematising the knowledge fix for sustainable and ethical consumption.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date03/2008
JournalGeoforum
Journal number2
Volume39
Number of pages14
Pages1044-1057
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This paper uses evidence from focus groups in England to consider how consumers think about and, more importantly, distinguish foods by both primary and secondary qualities, using both their own judgement but also advice produced by various organisations acting as ‘knowledge intermediaries’, such as independent certification bodies. We thus consider the ‘sorting out’ that consumers do with food, particularly in developing typologies of ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’, and the cues on which they base these judgements, from the material immediacy of ‘mucky carrots’ to the abstract remoteness of organic certification. In particular, we problematise the ‘knowledge-fix’ that underlies attempts to provide knowledge to promote more sustainable and ethical consumption. This raises problems of how consumers give assurance schemes meaning, how ethical and sustainable schemes are subject to re-fetishization and how consumers tend towards increasing scepticism and distrust of such claims, thus making a ‘politics of reconnection’ far from easy.