Overheating seminar with Sílvia Gómez Mestres: 'Decommodification for a just and "sustainable" economy: food values in self-managed organic food supply chains in Catalonia

Sílvia Gómez Mestres

Associate professor, Department of Social Anthropology, Autonomous University of Barcelona

Trevor Nickolls: Warmun Mandala © Trevor Nickolls/BONO


The differentiation between industrial and small-scale organic farming, have contributed to the segmentation of the organic food market. This segmentation is based on values emerging from the relations that social actors establish with what we eat. Values such as taste, wellbeing, social and environmental commitment, become embodied in prices, and take meaning from the traditional production/consumption dichotomy underpinned by the classical market division. The relation between good (commodity) and social actors has been anchored in these division-centered notions. Furthermore, the organic food segment of the market system is tied to social processes (e.g. social distinction extracted from the food’s associated values) that effect the unequal distribution of food of quality. This paper will focus on production-distribution self-managed supply chains for organic food in Catalonia which establish exchanges that range from reciprocity and barter (by social currency) to market exchanges without intermediaries and supported by various on-line platforms. In the sense that these exchanges are based on reciprocal socio-ecological relationships that close the production-distribution-and-consumption cycle, the organic food values are mutually constituted in relation to the ecologic, economic, and social relationships that each person experiences based on this cooperation process. Despite contradictions resulting from the not-total emancipation of these supply chains from the more standardised ones, the participants’ everyday food provisioning process attempts to make the (taken-for-granted) industrial food system seem strange. This food activism is lived as contributing to a process of decommodification of food and change toward a sustainable economy which turn these practices into a political project.

Published Apr. 30, 2015 2:06 PM - Last modified June 16, 2015 9:09 AM