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School of Social and Political Science: Research


Globalizing Responsible Food Consumption: Insights from Brazil, China and South Africa POSTPONED DUE TO STRIKE

Globalizing Responsible Food Consumption: Insights from Brazil, China and South Africa POSTPONED DUE TO STRIKE
Speaker: Prof Alex Hughes # Newcastle University; Introduced by: Dr Isabel Fletcher # University of Edinburgh
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Date and Time
12th Mar 2020 15:30 - 12th Mar 2020 17:00
Room 2.14, Lister Learning and Teaching Centre, 5 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9SU

This presentation places the spotlight on the growing middle classes in the global South and, given their increasing spending power, issues of ethics and sustainability regarding their food consumption choices, values and practices. This focus comes against the backdrop of a food consumption studies literature prioritising the global North and food-related research in the global South concentrated around questions of food security, with emergent work on changing food cultures in the context of globalisation. The burgeoning global middle classes suggest that consumption in the global South, the values it expresses, the changing food cultures and consequent environmental pressure are also becoming ever more relevant and in need of critical research. Food consumption is a “major issue in the politics of sustainable consumption because of its impact on the environment, individual and public health, social cohesion, and the economy” (Reisch et al. 2013: 7). The UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 (‘Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns’) recognises the need to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption by promoting sustainable public and corporate procurement practices, and ensuring that consumers have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable lifestyles. Sustainability is understood in terms of social, economic and environmental implications and outcomes. The presentation draws on collaborative research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, which explores the growing middle classes in Brazil, China and South Africa and their food consumption choices and values involving questions of social and environmental responsibility. Ethnographic research with consumers in the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Guangzhou and Johannesburg forms a key part of this project. This presentation, however, will focus specifically on the roles of state, commercial, civil society and public actors in influencing responsible food consumption in the three national contexts. Thirty interviews with a range of these informants in each country are drawn upon to do this. Concurring with Barnett et al (2011), we grasp political, commercial and cultural influences on different forms and practices of responsible food consumption. Furthermore, the research demonstrates the significance of geography to the traction of particular initiatives and cultures of responsible consumption, with issues of food safety, nutrition, sustainability and provenance mobilized in different ways in different places. Literature on comparative urbanism helps to explain both the commonalities and contrasts between the case studies when it comes to responsible food consumption.


Barnett C, Cloke P, Clarke N and Malpass A (2011) Globalizing Responsibility: The Political Rationalities of Ethical Consumption (Wiley-Blackwell).

Reisch L, Eberle U and Lorek S (2013) “Sustainable food consumption: an overview of contemporary issues and policies” Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy 9 7-25.

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