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Prefigurative politics and plant-based food in the Anthropocene: quiet activism within Sydney's foodscapes

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The livestock industry, sprawling over one third of the earth’s non-ice terrestrial surface, is a key driver of planetary change. Various propositions are being assembled as to how societies should respond to growing awareness that current patterns of growing global meat consumption are unsustainable – ranging from more intensive farming, caring consumption, in vitro meat production, to abandoning livestock production altogether. In this paper we explore each of these propositions before focusing on the latter proposition in the context of Australia – where established political economies and cultural norms have resulted in one of the world’s highest per capita rates of meat consumption. In the absence of any formal political action to address meat consumption we approach the production and promotion of plant-based food as a type of prefigurative politics in which proponents employ a variety of strategies that assemble skills, knowledges and materials oriented at plant-based food futures. Our research, based on a city wide audit of plant-based food businesses, initiatives and proponents, reveals a growing, dynamic and innovative community employing a quiet activism oriented at contesting meat cultures. We focus on the visceral politics employed by plant-based food makers and the supportive strategies assembled by plant-based food communities. We also consider some of the apprehensions within this community in regards to class, gender, access and the policing of particular identities. The paper concludes with a discussion on the potential and problems facing plant-based food proponents wanting to contribute to broader socioecological change.

This talk is part of the Political Ecology Group meetings series.

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