Neoliberal subjectivities or a politics of the possible? Reading for difference in alternative food networks



Recent research on alternative food networks has highlighted the centrality of place-embeddedness as a strategy in constructing alternatives to conventional agri-industrial food systems, and has illustrated the political nature of these strategic localisms. Recently, critical human geographers and sociologists have drawn on relational theory to criticise the localism of alternative food networks as representing a politics of place which is unreflexive or defensive. Furthermore, some readings of alternative food networks argue that they reproduce the very neoliberal subjectivities that they seek to oppose. This article argues that agri-food scholars should be aware of the ways in which their readings of alternative food networks can guide and reproduce alternative food network practice. Drawing on Gibson-Graham's technique of ‘reading for difference’, I argue for a reading of alternative food networks that sees difference beyond the discursive field of neoliberalism. The article explores recent debates around governmentality as the mechanism through which neoliberal subjectivities are reproduced, and draws on a preliminary discussion of the alternative food network practice of the 100 Mile Diet in order to illustrate the arguments made.