Paddock, J. (2014) Invoking Simplicity: ‘Alternative’ Food and the Reinvention of Distinction, Sociologia Ruralis, 55(1), pp. 22-40.


Contributing to debates that question the prevalence of distinction surrounding contemporary food culture, this article considers the persistence of social differentiation within the context of ‘alternative’ food practice. Doing so is predicated upon the impasse between arguments that food offers a means of conferring status on the one hand, and a means for wide participation in cultural consumption on the other. Starting from this binary of ‘omnivorousness’ (Peterson and Kern) and ‘distinction’ (Bourdieu), this case-study explores a field of alternative food consumption including a farmers' market and community food co-operative. Here, despite wider claims that food ceases to provide means of social differentiation (Bennett et al.) we find that discourses of distinction resonate across this case-study, finding expression in participant accounts of food practice, and in discourse framing alternative food as a solution to public policy problems such as social exclusion, unsustainability and lack of integrity in contemporary food systems. Of some consequence to initiatives seeking to develop equitable and sustainable alternatives to conventional foodways, distinction, it is argued, is reinvented under the guise of rustic simplicity.

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