In the dominant American discourse, alternative practices of consuming ethical foods are often positioned against cheap, highly processed, freely traded, and poor-quality industrially produced foods. This article discusses the different forms and meanings of “alternative” food practices and asks whether consuming organically and locally produced, or fairly traded, foods are the only “alternative” food practices that can claim moral authority and assert one’s ethical adherence. By examining the discourses and practices of everyday food provisioning among resource-constrained consumers in postsocialist Bulgaria and postindustrial Detroit, the article explores the meanings of “good” food, and suggests that “alternatives” do not always translate as foods that are exceptionally moral and pure owing to intrinsic superior values. These comparative case studies complicate a familiar, stereotypical dichotomy between a morally compromised global industrialized food system and an ethical alternative to the status quo that presumes moral purity. The meanings of “good” foods vary in different social and economic contexts, and “alternative” foods therefore can be those that have the power, or promise, to (re)establish a sense of “normal” provisioning opportunities. Recognizing these different forms and meanings of “alternatives” will allow us to envision future food production and consumption practices in more nuanced ways so that an industrialized food system and “alternative” food systems are not cast in mutually exclusive terms.
(Re)establishing the Normal
Yuson Jung is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Her research focuses on issues of consumption, food, wine, globalization, postsocialism, and European integration. Most recently, she has co-edited Ethical Eating in the Postsocialist and Socialist World (with Jakob A. Klein and Melissa L. Caldwell, University of California Press, 2014). Her work has also appeared in Anthropological Quarterly, Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, Food, Culture, and Society, Food and Foodways, Gastronomica, and as chapters in several edited volumes that explore everyday food practices, the cultural politics of wine, and alternative food movements.
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Yuson Jung; (Re)establishing the Normal. Gastronomica 1 November 2014; 14 (4): 52–59. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2014.14.4.52
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