In recent years, the whiteness of the local food movement has been an increasingly popular topic in both academic and popular discourse. In what ways have those within this movement responded to critiques of exclusionary whiteness and privilege? Drawing on interviews with local food advocates in Kansas City (KC), this article explores the discourses and practices used within the movement in response to questions of equity and racial justice. It argues that in KC, one way that local food movement advocates react to these critiques is by discursively celebrating “diversity”—a response that actually works to further conceal racialized inequality and to maintain systemic white privilege. Within this case study, this “diversity work” took the form of counting and celebrating phenotypic diversity in local food spaces. In KC, this manifests as a celebration of new U.S. immigrants—a form of diversity work that is easier to engage in than calls for deeper, structural changes in the food system. This diversity work, whether intentionally or not, depoliticizes discussions of food systems reform and distances local food advocates from the responsibility to address deeper inequities. Such findings illustrate some of the narratives and practices that help sustain structural racial inequality in local food systems amidst a shifting broader discourse that calls for the dismantling of white privilege within many social movements.
Confronting Whiteness in Kansas City's Local Food Movement: Diversity Work and Discourse on Privilege and Power
Chhaya Kolavalli, PhD, is Assistant Director of the Center for Equality and Social Justice at the University of Kentucky. Her research is centered at the intersection of whiteness, race and class-based inequality, and green urban development. Specifically, her work explores the racialized politics of sustainable, equitable (re)development in U.S. cities.
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Chhaya Kolavalli; Confronting Whiteness in Kansas City's Local Food Movement: Diversity Work and Discourse on Privilege and Power. Gastronomica 1 February 2020; 20 (1): 59–68. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2020.20.1.59
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