Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 427–438 | Cite as

Getting to know your food: the insights of indigenous thinking in food provenance

  • John Reid
  • Matthew RoutEmail author


Western consumers are increasingly demanding to know the provenance of their food. In New Zealand, Māori tribal enterprises are engaged in the food producing sectors of farming and fisheries and, like other businesses seeking to remain competitive in global markets, are responding to the demand for provenance through developing systems for communicating the origin of foods to consumers. However, Māori are doing this in their own way, in a manner that authentically reflects their own understanding of place and expresses an indigenous animist perspective. It is argued that an animist approach to provenancing provides an authentic means of connecting Western consumers to nature in circumstances where they have become psychologically and physically abstracted. Animism provides a relational way of understanding the world, through which food products emerge as animated representations of reciprocal place-based relationships. It is considered that this indigenous approach can provide ‘an antidote’ to the alienating effects of modernity, where food products are experienced as inert compositions of elements that can be replicated and produced anywhere via industrial processes. Furthermore, it can provide a touchstone for differentiating between authentic provenance and the cynical use of provenance marketing that exploits the needs of alienated individuals for connection to place. A case study of indigenous provenance, Ahikā Kai, is offered to explain and illustrate the theoretical perspectives provided.


Indigenous knowledge Provenance Sustainability Indigenous foods Animism Food regime theory 



This study was funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (Contract Number AGRB1201).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ngāi Tahu Research CentreUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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