Putting food access in its topological place: thinking in terms of relational becomings when mapping space

Abstract

This paper adopts a relational, also known as a topological, approach to food accessibility—the idea that food spaces are best understood as relational becomings rather than as voids filled exclusively with mass (immutable materiality) and address (geospatial coordinates). It is animated by an experimental spirit, in terms of the methods employed, the data collected, and by how those data are brought together, which together better enriches inductive theorizing. The project looks at the daily macro-mobilities—trips from one GPS coordinate to another—of 70 Coloradoans, triangulated with qualitative semi-structured interview data. Data collection occurred over three phases: baseline interviews, which lasted approximately 45 min; 30-day study period, which involved using a GPS tracking app. on their mobile phones; and follow-up interviews that lasted roughly two hours. The paper, through inductive theorizing and methodological experimentation, contributes to the critical food mapping scholarship in three ways: first, by looking at rural and urban food environments and livelihoods (as opposed to focusing exclusively on the latter); second, by focusing on mobilities as opposed to fixities (an example of the former: mapping projects that reduce food access to Euclidean coordinates); and, lastly, by its conceptual innovations attributed to phenomena such as life course and geographies of care.

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Fig. 1

Source: Colorado Rural Health Center (coruralhealth.org)

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The entire sample contained one single parent (mother) household, which explains my decision to not disaggregate and make statements about those in this particular role.

Abbreviations

GIS:

Geographical information system

GPS:

Global Positioning System

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported in part by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (Grant No. NRF-2016S1A3A2924243), the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Grant No. NIFA-COL00725), and the Office for the Vice President for Research, College of Liberal Arts, and Office of Engagement at Colorado State University.

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Correspondence to Michael Carolan.

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Carolan, M. Putting food access in its topological place: thinking in terms of relational becomings when mapping space. Agric Hum Values 38, 243–256 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-020-10149-y

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Keywords

  • Food access
  • Food mapping
  • Critical cartography and counter-mapping
  • Mobilities
  • Care
  • Ethical consumption
  • Topological