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Fixing food with ideas of “local” and “place”

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Ideas of “local” and “place” appear frequently in current discussions and debates about food and agriculture, but they are kindred, not completely equivalent ideas. This paper highlights similarities and differences in the heuristic and political work of local and place by considering how both ideas seek to fix food. Two understandings of fixing food are distinguished and explored. First, place and local fix food through ontological work to mark, fasten, and secure food within the increasingly “placeless foodscape” created by transnational food corporations. Both ideas serve to attach food to valued provenance but can also overplay the importance of fixedness. Local fastens food by sharply emphasizing various proximities, while place tends to fasten food through more nuanced attention to socio-environmental specificity and distinction. Both local and place risk obscuring political interests and power in the process and outcomes of fastening food. Second, local and place also fix food as part of practical, programmatic efforts to repair the social and environmental harms of the “placeless foodscape.” To contribute more effectively to projects of repair, ideas of local and place can engage a wider scope of organisms, elements, issues, and practices as constituting “the environment” and attend to the multiple scales of relevant human–environment–food interactions. Understanding the potential and limits in ideas of local and place as related to fixing food builds on and complements work in environmental studies to consider the role of place within human–environment interactions.

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  1. For representative examples, see Friends of the Earth-Europe website [; accessed 2/15/15]; the “what we believe” statement of USA-based Wholesome Wave Foundation addressing local food security [; accessed 2/15/15]; and activist Anna M. Lappé’s 2014 short film contest [; accessed 2/15/15].


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This paper has roots in a presentation I gave to the “Understanding Place” Colloquium at Bucknell University in 2013. I am grateful to the journal symposium editors for their invitation to develop the paper and to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful insights and challenges.

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Correspondence to Clare Hinrichs.

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Hinrichs, C. Fixing food with ideas of “local” and “place”. J Environ Stud Sci 6, 759–764 (2016).

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