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This is the website and blog of Dr John Lever.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Reconfiguring local food governance?

Lever, J., Sonnino, R. and Cheetham, F. (2019) Reconfiguring local food governance in an age of austerity: towards a place-based approach? Journal of Rural Studies

Abstract: In this paper we examine the dynamic nature of local food governance by considering the potential for (and barriers to) developing a more robust approach that can enhance the socio-ecological resilience of the food system. Fusing insights from Eliasian sociology with the literature on local food governance, we focus on a region of northern England to explore understandings of “local food” and the problems local food actors encounter while working within and across the territorial boundaries of “the local’. This is underpinned by an examination of the pressures local governments face as a result of financial austerity and competing neoliberal policy priorities that, we argue, undermine attempts to create synergies between diverse food system actors. We conclude by outlining the potential for developing a more relational approach to (and understanding of) place-based food governance.

Keywords: Figurations; governance; local food; place; relational; territorial.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Breaching the boundaries of the permissible?

Lever, J. (2018) Halal meat and religious slaughter: From spatial concealment to social controversy – Breaching the boundaries of the permissible? Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space


Abstract: Across the secular West, the slaughter of animals for food has become an almost clandestine activity. Very occasionally however, when slaughter comes into view, social and political controversy emerges. In this paper, I examine two such episodes in England and the controversies subsequently engendered: the controversy over kosher meat and the Jewish method of slaughter (shechita) in the 19th century, and the contemporary controversy over halal meat and the Muslim method of slaughter (dhabiha). These controversies are complex and double-edged in that, not only do they involve food, which often invokes anxieties about what is being ingested and what moral boundaries are being crossed, they also involve religion. Both episodes are also linked to periods of rapid migration into the UK, and to concerns about integration and the threats posed to British values and national identity by the food practices of outsiders. However, while concern over kosher meat production and Jewish migrants in the 19th century was largely concealed within the spatial boundaries of Jewish communities, from the late 20th century onwards halal meat has become increasingly visible in line with the demographic expansion of the Muslim population out of racialized community spaces. It is in this context, I contend, in line with a new and emerging geography of religious food practice, that halal meat has breached the boundaries of the permissible to challenge the ‘civilized’ values underpinning the hegemonic food discourse. 

Keywords: Animal welfare, animal slaughter, civilizing process, halal and kosher meat, hegemonic food discourse, migration, outsiders, stunning

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Supermarket food waste: prevent, redistribute, share - Towards a circular economy?

John Lever, Fiona Cheetham, & Morven McEachern, University of Huddersfield Business School.
  • This project report explores the sharing of supermarket food waste in Kirklees, West Yorkshire. Conducted over a nine-month period from September 2017, the research was funded by the University of Huddersfield Business School. 
  • In the project, we used qualitative methods to explore whether the sharing of supermarket food waste through NGOs increases the sustainability of the wider food system, or if this trend is a response to its increasing unsustainably.
  • Looking beyond the current extractive industrial model that generates so much waste, in principle the circular economy aims to redesign products and services to eliminate waste at source. It is the links between sharing and circular thinking and the wider relationship with the sustainability of the food system that this project report is ultimately concerned with.
  • There was a general consensus that it is all but impossible to eliminate food waste completely from supermarket operations and international food supply chains. Even in a sustainable food system, there will always be a degree of surplus food to be redistributed to people in need. 
  • All the NGOs consulted were reluctant to call the food they received from supermarkets “waste”, and the terms “wasted food” and “spare food” were sometimes used interchangeably with the notion of “surplus food”. In this context, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is often used to justify the linear model of food production and consumption that generates vast quantities of food waste.
  • Independent food banks (IFBs) encounter a number of problems and barriers in their work. These revolve around the type and volume of food they receive from supermarkets, which they have no control over. Conversely, NGOs within the national distribution network (NDN) never accept supermarket “surplus” unless it is in good condition and they have the capacity to redistribute/share it before it becomes “food waste”. 
  • The value of the work being done by NGOs was widely recognized, yet concerns were expressed from both a political and environmental perspective about the normalization of these ways of working.
  • Sending less ‘surplus’ food to anaerobic digestion as ‘waste’ in order to share and redistribute more food through NGOs was seen by some interviewees as one way of enhancing the links between sharing and circular economic thinking. At the same time, others argued that these ways of working add another level of governance to the existing linear model.
  • Central government policy is not keeping up with the developments in technology that can drive movement towards a circular economy. As well as redistributing and sharing surplus food from supermarkets regionally, more food needs to be produced regionally, both on local farms and through the use of vertical farming, for example, to minimize food waste at source and encourage circular economic thinking.
  • While it is difficult to envisage a completely circular food system emerging, cities and regions such as Kirklees can help to reduce the burden of supermarket food waste by encouraging circular economic thinking. But better Central Government Policy and sustainable business models are needed to facilitate movement in this direction. Public and private bodies at the regional and national level must navigate the tensions involved as a matter of urgency.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Religion, regulation, consumption: Globalising kosher and halal markets

Lever, J. and Fischer, J. (2018) Religion, regulation, consumption: Globalising kosher and halal markets, Manchester University Press

In the first decades of the 21st century, kosher and halal markets have become global in scope and states, manufacturers, restaurants, shops and consumers around the world have been presented with ever stricter and more complex kosher and halal requirements. Religion, regulation, consumption: Globalising kosher and halal markets explores the emergence and expansion of these markets for religiously certified food products with a particular focus on the UK and Denmark. This is the first book of its kind to explore kosher and halal comparatively in this context and there is a particular focus on the market, consumers, religious organisations and the state. The book moves beyond traditional concerns for kosher and halal meat production and consumption to include developments in biotechnology. It also explores the challenges faced by kosher and halal consumers in this context, and the need for more elaborate forms of justification and self-discipline in deciding what is and is not acceptable.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

A Bourdieusian analysis of Syrian refugee identity in Jordan

Deema, R., Haloub, R. and Lever, J. (2018) Contextualizing entrepreneurial identity among Syrian refugees in Jordan: The emergence of a destabilized habitus?, The International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Abstract: This article aims to contextualize the entrepreneurial identity (EI) of Syrian refugees living outside refugee camps in Jordan. The research adopts a social lens to consider the situation Syrians find themselves in by drawing on the work of Bourdieu. A qualitative design is applied to explore the different experiences and perceptions that pervade refugee stories and the work of refugee aid agencies. By contextualizing EI in the Jordanian context, the article reveals how a destabilized refugee habitus based on an embodied disposition of survivability is emerging. The article makes an empirical and conceptual contribution by highlighting how the entrepreneurial activities of Syrian refugees are driven by their experiences of the harsh social conditions they find themselves in.

Keywords: Bourdieu, disposition, entrepreneurial identity, habitus, refugees, survival.