A Field Study on Food Communities in the Context of Ecological HabitusGamze Gürler, Birtan Bozlu
This research reveals the relationship between social actors’ cultural capital, ecological predispositions, and food consumption practices. To achieve this, a qualitative analysis was carried out on the Antalya Food Community. Alternative food communities, which are part of ecological movements, address collective demands and social problems related to the production, distribution, and consumption of food. Participation in these communities requires certain kinds of cultural capital. Food consumption strategies are closely related to ecological habitus. Ecological habitus is a concept that points to the practice of how to live better in a particular place; the concept was developed under the influence of Bourdieu (1998). Alternative food communities are said to attract middleclass individuals who have a common ecological habitus. Information from in-depth interviews and participant observations are used to explain the main motivations of the members, the ecological habitus that makes the community possible, the relation networks they produce, and the various strategies and practices developed by these members. The fact that individuals develop ecological interests besides food after joining the community shows that these communities can be seen as “learning places” (Haluza-Delay, 2008). Thus, alternative food communities go beyond being a place for food exchange due to their ecological activities.
Ekolojik Habitus Bağlamında Gıda Toplulukları Üzerine Bir Alan AraştırmasıGamze Gürler, Birtan Bozlu
Bu araştırma, toplumsal aktörlerin kültürel sermayeleri, ekolojik yatkınlıkları ve gıda tüketim pratikleri arasındaki ilişkiyi ortaya koymayı hedeflemektedir. Bu hedef doğrultusunda Antalya ilinde varlığını sürdüren Antalya Gıda Topluluğu üzerine nitel bir analiz gerçekleştirilmiştir. Ekolojik hareketlerin bir parçası olan alternatif gıda toplulukları, gıdaların üretim, dağıtım ve tüketimi ile ilgili kolektif taleplere ve toplumsal problemlere yönelik ortaya çıkmaktadır. Bu topluluklara katılım belli türden kültürel sermayeyi gerektirmektedir. Toplumsal aktörlerin topluluklar aracılığıyla geliştirdikleri gıda tüketim stratejileri, ekolojik habitus ile yakından ilişkili olmaktadır. Ekolojik habitus, belirli bir yerde nasıl daha iyi yaşanılacağına dair pratiğe işaret eden ve Bourdieu (1998) etkisiyle geliştirilen bir kavramdır. Bu kavramdan hareketle, bu çalışmada alternatif gıda topluluklarının ortak ekolojik habitusa sahip orta sınıftan bireylere cazip geldiği iddia edilmektedir. Bununla birlikte, alan araştırmasında gerçekleştirilen derinlemesine görüşmeler ve katılımcı gözlemler ile elde edilen veriler ışığında, üyeleri gıda topluluğuna yönelten temel motivasyonlar, mevzubahis topluluğu mümkün kılan ekolojik habitus, ürettikleri ilişki ağları ve bu üyelerin ekolojik habitus ekseninde geliştirdiği çeşitli stratejiler ve pratikler açıklanmıştır. Ayrıca, bireylerin topluluğa katıldıktan sonra gıda-dışı ekolojik ilgiler geliştirmesi, bu toplulukların Haluza-Delay'in (2008) deyimiyle "öğrenme yerleri" olarak görülebileceğini göstermektedir. Alternatif gıda toplulukları, gerçekleştirdikleri ekolojik faaliyetler dolayısıyla gıda alışverişi için birer yer olmanın ötesine geçmektedir.
Social actors act according to certain perception schemes and predispositions in their daily lives based on past experiences. Bourdieu conceptualized this situation as habitus, which means “a kind of practical logic of what needs to be done in a given situation” (Bourdieu, 1998, s. 25). The first examples of the concept of ecological habitus, which explain the practical logic of how to live in a particular place, can be seen in Bourdieu-related studies in the post-2000 period (Gäbler, 2015; Haluza-Delay, 2008; Kasper, 2009; Kirby, 2017). As this concept implies, ecological dispositions are acquired through experience in formal education programs such as schools or within social movements (Haluza-Delay, 2008, s. 207–211). Ecological movements and groups are learning fields where ecological dispositions are acquired outside of formal education programs (Cooper & Baer, 2019, s. 174). It can be said that the main ecological dispositions of alternative food communities are based on supporting local food production and supplying fair and healthy food. Participation in these communities requires a certain amount of cultural capital. Cultural capital enables the individual to apply ecological knowledge in urban life and is also a requirement for acquiring ecological habitus.
This research focuses on the ecological habitus of alternative food communities. The Antalya Food Community, which carries out its activities using the Participatory Guarantee System, constitutes our working group. This study aims to reveal the ecological dispositions of the members of this community in urban life and the socio-cultural factors that determine the practices of the community. Based on this, we sought answers to the following questions in our study: (1) What are the motivations that steer people to the alternative food communities? (2) What are the networks of relations that shape the ecological habitus of food community members? (3) In the context of ecological habitus, which strategies do individuals construct in their practices in urban life? (4) How are the relationships between individuals’ class positions and cultural capital and their ecological dispositions embodied in daily life?
To get answers to these questions, we held face-to-face interviews with 20 of the 210 members of the Antalya Food Community in 2019 through semi-structured interviews and participated in their events and organizations. We analyzed the data we obtained through in-depth interviews and participatory observation techniques, focusing on specific themes. We focused on the motivation behind founding an alternative food community in a big city, the socio-cultural positioning of community members, and the strategies they developed in urban life within their ecological habitus.
We argue that alternative food communities can be considered as part of middle-class practices, based on Bourdieu’s (2015) class definition. As the findings of the study show, community members have high education levels and work in professions that are common among the cultural middle class. The members who have high cultural capital, initially participate in the community to gain access to healthy food. However, the members, with time and experience, by developing certain common dispositions both in the group and in their daily lives, also began to embrace ecological activities and practices of the community other than healthy food shopping. After joining the food community, the members learned about many issues such as environmental pollution, ecological risks, and dangers in food production, and developed various habits by becoming aware of the importance of fair, clean, and good food, minimum waste generation, and carbon footprint. Moreover, with the realization of the importance of living better in their environment, they began to voluntarily participate in activities outside the food community such as ecological movements, environmental actions, food workshops, seed ball events, and bread production workshops.
It is important to note that individuals lacking high economic capital but having cultural capital and who recognize ecological risks and threats to conventional agricultural products, feel the need to access healthy food in urban life. However, there is an important difference between meeting this need from food communities and chain stores, supermarkets, or online shopping. If individuals decide to meet their healthy food needs in the city through food communities, they enter into a network of relationships where they can acquire ecological habitus. These communities are more than just a place for food shopping, as they produce ecological activities and are positioned against global inequality. These communities, which are “learning places” in the words of Haluza-Delay (2008), contribute to individuals’ knowledge of ecology and make the development of ecological dispositions possible. Indeed, individuals in a common field tend to have similar dispositions (Bourdieu, 1990, p. 60), which is the habitus of that group of people.