Breaking the Mould?: Eastern Europe, alternative food practices and the unequal knowledge production

Dr. Petr Jehlička presentation at the Midterm Conference of the European Sociological Association Research Network 36 and 10th Slovenian Social Science Conference The Social Transformations We Live in: Between Cohesion and Fragmentation'

20-22 September 2018, Nova Gorica, Slovenia



Since the early 2000s ‘lopsided’ geographies of knowledge production and context-dependent hierarchies of knowledge claims have been subject to growing critique in Western sociology and other social sciences. Intriguingly, Eastern Europe has been largely left out of these counterhegemonic explorations. Focusing on East European alternative food practices, the talk seeks to make sense of the invisibility, to the Western social science, of these inspiring social practices in non-Western contexts as a research topic with the potential to inform food scholarship’s general theorisations. Looking at how East European food re-localisation practices have been read from the West is instructive for the understanding of how certain knowledge ‘travels’ and becomes a universally accepted knowledge – or theory – or remains a partial knowledge with the validity restricted to particular places and circulating within specific academic subfields. The obstacles to altering the position of Eastern Europe at the bottom of the hierarchy of knowledge generating spaces include predetermined, entrenched and essentialising conceptualisations of the region. They steer the research on informal food practices in this part of Europe towards particular disciplines with specific premises and research agendas associated with developmentalism, the region’s residuality and its status of know-how recipient. The talk seeks to re-frame these practices as sustainability by outcome rather than intention, as a form of non-market, altruistic sharing economy, and as an articulation of proactive, future-oriented and transformation-enabling resilience with the potential to inspire scholars and practitioners outside the region.