Ontological Frameworks for Food Utopias

Rivista di Estetica 1 (75):120-142 (2020)
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World food production is facing exorbitant challenges like climate change, use of resources, population growth, and dietary changes. These, in turn, raise major ethical and political questions, such as how to uphold the right to adequate nutrition, or the right to enact a gastronomic culture and to preserve the conditions to do so. Proposals for utopic solutions vary from vertical farming and lab meat to diets filled with the most fanciful insects and seaweeds. Common to all proposals is a polarized understanding of food and diets, famously captured by Warren Belasco in the contraposition between technological fixes and anthropological fixes. According to the first, technology will deliver clean, just, pleasurable, affordable food; future generations will not need to adjust much of their dietary cultures. According to the second, future generations should dramatically change their dietary habits (what they eat and how they eat it) to achieve a sustainable diet. The two fixes found remarkably distinct perspectives over dietary politics and the ethics of food production and consumption. In this paper we argue that such polarized thinking rests on a misrepresentation of the ontological status of food, which in turn affects the underlying ethical and political issues. Food is a socially constructed object that draws in specific ways on habits, norms, traditions, geographical, and climatic conditions. Although this thesis seems somewhat obvious, its consequences on the ethical and political perspectives on the future of food have not been derived properly. After introducing the issue at stake (¤1), we point out the polarities that characterize food utopias (¤2) and their ontological faults (¤3). We hence suggest that a socio-ontological analysis of food can better deliver the principles for a foundation of food utopias (¤4).

Author Profiles

Andrea Borghini
Università degli Studi di Milano
Nicola Piras
Universidade do Minho


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