Settler colonial food systems: Michaela Bohunicky, Confronting Settler Colonialism in Food Movements, MA dissertation, Lakehead University, 2020


Abstract: The dominant global capitalist food system is contributing significantly to social, political, ecological, and economic crises around the world. In response, food movements have emerged to challenge the legitimacy of corporate power, neoliberal trade policies, and the exploitation of people and natural resources. Despite important accomplishments, food movements have been criticized for reinforcing aspects of the dominant food system. This includes settler colonialism, a fundamental issue uniquely and intimately tied to food systems that has not received the attention it deserves in food movement scholarship or practice. While there is a small but growing body of literature that speaks to settler colonialism in contemporary food movements and a burgeoning scholarship on Indigenous food sovereignties, there are few studies that
examine practical examples of how settler colonialism is being actively addressed by and through food movement organizations. This research asks: How are food movement organizations addressing settler colonialism? Using a community-based methodology informed by settler colonial theory/studies, anti-colonial and decolonizing approaches, and food sovereignty, research partnerships were formed with two food systems networks, the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy and Sustain: The Australian Food Network. Purposeful sampling was used to conduct in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 23 settlers and 4 Indigenous participants in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, and Australia (Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia). Findings from thematic analysis are presented in three parts: 1) Settler inaction; 2) Problematic inclusion; and, 3) Productive engagements, organizational commitments, and long-term visions. Based on these findings, three areas are proposed where food movement organizations can more deeply engage in addressing settler colonialism: Situating our(settler)selves, (re)negotiating relationships, and making organizational commitment. Several broad methodological limitations of this research are considered, underscoring the need for additional place-based research that traces anti-colonial and decolonizing food movement processes and holds them up to the dreams and demands of specific Indigenous communities whose lands they occupy.

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