SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Celia Plender

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Ms Celia Plender
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Thesis title:
‘Self-help by the people!’: Politics, morality and change in British food co-ops (working title)
Year of Study:
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PhD Research

My project is concerned with the transformative potential of British food co-ops in relation to their members and networks, the food system, and wider society. Building on interdisciplinary literature on alternative/civic food networks, food poverty, consumption and governmentality, it will use comparative and ethnographic study of the grassroots provisioning methods employed by food co-ops to analyse their internal structures, interactions with external bodies, and the ethics of their supply chains.

Food is a productive lens through which to view the political and economic processes which have formed the contemporary food system, informed common-sense thinking about them, and impacted the lives and social worlds of the inhabitants of contemporary Britain. It can be used to enact visions of a more caring/moral political and economic system through the practices and structures of alternative initiatives such as co-ops – a particularly pertinent issue in the current era of ‘austerity’ policies. By analysing these visions my research will explore contemporary British perceptions of concepts such as morality, citizenship and welfare.


  • West, H. G. & Plender, C., 2015. 'An Interview with James C. Scott.' Gastronomica: the Journal of Critical Food Studies, 15(3), pp. 1-8.


  • SOAS Food Studies Centre