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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Eating the Canary in the Coalmine: Thoughts and theories to explain the rising importance of food, events and agriculture/place as symbols and media of community and identity in post-modern societies


This paper will focus on the meta-theories and historical explanations for the rise in importance of food and associated experiences as symbols and media of community and identity in post-modern societies, including the surge in interest in agriculture and/or place and their interconnectedness and holistic use. Three main themes/concepts will be addressed and interwoven, so as to provide a fuller picture of the context of this research and the concept of perceptions more generally. These are: 1) Food and its increasing (symbolic) importance – why now?; 2) Agriculture, place and the authenticity conundrum; 3) The rise of experiences and events as mediators of food and agriculture. The three themes will each contain a brief and, admittedly, non-exhaustive literature review with supplementary historical descriptions, focusing, especially on the importance of perceptions in the themes explored. The three thematic areas will then be summarized and discussed.

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