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Reflexivity and the Whole Foods Market consumer: the lived experience of shopping for change

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  • Josée Johnston

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  • Michelle Szabo
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    Abstract

    There has been widespread academic and popular debate about the transformative potential of consumption choices, particularly food shopping. While popular food media is optimistic about “shopping for change,” food scholars are more critical, drawing attention to fetishist approaches to “local” or “organic,” and suggesting the need for reflexive engagement with food politics. We argue that reflexivity is central to understanding the potential and limitations of consumer-focused food politics, but argue that this concept is often relatively unspecified. The first objective of this paper is to operationalize reflexivity and advance understanding of reflexivity as an important tool for understanding the lived experience of food shopping. Our second objective is to explore the range of reflexivity observed in a mainstream “shopping for change” market sector. To do this, we draw from in-depth interviews with shoppers at Whole Foods Market (WFM)—a retail venue with the stated goal of making consumers “feel good about where [they] shop.” This group is chosen because of our interest in investigating the reflexivity of consumer engagement with the corporatized arm of ethical consumption—a realm of concern to food scholars as alternative agricultural initiatives are absorbed (both materially and symbolically) into corporate institutions. Our analysis suggests that shopping at venues like WFM is primarily motivated by traditional consumer pleasures, even for politicized consumers, a finding that poses serious limitations for a consumer-regulated food system. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10460-010-9283-9
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Agriculture and Human Values.

    Volume (Year): 28 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 3 (September)
    Pages: 303-319

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:28:y:2011:i:3:p:303-319

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    Web page: http://www.springer.com/economics/journal/10460

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    Related research

    Keywords: Reflexivity; Whole Foods Market; Consumers; Ethical consumption;

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    1. Stewart Lockie, 2009. "Responsibility and agency within alternative food networks: assembling the “citizen consumer”," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 193-201, September.
    2. Julie Guthman, 2007. "Commentary on teaching food: Why I am fed up with Michael Pollan et al," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 261-264, June.
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