Social Movements and The Citizen-Consumer: Evidence From The Canadian Sustainable Food Movement

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 9:15 AM
Room: F203
Oral Presentation
Emily HUDDART KENNEDY , Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
Josee JOHNSTON , Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
The proposed presentation builds on the established limitations of the citizen-consumer hybrid through a study of key actors in the sustainable food movement. While others have focused on how consumers are mobilized to purchase ethical products as an expression of citizenship or social agency, we examine the motivations of social movement actors and their tactics for engaging others. Using the case of food, we examine how movement actors seek to engage consumers through food products, while encouraging movement towards citizenship responsibilities and political change. Data are derived from a qualitative case study of 45 leaders from civil society, the state, and the market in two Canadian cities. Findings are used to scrutinize the concept of the citizen-consumer hybrid as this entity relates to environmental social movements. While advocates of shopping for change suggest that ethical consumption creates opportunities and discursive spaces that encourage individuals to develop collective identities, the actors interviewed were not brought into the arena of social change via consumption activities. Interestingly, these individuals continue to advocate for greater consumer education and opportunities for ethical consumption as tactics to enlist greater citizen engagement. Moreover, in contrast to their own discourse around the need to influence the state, participants locate possibilities for citizenship in the consumer marketplace, largely eschewing the role of the state in social movements. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.