A Taste for Ethics: Shifting from Lifestyle to a Way of Life

Tam Dic Sze, Daisy. 2009. A Taste for Ethics: Shifting from Lifestyle to a Way of Life. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis concerns contemporary food movements and practices in the UK, their relation to lifestyle and consumption on the one hand, and to "way of life" on the other. Recent attention to food practices has indicated a shift in consumptive behaviour: increased concern for the welfare of the environment, animals and people who work in the industry, as well as for the quality of food, have made labels such as "good", "clean" and "fair" (associated with "quality", "organic" and "fair-trade") buzz-words in the industry. Through fieldwork (4 years' participant observation as a weekend trader for a local fruit producer in Borough Market, London), theoretical engagement and media analysis, the thesis critically evaluates the privileged status that these terms are given and aims to differentiate the changes that benefit individual stylised living (lifestyles) from those which contribute to the betterment of society (way of life).

This thesis takes four sites in which ethical food consumption is emphasized: the Slow Food movement, supermarkets, farmers' markets and the community garden; and critically evaluates their responses to these concerns in a theoretical context based on the cultural analysis of the everyday, drawing on thinkers including Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau, Jacques Derrida and others. A different model for addressing questions ofethical consumption arises from each empirical study: every model is critically evaluated on the basis of a combination of theory and experiences drawn from fieldwork, revealing certain limitations which move the investigation forward to the next site - in this sense the thesis develops dialectically through particular cases towards addressing the general problematic of ethical living in the everyday. It concludes by taking the model of a community garden, contextualised by a discussion of the commons, as an outline for addressing the problematic of ethical consumption in its widest social context, and as an indication of the possible direction of subsequent research.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Food, food movements, slow food, ethics, ethical consumption

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies



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Date Deposited:

23 Jun 2020 08:17

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:43



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