Compost and consumption : organic farming, food, and fashion in American culture

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2010-05

Authors

O'Sullivan, Robin

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Abstract

This research analyzes the history and cultural significance of organic agriculture as a social movement. It illuminates how organic production and consumption are polyvalent and socially embedded. Organic farming has been classified as a hobby and as a constituent of agribusiness; organic food has been dubbed as a hollow preference and as an exploited industry. At its core, though, organics is a social movement. From agricultural pioneers in the 1940s to contemporary consumer activists, the organic movement has preserved connections to environmentalism, agrarianism, health food dogma, and other ideological alignments. Organic farming has been a method of agriculture, social philosophy, way of life, and subversive effort. Organic consumption has been a practical decision, lifestyle choice, communicative performance, status marker, and political act. The dissertation embraces this multiplicity and expounds on the nuances of what the organic zeitgeist has meant in American culture. The study entails collection and analysis of historical and contemporary data, including archival, legislative, and regulatory documents. It applies discourse analysis, semiotics, iconographic study, and cultural analysis to texts and additional sorts of media. Observations of organic sites of consumption also enhance the historical and theoretical evaluations. This project includes scrutiny of rhetorical strategies used by organic farmers, business leaders, chefs, consumers, writers, and organizations that engage with the “organic lifestyle.” Despite the fluid intertextuality of these expressions, there are common themes. Unraveling the multivocality and interconnectedness of prevailing discourses provides insight into the movement’s epicenter.

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