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critical writing


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We need to rethink food management and humanize it if we want to establish food democracy. People need to understand production, distribution and consumption process and we all need to take a more active part in the process. There is enough food if we produce and divide it properly by proper food management. The paper is based on the assumption that we can not blame others for the situation but need to start by pointing the finger at ourselves – What am I doing to live in food democracy? Am I buying locally produced products? Am I individually, organizationally, socially and environmentally responsible consumer? Theory and methodology – appreciative inquiry – is introduced and recommended as communication tool. We are well aware that being critical can cause us being stuck in the status quo. That is why we like critical thinking that is embedded in appreciative inquiry as a form of action research where we move beyond critical thinking and start producing positive change. Let's mobilize and activate our community towards food democracy. We start by theoretically talking about food democracy and all the time we are aware that this is just not enough. We will only accomplish food democracy if we start small - if we start with me and you. Humanize, Localize, & Sustain. A metaphor for humanizing food industry is used – authour's great grandmother Taša – as a case study for humanizing the production, distribution and consumption of food as we believe that food industry needs to get a human face.

food democracy, local food supply, organic farming, appreciative inquiry, action research

works/b09dd239dcce17ed8f24f9191bf2c18b/thumbnail/Food Democracy_2013_JPVDCT_3.pdf

Editors comments More info on Curators & Editors ›

The authors look at the struggle for food democracy primarily by tocusing on the decline of small, local producers globally. The authors use the Slovenian situation as an example, and offer specific recommendations on how to increase sales of local and organic food within the Slovenian market. Their specificity is refreshing and offers some interesting ideas. The piece ends with an entertaining investigation of one dish and its ties to both family history and local communities. Such links are obviously not available to everyone in the global food system today, but the recitation is an effective reminder of how food relates to our own memories, communities, and health – our past, present, and future.

I feel that I need to repeat comments directed toward another one of the pieces – indeed, all of the authors need to think through these questions further:

The author(s) should also attend to the differences between people’s roles as producers and consumers. How much will a more decentralized system benefit small farmers, and consumers? Are their interests the same? By recognizing their similarities and differences in a more explicit way, the author could start to conceptualize the benefits of change to each in a more rigorous way. Finally, since neoliberals think that consumers already “vote” with their money when buying food, the author’s arguments would benefit by an explicit response to this logic, to explain what “democracy” means in this context.

View other works commented by Daniel Marcus  ››

What does a recipe for Taša’s cake have to do with food democracy? As author writes at the beginning of the essay, there is (always) a story behind our food. And a story about recipe for Taša’s cake is a story that makes us proud, not a story that we would be ashamed to tell, so a story or a case, if we follow the author’s idea, of a food democracy. But can the love for local, ecologically produced food, bought from small producers/sellers be the core idea and practice of food democracy?

The author’s idea of food democracy is tightly connected to humanization of food industry. The call for a responsible attitude towards food is the core idea of the essay. As author writes “food democracy demands responsible consumers, distributers and producers as we are all part of the same system and incomplete one without the other” and he develops his idea mostly on the level of every-day practice, what seems an essay’s benefit. However, the author doesn’t clarify some key terms, at least not enough (e.g. local) what would be very necessary especially when talking about “possibilities for food democracy in Slovenia” and “mechanism that can enable global food democracy”. I think the questions, and dilemmas of local/global problems/ solutions are noticeably missing in the text.

I feel that too much was trying to be said (and solved) in the essay. However the author does a nice job of dealing with practical aspects of food democracy. Maybe examination of some specific aspect stressed in the text could form the basis for a future project the author could consider actually implementing?

View other works commented by Jernej Mlekuž  ››

This is a very interesting essay that also raises further crucial and connected questions as to how, through the implementation of food democracy, can we bring about our own individual transformation, be the subjects of greater self- and social awareness, avoid general processes of alienation and dehumanization, and increase the level of democracy in society generally.

Thus, one immediate question that sprang to mind while reading through the case study of Slovenia was whether changing various economic and developmental structures to bring about a better food strategy in Slovenia, had any realistic chances at all if it was not accompanied by a transformation of existing political structures, if not the radical modification of the basic fabric of society in total.

That is to say that I think we have to seriously ask ourselves if a genuine food democracy is possible when the focus is exclusively on the production, distribution, and consumption of food and when this focus is not accompanied by the overturning of the domination of country by the city, an awareness of the need to reverse factors that increase rates of urbanisation and the depopulation of the countryside.

We also need to rethink dominant forms of transportation, the way their flows are organised and managed, the current capitalist economy (its orientation on profit not people), liberal democratic political paradigms, the international division of labour, and ways in which we can all contribute to reversing the global ecological crisis as this is a factor that weighs in heavily on current levels of food control and food democracy.

The second case study, that of making a cake, and the examples as well as reflections that follow, significantly change the tone and genre of the essay: it becomes more personal and intimate; is less an example of critical writing and more of a provisional anthropology of the self, so to speak.

There is nothing wrong with this shift. Indeed, the suggestions offered in this part of the essay serve as good reminders that one of the ways in which to change the food structures in which we live, can also come about through individual and personal approaches.

These are not just about making one’s own food but doing so in a way that makes initial, small but no less important, steps towards changing existing patterns of life and the wider social texture they give rise to.

Indeed, and as the essay suggests, meeting local producers, visiting their communities can not only give rise to a process of discovery and disalienation but can also become an empowering and transformative step in the direction of what the essay calls being a food democrat.

The essay matches this self-ascription with a process of self-reflection connected to a small-scale but no less concrete project. Both, to my mind, are crucial for the success of any endeavor in which personal and public change coalesce.

Some further questions raised by reading the essay are, however, what would be some of the other individual, practical, and concrete steps one could take in the process of becoming a food democrat?
What other changes to our lives, the way we can dispose of our time, energy, and resources, are necessary for an ongoing, ever more expanding, and successful process of food democratisation to occur? How does the assertion of being a food democrat challenge and/or confirm various understandings not just of the food complex but of democracy as well?

View other works commented by Nikolai Jeffs  ››

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This work has been commented by 3 editor(s):
Daniel Marcus Jernej Mlekuž Nikolai Jeffs go to comments ›

Entry details



Concept author(s)

Judita Peterlin; Vlado Dimovski

Concept author year(s) of birth

1981; 1960



Competition category

critical writing

Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

University of Ljubljana Faculty of Economics