Ecological embeddedness: An interrogation and refinement of the concept within the context of alternative food networks in the UK

Morris, Carol and Kirwan, James ORCID: 0000-0002-4626-9940 (2011) Ecological embeddedness: An interrogation and refinement of the concept within the context of alternative food networks in the UK. Journal of Rural Studies, 27 (3). pp. 322-330. doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2011.03.004

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Among their many 'alternative' characteristics, food networks that seek to reconfigure the relationship between producers and consumers are understood as having the potential to be beneficial for the rural environment and landscape. One of the ways in which this characteristic has been conceptualised is through the notion of 'ecological embeddedness'. Although the roots of this concept lie in economic sociology, where the social embeddedness of economic relations has been the focus of interest, agro-food researchers have extended its meaning to suggest that alternative or 'quality' food production can also be seen as increasingly embedded in 'natural' or ecological processes. However, this paper argues that until now the notion of ecological embeddedness has lacked conceptual clarity. As such, the aim is to interrogate and refine the concept of embeddedness, specifically as it pertains to ecologies within the context of food production on-farm. Ecological embeddedness, it is argued, must encompass more than just recognition of the general influence of the natural environment on economic activity. Specifically, it must reflect a change in the relations between economic actors and the natural environment that produces a benefit to both. The paper also establishes how the concept of ecological embeddedness might be operationalised in research practice as a means of exploring the ecological dimensions of alternative food networks. An illustration of this empirical application is provided. The paper concludes by asserting the value of ecological embeddedness as a concept, in spite of the observed limitations of embeddedness in other contexts and the challenges that are associated with its ecological application.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: REF2014 Submission. Nature, Ecology, Ecological embeddedness, Alternative food network, Food quality
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > Countryside and Community Research Institute
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Debi Jones-Davis
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2014 13:39
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2021 21:27

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