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The politics of the UK food sovereignty movement

Westwell, Emily

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Emily Westwell


Brian Doherty

Philip Catney


This thesis explores the political nature of UK Food Sovereignty Movement (UKFSM), focusing predominantly on its expression in England. In doing so this research informs an understanding of what the food sovereignty movement is in the context of the UK, and how it theorises and takes action to realise social change. I discuss how food sovereignty has been adapted to the UK and situate this expression of activism among a historical legacy of UK environmental activism. This research draws on my experience as a scholar-activist and takes inspiration from critical ethnography and participatory action research (PAR) methods in conducting fieldwork, in-depth interviews and participant observation with grassroots organisations and the Land Workers Alliance (LWA).

I discuss the relationship between the movement’s theory and agroecological practice through a cultural lens, arguing that the movement’s culture produces ‘logics of action’ that inform its practice, and simultaneously influence its culture. I explore the meaning associated with these practices to reveal opportunities and tensions that emerge in processes of cultural formation, while raising critical questions about the nature of the movement’s politics. I ask how pervasive collective identities are and how necessary collective association is to generate collective action for food sovereignty. In doing so I discuss the radical potential of the movement’s politics within the UK and the role of political consciousness raising in the formation of collective identity. I draw on critical pedagogy and Paulo Freire’s ‘praxis theory’ in exploring the transformative potential of the movement, to argue that there is a role for political education in raising collective consciousness and strengthening collective identity. This research contributes to debates in social movement literature on the relationship between movement culture and approaches to social transformation, whilst offering a unique insight into the culture and political practices of the UKFSM.


Westwell, E. (2024). The politics of the UK food sovereignty movement. (Thesis). Keele University. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 21, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jun 21, 2024
Public URL
Award Date 2024-06


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