Eating for the post-Anthropocene
: Alternative proteins, Silicon Valley and the (bio)politics of food security

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the emergence of a new generation of alternative proteins (APs) – including cellular agriculture, edible insects and plant-based proteins – that aim to provide more sustainable, healthy and ethical alternatives to conventional livestock products. It examines APs within the broader context of Anthropocenic debates, situating this activity as a reaction to contemporary food-related ‘crises’ and, ultimately, as solutions for global food security. Drawing on interviews, policy analysis and visceral autoethnographic work in the leading hubs of recent AP activity in Europe and the US, the thesis demonstrates how APs both reinforce (‘simulate’) and challenge (‘disrupt’) the existing imaginaries, materialities and political economic factors of the global food system.
Through exploring this negotiation between simulation and disruption, the thesis critically examines the enthusiastic and at-times bombastic promissory narratives that have characterised the sector to date. It calls into question to whom and in what ways APs cause disruption, arguing that while they have indeed disturbed the geographies, actors and practices involved in protein production, the political economic underpinnings of the global food system (i.e. inequality, bio-corporatisation, Western-based power) remain largely intact. Drawing on Foucauldian thought, the thesis also argues that APs represent a new site of food biopolitics – introduced as the ‘biopolitics of edibility’ – through which we see a continuation of consumer responsibilisation wherein personal food choice acts as a means for creating a better self and planet. By analysing the material and discursive strategies used to make APs into ‘food’, the thesis also explores these products as an important case for thinking through the material and visceral (bio)politics of eating, as well as the limits of disgust and mistrust posed by food-technology interactions and the precarious relationship between (non)human bodies.
Through its theoretical and empirical contributions, the thesis intervenes in critical food geography by bringing together recent debates on the geographies of production and consumption, the material and visceral politics of eating, and the biopolitics of food. It also engages with economic geography and STS theorisations of innovation to think through the material and promissory trajectories that APs have taken to date. Through examining the negotiation of simulation and disruption, the recent AP movement is problematised as both entangled and implicit in politics around ‘good’ eating and the individualised project of Anthropocenic solutions.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorDavid Demeritt (Supervisor), Michael Goodman (Supervisor) & Nikolas Rose (Supervisor)

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