Over the last week, members of the Food Values Research Group (FVRG) have been presenting their research and participating in panel discussions at the 2018 4S Conference held at the International Convention Centre in Sydney. The theme for this year’s 4S (Society for the Social Studies of Science) conference was “TRANSnational Society and Technology Studies (STS)” – with a focus on the global scale and diverse regional natures of STS. Talks covered a huge range of topics drawing upon a plurality of approaches – foregrounding indigenous knowledge, examining global collaboration, and emphasising regional expertise, embodied, and embedded practices.
To kick off the first session, Val J Martin (Illinois Institute of Technology) spoke on emerging narratives from different interest groups around the promise and limitations of CRISPR technology for food production. FVRG’s Emily Buddle (University of Adelaide) then presented research that she, Heather Bray, and Rachel Ankeny have been doing examining consumer attitudes around animal treatment in agriculture and a perceived resulting “essence” in meat that can affect consumers. She discussed different conceptions of “welfare,” how attitudes are formed, influenced and shaped socially and culturally, and the effect these may have on the social licence of meat producers. Finally, Bill Doolan (Auckland University of Technology) and Brian Bloomfield (Lancaster University) looked at the uneasy coexistence and potentially toxic mix of oil and gas extraction from under prime agricultural land in the Taranaki region of New Zealand.
In the second session, Wythe Marschall (Harvard University) was up first talking about participatory, more-than-human approaches to understanding the practices and value discourses of pericapitalist (situated at once both inside and outside of capitalist spaces) vertical farming in New York City. Heather Bray then presented some findings on how antibiotic use in animal agriculture is framed in the Australian media. She was followed by Ignace Schoot (Memorial University of Newfoundland) looking at techniques of containment in salmon aquaculture as material practices through which multiple insides and outsides are created, connected, and kept apart. To finish up the sessions we had the research of Richard Helliwell (University of Nottingham), Sujatha Raman (ANU), and Carol Morris (University of Nottingham) on transgressing the intersection between antibiotics and food production via animal health management.
Thank you so much for all of the wonderful participants and organisers for making 4S 2018 such an enriching and valuable event!