Professor Hugh Campbell (Centre for Sustainability, Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work)
Dr Miranda Mirosa (Department of Food Science)
Empirical research about food insecurity in Aotearoa New Zealand and other rich liberal democracies leaves little room for dispute: this has emerged as a hugely significant problem over the last 35 years. David's thesis examines how we think about food insecurity as a problem. The way that a problem is thought about or constructed is important because it has strong implications for both real and imagined solutions. The research question, 'how does food insecurity come to be in Aotearoa New Zealand?', allows several approaches - drawing on literature, theory, and original research.
David summarises empirical research concerned with food insecurity in rich liberal democracies and Aotearoa New Zealand specifically. He suggests that this research shows patterns which suggest a structural influence concerning who comes to suffer food insecurity in these contexts. The relevant structures may be elements of the political economy of neoliberalism instituted after the 'neoliberal turn' of the 1980's.
David theorises that the neoliberal turn also relates to food insecurity in Aotearoa New Zealand in another way - through neoliberal political rationality affecting the social-political context and citizens' subjectivities or world-views. Specifically, he suggests that food insecurity is constructed as a depoliticised issue. This is an aspect of the wider depoliticisation of deprivation produced by neoliberal governmentality. Positioning the operation of the neoliberal political economy as supported by a particular social-political situation is one explanation for how food insecurity comes to be in Aotearoa New Zealand.
David uses Q methodology to examine this theorisation on a small scale, investigating the views/subject positions of people who work with food insecurity – academic researchers, charity responders and policy makers. Findings include that most people in this group do not align with the theorised neoliberal citizen views/subjectivity, while some are open to aspects of it. This highlights the complexity of both subjectivities and neoliberal influence on them. The findings suggest that the concept of depoliticisation is a useful theoretical tool which requires further elaboration.