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Title: The mobile life of food and drink packaging
Authors: Monreal Clark, Alexander Cary
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Packaging is a largely neglected object of enquiry in Human Geography and, indeed, the social sciences more broadly. Yet it forms a crucial element of almost all food systems and without such mundane objects these food systems would fail or function very differently. In turn, food systems, which rely on the continuous flow of packaging and food, are vital for enabling our increasingly mobile lives. This thesis thus investigates the multiple mobilities associated with food and drink packaging. The study forms part of a wider ‘mobilities turn’ in the social sciences and is structured in two parts. The first part concentrates primarily on how packaging shapes the movement of food. The second part focuses more on the ways in which packaged food shapes the mobilities of humans. However, both these aspects of packaging’s mobile life are not viewed as separate but rather as entangled and mutually dependent on each other. Throughout the thesis attention is paid to how packaging helps standardise the repetitive and anticipated mobilities of food and humans. It is, in other words, examined as an immutable mobile that ensures the smooth flows of food and people. Thus, in the first part of the thesis it is shown how packaging ensures the smooth flows associated with highly automated, industrialised and safe packaged food production and distribution. It also opens up the mobilities of packaging to elaborate upon the similarly regular and anticipated flows of packaging as raw materials. In the second part of the thesis attention is directed towards the patterns of human mobility that packaged food permits. However, while emphasis is placed on the role of packaging in standardising and stabilising interrelated food and human mobilities across Euclidean spaces, the thesis also begins to interrogate the topological complexities and molecular mobilities of packaging. While packaging can certainly be seen to permit the smooth and relatively unproblematic flows of food and people it may also, and from another theoretical perspective, be viewed as a fluid and vibrant technology. These topologically complex movements of packaging are explored in cases that show its fluid articulation as a barrier which has profound implications for the regulated mobilities of food. The vibrancy of packaging is also examined through its importance for mobile practices and its capacity to affect travellers.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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