By Design or by Disaster

Markus Schermer

Markus Schermer graduated in Agricultural Economics in 1983 and worked for several years in rural development in Africa, followed by an employment at the chamber of agriculture in Tyrol/Austria. There he worked as general agricultural district advisor and later as special advisor for direct marketing within. Since 1999 he is employed at the University of Innsbruck, since 2004 as a faculty member at the Department of Sociology. Since 2008 he is associate professor for sociology. From 2004-2008 he was head of the Research Center for Mountain Agriculture, since then is the deputy head. From 2008-2010 he was head of the Department of Sociology and from 2010-2014 director of studies. On 1st of October 2015 he has been appointed full professor for Rural Sociology.
He has participated in a number of (mainly funded within the EU- framework programs) research projects concerning rural development in alpine regions, organic food marketing and social aspects of agro-food research in general.

08.10.2015 19:00 | F0.03 | BY DESIGN OR BY DISASTER TALK #12

Local foodsheds: new social practices in local food systems

Governance mechanisms of agri-food system have undergone substantial changes in the last decades. While until the 1970s public policies and state regulation were decisive, in the age of neo-liberalism market actors took over. In recent years, however, new types of food governance have emerged, rather driven by civil society, that exhibit new social practices. Examples include collective urban gardening initiatives, community supported agriculture and consumer co-ops, buying groups of local and organic food. Some of them include political agendas criticizing current consumption practices like dumpster diving or waste cocking.
Such initiatives go clearly beyond more traditional conceptions of short food supply chains that were mainly dominated by the producer side. The lecture explores contemporary dynamics and sources of innovation within agri-food networks. These new expressions are reshaping relations between food practices and markets as well as with public institutions in ways that go beyond material and economic exchange and that contribute to a ‘moralization’ of food economies.


Rentig, H.; Schermer, M.; Rossi, A.: “Building Food Democracy: Exploring Civic Food Networks and Newly Emerging Forms of Food Citizenship” (2012)
Int. Journal. of Sociology of Agriculture & Food, 19(3) pp 289-307

Schermer, M.: “From ‘Food from Nowhere’ to ‘Food from Here’: Changing Consumer-Producer Relations in Austria”(2015)
Agriculture and Human Values 32(1) pp. 121-132

Constance d. Rebnard M.-C., Rivera-Ferre M.: “Alternative Agrifood Movements – Patterns of convergence and divergence.”(2014)
Research in Rural Sociology and Development Volume 21.

Interesting questions / statements

Which new relationships between producers and consumers are currently emerging?

Can new social practices challenge or change the dominant food regime?

Can civic food movements prevent the appropriation of new social practices by mainstream food actors?