Through A Foraging Lens: Legal, Economic and Social Change in England

Lee, Jennifer Lane
(2012) Through A Foraging Lens: Legal, Economic and Social Change in England. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Foraging is a popular modern pastime, as evidenced by the growing number of books, television programmes and websites dedicated to wild foods. Yet foraging - that quintessential activity of early man - is no longer relevant to our survival, nor is it even of peripheral importance to our social and economic system. It may still hold meaning for our psychosocial wellbeing, but only in ways that illustrate our disassociation from the past, rather than our connection to it. This thesis begins by examining the biological imperatives that once drove foraging behaviours but that now have a negligible effect on most of humanity. It then moves to examine the legal and historical contexts in which the harvests take place and the life experiences of the people who have gathered wild foods. Today, we still cling to the long-established ideal that wild foods are ‘inherently public property,’ or free for all to gather for personal use. The environment in which the process takes place, however, is profoundly changed: the institutional setting is hostile and there has been a wholesale loss of general knowledge as to the location and use of foods that were once core to our diet. Those foraging today - often middle aged, well educated women – continue to gather for a complex array of personal reasons, and do so irrespective of prevailing laws and in spite of conservation issues. This research finds that the wild harvest today is a socially and culturally negotiated symbol tied to perceptions of the self, identity and sense of place. The transformation of the symbolic meaning of foraging is highlighted via an analysis of the social history of the bilberry harvest and through the narratives of bilberry gatherers and heath land wardens, both of which reveal the unravelling of the social nexus in which the harvest once occurred. The thesis concludes with a call for a food culture that suits our landscape and ecology and that reconnects us with the food that sustains us.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Date: 2012-11 (completed)
Uncontrolled Keywords: foraging, wild foods, foraging law, inherently public property, management of wild food resources, modern foraging behavior, social history of bilberry gathering, symbolic meaning of foraging
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Management
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2012 12:43
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 04:37
DOI: 10.17638/00008473
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