Eating for the post‐Anthropocene: Alternative proteins and the biopolitics of edibility

Alexandra Sexton


This paper explores the status and formation of edibility as a new site of food biopolitics. It builds directly on recent debates in geography that have examined the biopolitical mechanisms by which consumers are responsibilised to become “good” eaters. To date, these literatures have largely focused on already‐familiar food products. In contrast, this paper examines the biopolitics of novel foods – specifically, a range of new alternative proteins (APs), including cellular agriculture, edible insects and plant‐based proteins. Through their use of (bio)technology, APs claim to overcome the environmental and ethical crises that increasingly define the current livestock industry, and indeed our current epoch, now commonly referred to as the Anthropocene. They consequently offer individuals the choice of consuming their way to a more stable and ethical post‐Anthropocene. Critical to consumer adoption, however, is public acceptance of APs as “food”. Given that their raw materials and production methods are unfamiliar to many consumers’ food practices, there is much work to be done by AP developers to convince people that their products are indeed edible. It is in this process of edibility formation that I identify new biopolitical potentialities – what I refer to as the biopolitics of edibility. Drawing on recent critical geography literatures that have examined how “things become food” (Roe, 2006), the paper identifies two distinct yet co‐productive ways in which AP developers are conducting this transition from inedible to edible: first, through material interventions on the molecular, physical and visceral characteristics of APs; and second, through discursive interventions that work to normalise APs through textual and visual language. It concludes by reflecting on the biopolitical implications of these processes and how the edibility formation of APs is both entangled and implicit in current politics around “good” eating and the individualised project of realising the post‐Anthropocene.

Publication details

Sexton, A. 2018. Eating for the post‐Anthropocene: Alternative proteins and the biopolitics of edibility. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers []