Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

Bridie McGreavy

Second Committee Member

Liliana Herakova

Third Committee Member

Nathan Stormer

Abstract

This thesis studies the discourse of food sovereignty in Maine, a coalition of small-scale farmers, consumers, and citizens building an alternative food system based on a distributed form of production, processing, selling, purchasing, and consumption. This distribution occurs at the municipal level through the enactment of ordinances. Using critical-rhetorical field methods, I argue that the discourse of food sovereignty in Maine develops a ‘constitutive’ rhetoric that composes rural society through affective relationships. Advocates engage the industrial food system to both expose its systemic bias against small-scale farming and construct their own discourse of belonging. Based upon agrarian values such as interrelatedness, secular grace, and trust, food sovereignty proposes a vernacular law by which to regulate local food systems. Advocates perform a ‘grassroots diplomacy’ to gain access to the decision-making process and to create space for themselves within the existing regulatory structure.