Spatial-institutional contexts fostering or impeding food sustainability niches in Vienna and other cities
SUPERVISOR: Marianne PENKER PROJECT ASSIGNED TO: Christina GUGERELL In this thesis, the notion of sustainability transition is understood as a shift from an agro-food system mainly targeted at increasing productivity, to one built around the wider principles of sustainability. Niches that emerge at the margins of a system’s regime (dominant practices and rules within a system) are protected spaces for radical innovations with the ability to change the regime. They and their interaction with the regime are considered essential to set transitions in motion. In integrating ecological and social aspects into products, processes and organizational structures, to tackle environmental and social problems within the food regime, food niches with sustainability-oriented innovations want to make a contribution to a sustainability transition of the latter, which might be achievable in the long run. Cities in different parts of the world have be-come places of experimentation with food sustainability niches. This doctoral study aims to analyse how urban spatial and institutional dynamics support or impede the interaction of food sustainability niches and the food regime in Vienna and in other cities. Context specific niche-regime interactions mark a research gap, which this doctoral study intends to address, to contribute to a suitable and coherent theory of food sustainability niches and their interaction with the food regime on the local scale of cities, and thus help to better contextualize the multi-level perspective of the socio-technological transition theory. Figure 1 is based on agro-food studies literature and transition studies frameworks (e.g. the multi-level-perspective). It illustrates the conceptual and analytic framework of this thesis and demon-strates different kinds of niche-regime interactions (or non-interactions) affected by institutional and spatial dynamics within an urban agro-food system. The guiding research question is: “How have urban institutional and spatial dynamics affected the interaction of food sustainability niches and the food regime?“
Fig. 1: Context specific niche-regime interactions within an urban agro-food system
In a first phase, a comparative case study design should help to pinpoint institutional and spatial dynamics affecting the direction of development of three selected cases of food sustainability niches and their interaction with Vienna’s food regime. The lack of theory on context-specific niche-regime interactions is addressed by a grounded empirical analysis. In a second phase, identifying the spatial and institutional context factors that foster and hinder the experimentation with and the learning from food sustainability niches in different cities on an international scale will foster the understanding of context-specific spatial and institutional dynamics of a food sustainability transition. To gather this information an international qualitative meta-analysis should support a cross-case, cross-city and cross-country analysis. This doctoral study is conducted within the context of the inter- and transdisciplinary research project “The Future of Urban Food”. Its findings will support transdisciplinary future scenarios for 2048 and transition pathways for the urban agro-food system in Vienna.