John Ssenkumba

Education CV

Whereas social theorists have remained welded to the idea that production, in its traditional sense, remains the single most fundamental human activity, it is becoming clearer that the form and future of modern society as a whole, cannot be grasped without understanding the forces of consumption that drive it. At its most extreme, one can even consider consumers as having a potential, comparable to that of workers, as the group equally able to confront capitalism, even if temporarily and locally, for a start. The once classical proletariat seems to be dissipating into multiple ‘classes of labor,’ with the classical factory no longer the exclusive and central domain of the confrontation between labor and capital. The antagonism between the two now happens in many, widely diffuse places, and takes new and often intriguing forms, including militant consumer associations. Accordingly, therefore, today more than ever before, the economics, culture and science of food has emerged as a central question of our time. The main undertaking of this project will be to answer the question: “who eats what, where, and why?” This will be done by examining the factors framing food preferences in Buganda, fully conscious that demand for food is neither an exclusively natural (and mechanical) response to the availability of food items, nor a question of mere possession of money with which to purchase food items. Rather, food preferences are increasingly shaped by dominant players in the food retail and global food-processing chains. The study seeks to understand how the material and conceptual links between production and consumption are being displaced by efficient webs of sourcing, processing, advertising, distributing, retailing and branding of food.

Thesis working title
Are Consumers Sovereign? Understanding the factors framing food preferences in Buganda 1960 – 2010
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