Utopia, Food Sovereignty, and Ethical Fashion

Utopia, Food Sovereignty, and Ethical Fashion: The Narrative Power of anti-GMO Campaigns


Katharina Glaab & Lena Partzsch

The idea of utopia has become pervasive in the age of everyday humanitarianism. Digital media communicate utopian ideas that allow people to “do good” for vulnerable others and the environment. At the same time, campaigns mobilize citizens by invoking apocalyptic images, such as genetically modified (GM) “monster” foods. This article looks at the construction of utopian and apocalyptic narratives in social movement campaigns and how they contribute to the construction of identities in the campaigns against GM food and Bt cotton, especially in India. Based on an analysis of campaign material, we show that “organic food” and “ethical cotton” products would be less successful without the concurrent use of apocalyptic narratives. Narratives that are more radical enabled the anti-GM food movement to mobilize large resistance. By contrast, a more inclusive narrative approach in the cotton/textile sector risks supporting interests that are detrimental to social justice and environmental protection.

"A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias".
Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man under Socialism (1981)

Published 3. December 2018 - 13:56 - Updated 31. January 2019 - 13:15