Ferne Edwards

Dr Ferne Edwards

Research Fellow in Sustainable Food Systems


Areas of specialism

just and sustainable cities, food systems, social change, urban natures, alternative food economies

University roles and responsibilities

  • Research Fellow in Sustainable Food Systems

    Affiliations and memberships

    World Social Science Fellow on Urban Issues in the Global South
    International Social Science Council, 2013.
    Australian Anthropology Society Fellow
    Australian Association of Anthropologists, 2016 ongoing.


    In the media

    Sharing is caring
    Shadows magazine
    A sustainable future is in our hands
    RMIT news
    Saturday Afternoon with Mandy McCracken (national radio program)
    Saturday Afternoon national digital program with Mandy McCracken
    ABC Radio Melbourne with Hilary Harper
    ABC Radio Melbourne with Hilary Harper
    Solidarity Breakfast, 3CR (radio)
    Solidarity Breakfast, 3CR
    The Grapevine, 3RRR
    The Grapevine, 3RRR


    Completed postgraduate research projects I have supervised


    Ferne Leigh Edwards, Maximilian Manderscheid, Susan Parham (2023)Terms of engagement: mobilising citizens in edible nature-based solutions, In: Journal of urbanism Routledge

    The Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations 2017) and the New Urban Agenda (United Nations 2017) emphasise the role of cities for achieving progressive, grounded, and holistic socio-environmental change. Food sharing activities, such as participation in community gardens, organic cooperatives, and urban farms and orchards, are recognised as positive urbanism transition path- ways that can harbour many social, environmental, and economic co-benefits. To realise sustainable urbanism goals, the international project, EdiCitNet, applied “edible” Nature-based Solutions to facilitate societal challenges in ten participating cities. The project assumed that participatory processes across sectors within diverse cities would foster resilient project outcomes. However, while social engagement proved crucial, its implementation across diverse con- texts also raised several questions regarding participants’ initial engagement and the ongoing social sustainability of the project. Analysing outcomes from the project’s first 18 months, we recognise how the type and scope of engagement can impact project implementation, highlighting how “soft” aspects such as trust, emotions, and values are crucial for the success of large-scale multi- sector projects and how aspects of power and empowerment are embedded in the process. These findings can inform the design and implementation of other sustainable urbanism projects, in addition to contributing to literature on social participation, engagement, and translocal governance. 

    Anitra Nelson, Ferne Edwards (2020)Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and Practices Routledge

    This collection breaks new ground by investigating applications of degrowth in a range of geographic, practical and theoretical contexts along the food chain. Degrowth challenges growth and advocates for everyday practices that limit socio-metabolic energy and material flows within planetary constraints. As such, the editors intend to map possibilities for food for degrowth to become established as a field of studies.International contributors offer a range of examples and possibilities to develop more sustainable, localised, resilient and healthy food systems using degrowth principles of sufficiency, frugal abundance, security, autonomy and conviviality. Chapters are clustered in parts that critically examine food for degrowth in spheres of the household, collectives, networks, and narratives of broader activism and discourses. Themes include broadening and deepening concepts of care in food provisioning and social contexts; critically applying appropriate technologies; appreciating and integrating Indigenous perspectives; challenging notions of 'waste', 'circular economies' and commodification; and addressing the ever-present impacts of market logic framed by growth.This book will be of greatest interest to students and scholars of critical food studies, sustainability studies, urban political ecology, geography, environmental studies such as environmental sociology, anthropology, ethnography, ecological economics and urban design and planning.

    Ferne Edwards (2023)Food Resistance Movements Palgrave Macmillan Singapore

    Uniquely charts the author's own journey as a cultural anthropologist and activistAnalyses three key food resistance movements in Australia, Venezuela and CataloniaExplains both the development of food resistance movements and their impact on city planning and citizen activism

    Berilsu Tarcan, Ida Nilstad Pettersen, Ferne Edwards (2023)Repositioning Craft and Design in the Anthropocene, In: Exchanges (Coventry)10(2)pp. 26-49 University of Warwick

    As a part of industrial mass production, the field of design has been deeply involved in the exploitation of natural resources. In design, better ways to approach the nonhuman-human relation are needed. In this article, we contribute by exploring how more-than-human perspectives can be used to engage with this relationship, and more specifically, by focusing on how the fields of design and craft relate to more-than-human worlds. Crafts are relevant as they are practices of making that preceded and exist beyond mass production. In design studies, more-than-human notions and posthumanist frameworks are still new. Although recent studies mention design in the context of more-than-human, they do not thoroughly integrate it within relationships between craft and design. Through positioning a more-than-human approach within the craft-design relationship, the design field can learn from and shift to a more equal understanding between humans and nonhumans. The article addresses this by describing emerging craft and design practices, and by providing textile examples. Non-western textiles and their motifs are given as example artefacts that consider traditional and Indigenous knowledge in more-than-human worlds. By looking at these motifs from more-than-human perspectives, we suggest that design and craft can deliver a new approach for addressing nonhumans in human-made things.

    Ferne Edwards, Anitra Nelson (2020)Future research directions :, In: Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and practicespp. 213-226 Routledge

    This chapter suggests future research directions in food for degrowth studies based on contributions to this collection on the topic. A range of mainly transdisciplinary theoretical and practical approaches and key research questions are offered. The collection is based on a range of case studies and critiques clustered by scale and content. A range of research methods are used from autoethnography, interviews and surveys, analysed in statistical and qualitative ways and critical methods. In Part I, studies of household self-provisioning propose concepts such as ‘neopeasantry’ and ‘quiet’ food self-provisioning, and extend concepts of ‘caring’ and sharing. Collective endeavours (Part 2) emphasise social and economic dimensions of food for degrowth, providing insights from diverse community-supported agriculture style models in Hungary, Italy and Catalonia. Part 3 on networks identifies reciprocal exchange and solidarity as key tenets in explorations of hybridisation of alternative food practices (Budapest), technological application (Catalonia) and processes of multilevel governance internationally. Part 4 examines narratives and degrowth perspectives on the circular economy, food waste, decolonialisation and competing degrowth discourses of citification versus densification. This chapter proposes a range of research questions around accessibility, visibility, temporality, spatiality, boundaries and processes, transformation, postgrowth, qualitative and quantitative measures and assessments.

    Ferne Edwards, Jane Dixon, Ruth Beilin (2018)Adopting a Public Health Ecology Approach to a Key Food Security Issue: Apiary, Biodiversity and Conservation, In: The SAGE Handbook of Nature: Three Volume Set SAGE Publications Ltd

    The European honeybee is one of the most critical of all insect pollinators, with much of the world's crops dependent on their pollination contributing to dietary diversity. However, in Australia, resisting the implications of connected landscapes implicit in ecology, conservationists consider the European honeybee to be an exotic pest, contesting commercial beekeepers’ rights to access resources from forests and national parks. This chapter asks: What should be done when invasive species provide valuable ecosystem services and potentially threaten native species?

    Maximilian Manderscheid, Valentin Fiala, Ferne Edwards, Bernhard Freyer, Ina Saeumel (2022)Let's Do It Online?! Challenges and Lessons for Inclusive Virtual Participation, In: Frontiers in sustainable food systems6732943 Frontiers Media Sa

    Within the broader framework of the EU-H2020 EdiCitNet project-a large-scale collaborative project with a multi-stakeholder approach-there is the opportunity to observe participatory planning approaches to mainstream nature-based, edible solutions to solve specific social urban problems in an international group of six cities-Berlin (Germany), Carthage (Tunisia), Sant Feliu de Llobregat (Spain), Letchworth (United Kingdom), Sempeter pri Gorici (Slovenia), and Lome (Togo). One year after the project started, the COVID-19 pandemic made it necessary to transfer most participatory planning processes to online platforms. This new format presented challenges to planning and voluntary stakeholder engagement due to different capacities regarding technical requirements as well as location-specific social circumstances. In this paper, we aim to shed light on the potentials and trade-offs in shifting to online participation and who gets to participate under digital Participatory Action Research (PAR) circumstances. We used a mixed-methods approach to evaluate the planning progress and the transition to working online in the six cities during the first wave of the pandemic. The study identifies critical implications of COVID-19 on participatory planning processes, the challenges for online participation, and the effectiveness of measures applied to tackle those challenges. The transition to online participatory planning described in this paper emphasizes organizational rather than technical remedies. While the planning progress in all cities was delayed, some faced significant challenges in the transition to online due to the lack of technical or community capacities. This was fostered through the diverse and new realities of the stakeholders ranging from meeting existential needs to adapting to alternative forms of working and caring. The reflections in this paper offer learnings from the disruptions caused by COVID-19 to better understand how participatory planning processes can be managed online along the lines of equity, access, and participation. The findings demonstrate how participatory processes in the ongoing crisis can be maintained, with relevance to future waves of this and other pandemics.

    Anna Davies, Agnese Cretella, Ferne Edwards, Brigida Marovelli (2022)The social practices of hosting P2P social dining events: insights for sustainable tourism, In: Journal of sustainable tourism30(5)pp. 1004-1019 Taylor & Francis

    In many ways, the expansion of commercial for-profit, P2P social dining platforms has mirrored those within mobility and accommodation sectors. However its dynamics and impacts have received less consideration to date, with a notable paucity of attention to the hosts of social dining events. The aim of this paper is to address this research lacuna. Through its exploration of the social dining platforms VizEat in Athens and Eatwith in Barcelona, this paper identifies, analyses and compares the social practices of hosts around their social dining events in two key tourist destinations in Europe. Data is gathered through multiple methods from participating in and observing social dining events in each city to interviews with key stakeholders in the P2P social dining process (such as hosts, platform employees and ambassadors). The research reveals how dynamic rules, tools, skills and understandings shape and reshape the performance of hosting social dining events. It exposes tensions and ongoing negotiations between hosts and guests regarding matters of authenticity and privacy, an uneven risk burden between hosts and platforms with regards liability and scant regard for matters of sustainability. As a result there is little alignment between P2P social dining and the goals of sustainable tourism.

    Ferne Edwards (2021)Overcoming the social stigma of consuming food waste by dining at the Open Table, In: Agriculture and human values38(2)pp. 397-409 Springer Nature

    Stigma is often encountered by recipients who receive food donations from charities, while the consumption of wasted food, also traditionally considered to be a stigmatized practice, has recently become part of a popular food rescue movement that seeks to reduce environmental impacts. These two stigmas-charitable donation and the consumption of waste-are brought together at the Open Table, a community group in Melbourne, Australia, that serves community meals cooked from surplus food. This paper examines how Open Table de-stigmatizes food donations through food waste discourse to enable greater social inclusion. I draw on the experiences of donors, cooks, volunteers and eaters gathered from diverse Open Table sites. Taking a 'follow-the-thing' approach, I analyze how food 'waste' becomes re-valued by embracing goals of environmental justice enacted through local processes of care and conviviality. Relying on networks of volunteers and not-for-profit agencies, Open Table provides a simple, effective and adaptable model for possible replication for overcoming drawbacks of traditional charity practices. Critically though, as hunger in society continues to grow, this approach is increasingly threatened by the need to 'single out' disadvantaged recipients to justify continued supply. This paper contributes to food poverty, waste, and Alternative Food Network literature in two important ways: first, by analyzing the outcomes of community food redistribution approaches with regards to stigma and inclusion; and secondly, by arguing that such holistic approaches need to be acknowledged, valued and supported to shift current discourses and practice.

    Ferne Edwards, Sergio Pedro, Sara Rocha (2020)Institutionalising degrowth, In: Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and Practicespp. 141-155 Routledge

    There is growing recognition that radical, long-term change is required to address inherent issues in the industrial food system. New principles and practices are needed to create fair, sustainable and healthy food approaches. Actions for degrowth often begin at the grassroots, grounded in everyday actions that promote just and sustainable alternatives. However, limited resources often result in actions with bounded geographical reach and lifespan. Formal efforts to address food insecurity and sustainability by governments, NGOs and corporations have benefits, offering legitimacy and visibility by providing resources, institutionalisation and legislation. However, large-scale approaches often lack transversality, overlooking important local concerns and needs. This chapter explores multilevel governance approaches that bring together bottom-up and top-down approaches to foster engaged and enduring food alternatives. Strategies of cross-sector platforms, methods of convergence and the role of municipalities are examined in two projects: the Portuguese rights to food nutrition network AlimentAção! that promotes sustainable and healthy local food projects, and EdiCitNet, a food sustainability network that supports the uptake of innovative and inclusive urban food practices. This chapter contributes to sustainable food literature and practice by examining key junctures across different levels of governance to sustain healthy and just degrowth alternatives for transformative change.

    Ferne Edwards, Ricard Espelt (2020)Technology for degrowth, In: Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and practicespp. 128-140 Routledge

    In recent decades, there has been a rise in the use of digital technologies to support food sharing activities, such as the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model. These alternative distribution networks provide ethically sourced and sustainable produce. The physical and virtual networks of CSAs are based on principles of the social and solidarity economy, a sociopolitical movement that shares degrowth principles by promoting equitable wealth, democratic relationships and protection of ecosystems. However, while digital technologies support alternative exchange, controversies remain on the potential political implications of their application. This chapter investigates the uptake of digital platforms by CSAs to explore their application, barriers and outcomes for degrowth. The analysis draws on extensive mapping of cooperatives across Catalonia and is grounded in participant-observation of a CSA in Barcelona. This research highlights the role of platform cooperativism to support collaborative online sharing and ensure critical technology adoption for degrowth at the same time as preventing vertical power relations.

    Ferne Edwards (2021)Humming along Heightening the senses between urban honeybees and humans, In: Food, Senses and the City Routledge

    The local food movement has emerged in recent decades as a response to climate change and industrial agriculture in which people seek to improve their health and respond to environmental, social, and economic issues by taking back control of their food sources. Urban beekeeping is part of this sustainable food movement; spurred on by global threats to bee populations, there has been an escalation in beekeeping as a hobby. However, while much has been written on peoples’ desire to reconnect to their food supply and relocating this production to the city, little literature has explored the role of the senses in guiding this shift. Recognising cities as places of both refuge and conflict, new understandings are required to navigate increased human/nonhuman proximities. This article argues that the senses offer an important source of knowledge to help ease tensions between the binaries of city/country, consumption/production, and human/nonhuman, offering a pathway to reconnect to place and to both human and nonhuman ‘others’. By suggesting we learn to listen to bees and to each other, this chapter advocates for a more-than-human methodology of the senses towards creating convivial, multispecies cities.

    Ferne Edwards, Anna R. Davies (2018)Connective Consumptions: Mapping Melbourne's Food Sharing Ecosystem, In: Urban policy and research36(4)pp. 476-495 Taylor & Francis

    Food sharing, understood as the collaborative growing, cooking, eating and distributing of food, as well as the sharing of food related skills, spaces and tools, is experiencing a renaissance in cities. From meal sharing apps that are used to exchange home-cooked meals to online maps that reveal surplus harvests, innovative technologies are reshaping food sharing practices. Such initiatives intersect with other food and social movements to form what could be described as food sharing ecosystems. This paper applies assemblage theory to four food sharing initiatives in Melbourne, Australia, to ascertain the implications of their ecosystems for urban planning and policy.

    Anitra Nelson, Ferne Edwards (2020)Food for degrowth, In: Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and Practices Taylor & Francis

    Food is a basic need for human survival. Beyond material sustenance, food has sig-nifcant economic, social and cultural dimensions. Food suffciency, food security and food sovereignty have become critical concerns in the twenty-frst century. Moreover, food provisioning is a key space for contemporary efforts to transform practices to achieve global environmental sustainability. Indeed, 'degrowth' has emerged as a major approach within a suite of movements aiming to achieve sustainable livelihoods, sustainable systems of production and consumption and a sustainable society more generally. Degrowth as a concept, approach and practice challenges both economic growth and excessive resource consumption to advocate for practices that limit socio-metabolic energy and material fows with respect to planetary limits. This collection offers a representative sample of food for degrowth topics, research areas and themes. It is not comprehensive in terms of the multiple directions and expressions of food for degrowth but we are confdent that it offers both newcomers and those knowledgeable and experienced in degrowth new perspectives and ideas that are, moreover, presented in an orderly fashion. The curation of the collection follows a distinctively practical, political and regenerative degrowth logic that is in sharp contrast to the just-in-time supply chain of the agrifood sector characterised by capitalist logic, production for trade, market dynamics, profts and state regulations. In this mainstream system, most quality food is relatively unaffordable while many fast and cheap foods lack nutrition and even pose health threats in terms of chemical additives in processing. Indeed, much commercially sold food is not fresh and energy is overconsumed to refrigerate and transport food. Other seriously damaging environmental consequences of commodifying food production and exchange include resource depletion by farming with massive machinery using non-renewable fuels and applying fertilisers with polluting and toxic ingredients. As the World Health Organisation (WHO 2019) reports that 1 in 9 people go hungry, 1 in 4 are severely or moderately food insecure, and that more than 1 in 4 children under 5 are affected by stunting, wasting or obesity – convivial degrowth acts of growing and eating together, and sharing what we have, offer ways to reconsider how we might improve our food practices in terms of sociopolitical acts. Chapters in this collection offer insights into more

    Ferne Edwards (2021)Future directions for food, senses, and the city, In: Food, Senses and the Citypp. 229-239 Routledge

    This book has carved out a space to bring together theories and approaches to study food, senses, and the city. The chapters presented in this volume represent urban centres from around the world, and the diasporas that take their meals travel with them. The chapters’ approaches draw the reader in to experience – to touch, taste, smell, see, and hear – a range of urban cultural cuisines. This final chapter explores the contributions of these narratives – it summarises their key themes, approaches, and concepts; it responds to key debates in sensory anthropology; and it identifies areas for future research. It demonstrates how the nexus of ‘food, senses, and the city’ can bring people ‘home’, contributing to novel methodologies and building new knowledge across disciplines to establish new connections to urban food practices through the senses.

    Ferne Edwards, Roos Gerritsen, Grit WesserFood (2021)The 'food, senses, and the city' nexus, In: Food, Senses and the Citypp. 1-26 Routledge

    Food practices enter, move through, settle into, disrupt and redesign cities in novel ways: as community gardens and foraging sites, as health food stores and farmers’ markets, as freegan and vegan forms of protest and dietary reformation, as social treatise at the shared table, and by passing through as food trucks and as new forms of food delivery. Each engagement produces tactile, affective, visceral, and embodied relationships between people, place, and products that can instigate and uphold social relationships whilst embodying shifting values, meanings, and politics. Peoples’ engagement with food in turn influences the shape and feel of the city. Acknowledging the senses through urban food practices thus serves as an essential means by which to link people to each other and to where they live. This chapter explores the nexus of ‘food, senses, and the city’ in theory and practice. It reviews the ‘sensory turn’ in the social sciences to acknowledge key debates and concepts and to recognise research methodologies that go beyond the written word. This chapter ends with a summary of the volume’s sections that engage with themes of migration, memory, home, inclusion, politics, and care.

    Ferne Edwards, Lucia Alexandra Popartan, Ida Nilstad Pettersen (2023)URBAN NATURES Berghahn Books

    Efforts to create greener urban spaces have historically taken many forms, often disorganized and undisciplined. Recently, however, the push towards greener cities has evolved into a more cohesive movement. Drawing from multidisciplinary case studies, Urban Natures examines the possibilities of an ethical lively multi-species city with the understanding that humanity’s relationship to nature is politically constructed. Covering a wide range of sectors, cities, and urban spaces, as well as topics ranging from edible cities to issues of power, and more-than-human methodologies, this volume pushes our imagination of a green urban future.

    Ferne Edwards, Roos Gerritsen, Grit Wesser (2021)Food, senses and the city Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

    his work explores diverse cultural understandings of food practices in cities through the senses, drawing on case studies in the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe. The volume includes the senses within the popular field of urban food studies to explore new understandings of how people live in cities and how we can understand cities through food. It reveals how the senses can provide unique insight into how the city and its dwellers are being reshaped and understood. Recognising cities as diverse and dynamic places, the book provides a wide range of case studies from food production to preparation and mediatisation through to consumption. These relationships are interrogated through themes of belonging and homemaking to discuss how food, memory, and materiality connect and disrupt past, present, and future imaginaries. As cities become larger, busier, and more crowded, this volume contributes to actual and potential ways that the senses can generate new understandings of how people live together in cities. This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of critical food studies, urban studies, and socio-cultural anthropology.

    Additional publications