Storying Sensuous Atmospheres of Peaches and Wheat

Towards New Horizons of Imagination and Possibility for Sustainable Food Systems


  • Will LaFleur University of Helsinki


sustainable food systems, agriculture, atmospheres, sensory ethnography, politics of imagination, sensuous politics, sensory studies, degrowth


Policy initiatives, research, and professional advice concerned with sustainable food systems remain largely stuck conceptualising individual consumers as rational subjects in need of technocratic interventions to induce behaviour change. While critical approaches do account for the relevance of socio-ecological, political, and economic circumstances, the affective, sensuous, and im/material relations — sensuous atmospheres — that are indissoluble from everyday life are either left out, or effectively conceptualised as the inert, given background on which life plays out. Taking the imagination as a key political participant in the struggle for a more just and sustainable world, this article aims to ‘story’ the sensuous atmospheres of everyday life in agricultural practice, making sensuous atmospheres visible as the sensory-material substance that socio-ecological, political, and economic formations take. Drawing from sensuous (auto)ethnographic encounters on a farm in northern Italy, I ask: what kinds of stories are the sensuous atmospheres of techno-industrial and alternative agricultural practices made of, what kinds of stories do they tell, and how might they help to imagine new horizons of possibility in the making of more sustainable food systems? I begin the article with a discussion problematising food systems and the inadequate approaches often used to render them sustainable. I then conceptualise the notion of ‘storying sensuous atmospheres’, presenting the sensory ethnographic material in the style of ‘sensuous scholarship’ in which the fieldwork is simultaneously analysed and evocatively storied. I conclude the article by suggesting that the storying of sensuous atmospheres is one strategy to precipitate new horizons of imagining — in food systems and beyond — a more sustainable world. 

Research Articles



How to Cite

LaFleur, W. (2023). Storying Sensuous Atmospheres of Peaches and Wheat: Towards New Horizons of Imagination and Possibility for Sustainable Food Systems. Ethnologia Fennica, 49(2), 66–100.