The Open UniversitySkip to content

The object of regulation: tending the tensions of food safety

Bingham, Nick and Lavau, Stephanie (2012). The object of regulation: tending the tensions of food safety. Environment and Planning A, 44(7) pp. 1589–1606.

Full text available as:
PDF (Accepted Manuscript) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (368kB)
DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


“I’m struggling to see what it actually is,” says Alison, peering into a colander of defrosting meat. What “it” is, we propose in this paper, is helpfully thought of as “the object of regulation” in at least three senses, which together signal both our inheritance of a Foucauldian problematic and our departure from it. Our suggestion is that much of even the best work on biopolitics, biopower, and biosecurity that has been inspired and informed by these writings has replicated Foucault’s own struggle to get to grips with the complexity of matters that he variously refers to “natural” or “artificial” “givens”. By following science and technology studies (STS) scholars in using broadly ethnographic techniques to explore objects as and at the intersection of practices, we redress this balance somewhat by thinking through an empirical study of the securing of food safety, specifically Alison’s inspection of a restaurant kitchen. What we find is that the securing of meat as a material object of regulation is primarily done by involving multiple versions of the future, something which requires a great deal of usually under-recognised, under-valued, and under-theorised articulation work. With risk based regulation, cost sharing, and public sector cuts in the UK set to redefine the ways in which Alison and her colleagues engage with food business operators, we conclude by arguing for a greater appreciation of the skilful work of tending the tensions of food safety, as well as recognition of its limitations

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2012 Pion
ISSN: 1472-3409
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Not SetNot SetESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)
Keywords: food safety; securing; biopolitics; biosecurity; future
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Social Sciences and Global Studies > Geography
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Social Sciences and Global Studies
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Research Group: OpenSpace Research Centre (OSRC)
Related URLs:
Item ID: 32913
Depositing User: Nick Bingham
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2012 10:51
Last Modified: 06 Aug 2019 17:48
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU