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Dr Ferne Edwards

B.A. (University of Queensland), B.A. Hons. (University of Melbourne), M.A. (RMIT University), PhD (Australian National University)

Telephone: +353-1-896 1054
Postal Address:
Department of Geography
Museum Building
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin 2

Research Area

Ferne has more than a decade of research and teaching experience on sustainable cities, food systems and social change.

With a background in cultural anthropology, she has conducted ethnographic research on food waste and freegans, ethical consumption, urban beekeeping, and alternative food economies, food security and food sovereignty in Australia and Venezuela.

In 2013, Ferne was appointed a World Social Science Fellow by the International Social Science Council for research on sustainable urbanisation in the Global South.

Current research

Ferne is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the European Research Council funded project, SHARECITY: Assessing the practice and sustainability potential of city-based food-sharing economies. Led by Professor Anna Davies, SHARECITY is a collaborative, multi-phased investigation of food sharing economies in cities and its potential to contribute to sustainable urban transitions.

Ferne contributes to the conceptual and analytical development of the SHARECITY100 Database, a global database of food sharing activities in 100 cities. She is also conducting in-depth ethnographic studies of food sharing enterprises in selected cities around the world. Her specific expertise in food sharing includes work with Food Not Bombs, urban foraging, food waste redistribution organisations, various forms of on/off line food mapping, and the Venezuelan food sovereignty movement.


Ferne has extensive research and teaching experience in universities across Australia. She has led and worked in interdisciplinary research teams at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, to contribute to food and human health policy for Australian scientific bodies, CSIRO and the National Climate Change Research Facility.

At ANU, Ferne explored topics of heatwaves and health, the impacts of climate change on the food system and population health, the role of amateur and commercial beekeeping for urban biodiversity, and the state of agriculture and urbanisation in the Sydney Basin. Other research projects include ARC Discovery projects: ‘Anti-consumerism in the Contemporary West’ and ‘The rise of ethical consumption in Australia: From the margins to the mainstream’, at RMIT University, and ‘Participatory mapping to promote urban resilience’, at the Urban Research Centre, University of Western Sydney.

Ferne’s teaching experience further resonates with themes of urban sustainability, resilience and food in the subjects: Disaster Resilient City, Strategies for Sustainability, Politics of Food, Foundations of Social Research, and Meals in Metropolis.

Ferne’s work has a strong focus on how socio-cultural aspects interrelate with factors within the city, having researched a range of non-capitalist and hybrid food economies in her research on freegans and food waste, people who ‘glean’, ‘grow’ and ‘gift’ their food in her doctorate, and in her involvement with Melbourne’s food sustainability movement. Such food movements offer insights into how cities can become more sustainable through their innovative use of technologies, governance, distribution, and re-appropriation of resources. She has also explored connectivity between cities - how aspects vary according to context, what can be shared and what can be learnt - contrasting food movements from first to third world cities in the PhD, and establishing the Sustainable Cites Network, websites that profile sustainable initiatives at Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL).

While the socio-cultural aspects of food have been a research focus, this lens also extends Ferne’s knowledge into other areas relating to sustainable cities, such as transport, climate change, health, and urban design. Ferne also has been active disseminating research concepts to wider audiences, in her role of Sustainable Cities Research Officer, VEIL, where she coordinated ten Sustainable Cities Round Tables representing 99 speakers and moderated internationally recognised blogsites, and

Ferne has been published in 17 peer-reviewed journals and book chapters, and was a book theme coordinator for Swilling, M., Allen, A., & Lampis, A. (eds.) Untamed Urbanisms: Practices and narratives on socio-environmental change for urban sustainability. London: Routledge.

Selected publications and research outputs

Academic book chapters

Dixon, J., Edwards, F. & Beilin, R. (submitted) Adopting a public health ecology approach to a key food security issue: apiary, bio-diversity and conservation. In C. Sage (ed.) The Routledge International Handbook of Food and Environment: Towards sustainable food systems.

Edwards, F. (accepted) ‘Alternative Food Networks’ in Thompson, P. & D. Kaplan (eds.) Encyclopaedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics, 2nd edition, Springer.

Edwards, F. (2016) Urban food security and alternative economic practices. In Horne, R., Fien, J., Beza, B. & Nelson, A. Sustainability Citizenship and Cities: Theory and Practice, Routledge, London.

Edwards, F. (2015) ‘Free-ing foods? Social food economies towards food security, sustainability and social change, in Swilling, M., Allen, A., & Lampis, A. (eds.) Untamed Urbanisms: Practices and narratives on socio-environmental change for urban sustainability. London: Routledge.

Banwell, C., Dixon, J., Bambrick, H., Edwards, F., & Kjellstrom, T. (2015) Socio-cultural reflections on heat with implications for health and climate change adaptation. In Butler, C., Dixon J. & Capon, A. (eds.) Health of People, Places and Planet. Reflections based on Tony McMichael’s four decades of contribution to epidemiological understanding. Canberra: ANU E-Press.

Edwards, F. & Mercer, D. (2013) 'Food waste in Australia: The freegan response', in Evans, D., Campbell, H. & Murcott, A. (eds.), Putting Waste on the Food Studies Agenda: Production, Politics and Everyday Life. London: Wiley-Blackwell: 174-191.

Edwards, F. & Mercer, D. (2011) ‘Gleaning from Gluttony’ (reprint), in Williams-Forson, P. & Counihan, C. (eds.) Taking Food Public: Redefining foodways in a changing world. London: Routledge: 195-210.

Edwards, F. (2010) Seed industry, in Mulvaney, D. (ed.) Green Food: An A-Z Guide, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE: 388-392.

Edwards, F. (2010) Counter culture, in Mulvaney, D. (ed.) Green Politics: An A-Z Guide, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE: 89-91.

Academic journal articles

Edwards, F. & Dixon, J. (accepted) The hum of the hive: Negotiating conflict between humans and honeybee towards an ecological city, Society & Animals.

Edwards, F. & Mercer, D. (2013) Food waste in Australia: The freegan response,Waste Matters: New Perspective on Food and Society, The Sociological Review Monograph Series, 60(S2), December: 174-191.

Banwell, C., Dixon, J., Bambrick, H., Edwards, F., & Kjellstrom, T. (2012) Socio-cultural reflections on heat with implications for health and climate change adaptation in Australia, Global Health Action, 5: 19277.

Edwards, F. (2011) Small, Slow and Shared: Emerging Social Innovations in Urban Australian Foodscapes, Australian Humanities Review, November: 115-134.

Edwards, F., Dixon, J., Friel, S., Hall, G., Larsen, K., Lockie, S., Wood, B., Lawrence, M., Hanigan, I., Hogan, A. & Hattersley, L. (2011) Climate change adaptation at the intersection of food and health, Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health, 23: 91S-104S.

Edwards, F. (2010) Food Sovereignty and Social Change in Venezuela, Chain Reaction, 109, July: 21-23.

Edwards, F. & Mercer, D. (2010) Meals in Metropolis: Mapping the urban foodscape, Local Environment, 15(2), February: 153-168.

Edwards, F. & D. Mercer (2007) Gleaning from Gluttony: an Australian youth subculture confronts the ethics of waste, Australian Geographer, 38(3), November: 279-296.

Edwards, F. (2006) Dumpster dining: Freegans consume waste food to protest consumer waste, Alternatives Journal, 32(3): 28-29.

Selected reports

Crabtree, L., Shumack, K., Edwards, F. & Tuckwell, J. (2011) Food Mapping and Community Engagement: Community Gardens in Parramatta. A Pilot Research Project conducted by UWS on behalf of Parramatta City Council’s Community Capacity Building Team, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, November.

Edwards, F., Dixon, J., Friel, S. & Hall, G. et al. (2011) Food Systems, Climate Change Adaptation and Human Health in Australia, Discussion Paper Series, Adaptation Research Network, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Available at:

Mason, D., Dixon, J., Isaacs, B., Edwards, F., & Hall, G. (2011) Briefing Paper: The dynamic situation of urban agriculture in the Sydney Basin. Project 5: Identifying and characterising resilient urban food systems to promote population health in a changing climate, ANU for CSIRO: Urbanism, climate adaptation and health.

Book reviews

Edwards, F. (under review, 2016) Book review: ‘The Politics of the Pantry: Stories, food, and social change’ by Michael Mikulak, Gastronomica.

Edwards, F. (2011) Book review: ‘Food Chains: From farmyard to shopping cart’ by Warren Belasco and Roger Horowitz, Gastronomica, 11(1), Spring: 109-110.

Edwards, F. (2008) Book review: ‘Edible Medicines: An Ethnopharmacology of Food’ by Nina L. Etkin, Gastronomica, 8(4), Fall.

Selected conference papers

2015 - Hecho en Socialismo: Moral economies of food in Venezuela, Moral Horizons, Australian Anthropology Society Conference, Melbourne, 2-5 December.

2015 - Summary of ISSC Quito World Social Science Fellows Program, Transitions in Urban Environments, World Social Science Forum, ‘Transforming Global Relations for a Just World’, Durban, 13-16 September.

2015 - The urban beehive: Applying the framework of urban metabolism to city bees and sustainable cities, Institute of Australian Geographers Conference, 1-3 July, Canberra.

2013 - An ethnographic exploration into the reality of Venezuela’s food sovereignty movement, Agri-Food Conference, Melbourne.

2013 - Between desire and reality: An ethnographic investigation into Venezuela's food sovereignty movement, Australian Anthropological Society, 6–8 November, ANU, Canberra.

2013 - The Human of the Hive - Negotiating human & honeybee towards the productive city, XIX Internat. Conference of the Society for Human Ecology with Sustainability Science in Asia, ANU.

2011 - Mapping informal food economies, Mapping Ecologies of Place workshop, University of Western Sydney.

2010 - The significance of informal food economies, Australian New Zealand Agri-Food Conference, Gippsland.

2009 - Food sovereignty in Venezuela, From Paddock to Plate Conference, Friends of the Earth, Adelaide.

2008 - Chair & presenter, Sustainable city & human life, World Knowledge Forum, Seoul.

2008 - Mapping Meals in Metropolis, Australian New Zealand Agri-Food Research Conference, University of Sydney.

2007 - The Sustainable Cities project and VEIL, O2 Australia Network, Melbourne.

2007 - Gleaning from Gluttony: Contesting Acceptability through Alternative Consumption Practices, Agri-Food Conference, University of Queensland, Brisbane.

2007 - Tasting Taboo: A Subculture's Consumption of Food Waste as Political Statement, 32nd Annual Association of Social Anthropologists of Aotearoa, New Zealand.

2007 - Food Rescue Activities, Australian City Farms & Community Gardens National Conference.

2006 - Gleaning from gluttony: alternative consumption practices as political acts in the city, The Contemporary Australian City: New Ethnographic and Narrative Accounts of Life in Australian Cities, University of Melbourne.

2006 - The ethics of qualitative research, Public Lectures on Research, RMIT University.

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Last updated 1 September 2016