Dr Alexandra Sexton
Department of Geography
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Department of Geography
Geography and Planning Building
Alex Sexton is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow. Her research examines the geographies, politics and histories of food innovation, with a focus on high-tech meat and dairy alternatives.
Alex graduated in Classical Studies at the University of Edinburgh (2010), and completed MSc degrees in history at the University of Edinburgh (2011) and geography at the University of Oxford (2012). She obtained her PhD degree in Human Geography at King’s College London (2017).
In 2017, Alex joined the Wellcome Trust-funded project ‘Livestock, Environment and People’ (LEAP) at the University of Oxford as a Postdoctoral Researcher. She worked within the social science team and led research on the framings and innovation geographies of alternative proteins.
Alex has conducted expert advisory work for the UK Government, World Economic Forum and members of the European Parliament. She has been an invited speaker at international conferences such as the EAT Stockholm Food Forum and at think tanks including Chatham House and Green Alliance. She is a Council Member for the Food Ethics Council and a co-founder of Cultivate, a non-profit UK-based group that supports informed, multi-voiced dialogue about the emergent field of cellular agriculture from UK perspectives. With her Cultivate colleagues, she has published peer-reviewed open-access papers and hosts annual conferences on the topic of cellular agriculture.
- Research interests
- The material and cultural politics of food: I am particularly interested in the ways that notions of edibility, novelty and ‘good’ food become established, as well as how they change. I have conducted work examining how alternative proteins have challenged the ontological categories of ‘meat’, ‘milk’ and other animal foods, and the biopolitics inherent to the establishment of these technologies as both edible and better foodstuffs.
- The geographies and political economies of (food) innovation: my research also investigates the changing economic geographies of food innovation that alternative proteins have prompted in recent years. I am especially interested in the relationship between place and the cultures of innovation, and have examined the specific role the high-tech region of Silicon Valley has played in shaping the material and economic trajectories of alternative proteins. As part of this work, my research interrogates the notion of ‘disruption’ as always beneficial and benevolent, exploring how alternative proteins represent both disruption and a continuation of the food system in different and problematic ways.
- Defining global food problems and solutions: Linked to the previous strand, I am interested in the historical and changing discourses of food security in policy and corporate contexts, examining how and by whom global food problems are defined and the “politics of possibility” this creates in shaping the knowledge fields, actors and solutions that become legitimised and normalised.
My current project explores the implications of alternative proteins for rural landscapes and livelihoods in the UK and considers what role, if any, these technologies might play in a just protein transition for UK agriculture. I am also conducting a social history of protein to understand how this macronutrient has been conceptualised from its scientific discovery to more recently becoming a matter of both planetary concern and salvation.
- Palatable disruption: the politics of plant milk. Agriculture and Human Values, 37(4), 945-962. View this article in WRRO
- Food as software : place, protein, and feeding the world Silicon Valley–style. Economic Geography.
- Making sense of making meat: Key moments in the first 20 years of tissue engineering muscle to make food. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 3. View this article in WRRO
- Framing the future of food: The contested promises of alternative proteins. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 2(1), 47-72. View this article in WRRO
- Eating for the post-Anthropocene: Alternative proteins and the biopolitics of edibility. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 43(4), 586-600.
- Bringing cultured meat to market: Technical, socio-political, and regulatory challenges in cellular agriculture. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 78, 155-166. View this article in WRRO