Navigating futures: Anticipation and food supply chain mapping

Andrew Donaldson, J. Brice, Jane Midgley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the use of supply chain mapping by actors in the UK food
system to anticipate problematic futures. Supply chain mapping as an anticipatory practice is a response to a recent food scare that has reinforced concerns about the safety, quality, and authenticity of foodstuffs circulating within supply chains. Our analysis of this novel set of mapping practices is based around the visibility of the supply chain that they offer and the ways in which this is generated or made to relate to future problems as both objects and processes. Supply chain maps as objects can induce surprise and uncertainty over the future, but they can also demonstrate responsibility for risk or be a means of allocating and assuring accountability for future problems. Looking at mapping as a process highlights both the difficulty of mapping supply chains and what is actually involved in using supply chain maps to give form to potential future problems. We characterise both of these processes as navigational, based on creating and reading “signposts” that allow risky food futures to be plotted as trajectories in space and time. Supply chain maps describe a process as well as a set of spatial relations, and navigating futures with these maps is a skilled task involving accumulated knowledge about food risks and learning to recognise supply chain maps as encompassing time and space. Our analysis highlights how things not made visible by the map, but present through those involved in the mapping, are as important in its anticipatory use as the things made visible. Maps are part of a wider process of making sense of risky food chain futures that is filled with uncertainty and power relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-618
Number of pages13
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2019


  • Anticipation
  • Mapping practices
  • Maps
  • Risk
  • Supply chain mapping
  • UK food system

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Innovation Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Navigating futures: Anticipation and food supply chain mapping'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this