Food Sovereignty: a critical dialogue: Abstracts 15-18
An international conference at Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA, September 14-15, 2013
View the complete program.
Conference Paper # 15: How to Build Food Sovereignty, by A Haroon Akram-Lodhi
Around the world, rural social movements and urban food activist-citizens have proposed that food sovereignty has the potential to be the foundation of an alternative food system that can transcend the deep-seated social, economic and ecological contradictions of the global food economy. However, food sovereignty advocates rarely discuss the kinds of concrete changes to global and local food systems that would be necessary in the messy reality of the present if food sovereignty is to be built. As an entry point into this important discussion, and drawing in part on the author's recent book, Hungry for Change: Farmers, Food Justice and the Agrarian Question, this work-in-progress will present a series of ideas that, it will be suggested, are necessary but not sufficient conditions for the realization of food sovereignty.
Conference Paper # 16: The New American Farmer: The Agrarian Question, Food Sovereignty and Immigrant Mexican Growers in the United States, by Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern
This paper draws on ethnographic research conducted in the Central Coast of California and the Northern Neck of Virginia, where a significant number of Mexican farmworkers are in the process of transitioning to small-scale family-run farm owner/operators, despite race and ethnicity based discrimination. Although they attempt to succeed as small-scale, family-run and biodiverse farmers, they face market pressures to scale up and grow less diverse crops, exemplifying the contradictions inherent in the food sovereignty movement. As dispossessed agricultural laborers turned farm owners, they challenge common notions of immigrants’ role in modern agriculture, pushing the racial and ethnic boundaries of U.S. farming. This study points to new agrarian questions related to food sovereignty, labor, race, and migration.
Conference Paper # 17: We Are Not All the Same: Taking Gender Seriously in Food Sovereignty Discourse Clara Mi Young Park, Ben White and Julia
The vision of food sovereignty calls for radical changes in “agricultural, political and social systems related to food”. These changes also entail addressing inequalities and asymmetries of power in gender relations. While women’s rights are seen as central to food sovereignty given the key role women play in food production and procurement, food preparation, family food security and food culture, few attempts have been made to systematically integrate gender in food sovereignty analysis. This paper uses case study evidence from countries where corporate agricultural expansion is on-going to highlight the different ways and wants of incorporation and struggle that take place on the ground depending on women and men’s different position, class and endowments. These, in turn, are contributing to processes of social differentiation and class formation thus to creating rural communities and societies that are much more complex and antagonistic than those sketched in food sovereignty discourse and neopopulist claims of egalitarianism, cooperation and solidarity. We argue that proponents of food sovereignty need to systematically address gender as a strategic element of its construct and not only as a mobilising ideology. We also maintain that if food sovereignty is to have an intellectual future within critical agrarian studies, it will have to reconcile the inherent contradictions of the “we are all the same” discourse taking the analysis of social differences, such as class, gender and ethnicity, as a starting point to challenge existing inequalities of power.
Conference Paper # 18: Maize as sovereignty: anti-GM activism in Mexico and Colombia, by Liz Fitting
In this conference paper, I consider some of the strengths and weaknesses of the food sovereignty (FS) approach based on my research among anti-GM activists in Colombia and Mexico. Food sovereignty is taken up by anti-GM activists and rural producers in a way that is shaped by the particularities of place. Despite reproducing some of the problems of FS, I argue that these activists draw our attention to the specific issues and contexts of their region – particularly through their focus on maize-- and illustrate the usefulness of a food sovereignty approach. Their campaigns focus on maize as a symbol of sovereignty (at various scales) and campesino and indigenous ways of life, which activists believe are undermined by transgenic varieties of corn. In doing so, these campaigns situate the issue of GM corn imports, testing, and commercial cultivation within a broader critique of neoliberal globalization.
The Food Sovereignty Conference:
A fundamentally contested concept, food sovereignty has — as a political project and campaign, an alternative, a social movement, and an analytical framework — barged into global agrarian discourse over the last two decades. Since then, it has inspired and mobilized diverse publics: workers, scholars and public intellectuals, farmers and peasant movements, NGOs and human rights activists in the North and global South. The term has become a challenging subject for social science research, and has been interpreted and reinterpreted in a variety of ways by various groups and individuals. Indeed, it is a concept that is broadly defined as the right of peoples to democratically control or determine the shape of their food system, and to produce sufficient and healthy food in culturally appropriate and ecologically sustainable ways in and near their territory. As such it spans issues such as food politics, agroecology, land reform, biofuels, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), urban gardening, the patenting of life forms, labor migration, the feeding of volatile cities, ecological sustainability, and subsistence rights.
Sponsored by the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University and the Journal of Peasant Studies, and co-organized by Food First, Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS) and the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, Yale Sustainable Food Project, as well as the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute (TNI), the conference “Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue” will be held at Yale University on September 14–15, 2013. The event will bring together leading scholars and political activists who are advocates of and sympathetic to the idea of food sovereignty, as well as those who are skeptical to the concept of food sovereignty to foster a critical and productive dialogue on the issue. The purpose of the meeting is to examine what food sovereignty might mean, how it might be variously construed, and what policies (e.g. of land use, commodity policy, and food subsidies) it implies. Moreover, such a dialogue aims at exploring whether the subject of food sovereignty has an “intellectual future” in critical agrarian studies and, if so, on what terms.