The Future of Food Politics (or Why Food is Not Coal)

Thu, Sep 26, 7:00 pm
University Center Theater UM
Speaker Name: 
Dr. Hugh Campbell
University of Otago

Abstract: In a world of environmental politics which is often highly pessimistic about how we might change future trajectories and address present and future crises it is important to consider the grounds on which positive change might happen.  This talk seeks to identify whether we are in such a transformative moment around the politics of food. Commencing with a brief review of food since the Industrial Revolution, two significant moments of transformative crisis are identified which significantly altered the shape and trajectory of world food relationships. These were the first food supply crisis of the Industrial Revolution in the 1840s and the Food Security crises that emerged around the Great Depression and WWII. Using this historical template of crisis and transformative response, the rest of the talk considers the basis around which the World Food Crisis of 2008 signals that such a transformative moment might be upon us again. The case for this particular moment being different or transformative is made in relation to some significant changes in the current economic dynamics around food (as demonstrated by the debate around the 'end of the era of cheap food') and ecological politics (particularly the new visibility of food waste politics) trajectory of food relations.  The final section of the talk addresses the bases around which a new food politics is potentially taking shape, examining current politic actions around: food localisation, recovery, dumpster diving, farmer's markets, labelling and self-provisioning. The conclusion of the talk is that 'food is not coal'. It has the potential to be a site of mobilisation of positive, embodied and incorporative politics in ways that open up new alternatives and spaces for transformationDr. Hugh Campbell.

Bio: Dr. Hugh Campbell is Chair of Sociology as well as Head of the Department of Sociology, Gender & Social Work at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He was also Director of the Centre for the Study of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CSAFE) from 2000 to 2010. He grew up around farming in NZ, and a long-term interest in issues involving agriculture and food has stayed with him in his subsequent career as a social scientist.

Since 2003, Hugh has been one of the research leaders of the ARGOS Programme: a trans-discipinary study of sustainability dynamics that is considered to be the largest current study of ‘farm-scale’ sustainability in the world. He has also been the co-editor of  five book collections with the two most recent being: Food Systems Failure: the Global Food Crisis and the Future of Agriculture and Rethinking Agricultural Policy Regimes: Food Security, Climate Change and the Future Resilience of Global Agriculture.

Gay Allison


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