Critical Agrifood Scholarship

20 April 2013 at 1:32 am 4 comments

| Peter Klein |

A friend tipped me off to this, um, interesting paper on farmers markets, which the authors place within the larger field of “critical agrifood scholarship.” We all know what “critical” means, and I’m familiar with much of the agrifood literature, but I didn’t know about this particular field. I learned a lot from the paper about the slow-food movement’s ability to “create political transformation,” and build a “radicalized space” even though such markets “cluster around property and privilege.” The authors seek to “unpack the racialized and class-inflected narratives at play in farmers markets [and] to extend the alternative agriculture movement’s strategic rupturing of the veil of commodity fetishism to include the systemic inequalities on which both conventional and alternative agriculture depend.” How about that thesis statement! In passing, the authors manage to chide the slow-food movement’s “complacency with capitalism and consumerism, systems that are inherently exploitative and divisive,” while adding editorial remarks to such important scientific phenomena as “the working class performances of ‘god, guns and country’ that fill the rhetoric of the GOP.”

Thank goodness for taxpayer-subsided universities. If there were a free market for higher education, this kind of valuable scholarship would probably be grossly underfunded.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Food and Agriculture, Jargon Watch, Pomo Periscope. Tags: .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Michael Giberson  |  21 April 2013 at 9:26 am

    The language sounds familiar. Was it written by Alan Sokal?

  • 2. Randy  |  21 April 2013 at 11:04 pm

    Peter, I was sitting in my living room watching the NBA playoffs and performing my whiteness when I read your post and, subsequently, the article. I even asked the sociologists at the the orgtheory blog whether one could trust the coding of the alleged qualitative data gathered by authors who have such an … errrrhhh… advanced critical perspective. I do not expect any replies.

    The authors of the article anger me. They make a big deal that the Slow Food Movement has a European focus (as opposed to Mayan?). Imagine that! It began there. World headquarters remains in Italy. They are quite taken that the crowds at the farm markets in Berkeley and Davis look white. They blame the whiteness on all the claptrap that you note, Peter. Perhaps they should have blamed the demographics of the two locations. They make allusions to imaginary white farmers when the work on farms in CA is done by immigrant, non-white laborers. There were no data on farm labor on farms serving farmers markets from the Department of Agriculture triangulated with the first-person observations of the authors.

    I guess I don’t know at this point whether I fault the paper more for the postmodern muzziness or the lack of any attention to research design .

  • 3. Reader  |  9 May 2013 at 6:55 pm

    I was going to make a Sokal comment but, well, I got beaten.

    It actually reads like a parody: “unpack the racialized and class-inflected narratives at play in farmers markets [and] to extend the alternative agriculture movement’s strategic rupturing of the veil of commodity fetishism to include the systemic inequalities on which both conventional and alternative agriculture depend”

  • 4. Chinstrap Goatee  |  2 June 2013 at 2:26 am

    LOL IDK but “Austrian economics” reads like a dizzying array of insider jargon and math-o-phobia to me…..IDK much about Antipode but its probably more Marxist (or post-Marxist, or whatever) than postmodern….

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