the political economy of food

I started teaching a course on this topic in 1995. At that time, the concept was so extremely uninteresting (both to the political economists and to the cultural studies people) that the university not only wouldn’t pay us but wouldn’t even allow us access to classroom space. Tony Samara and I taught the course in our living room for several years and I continued to teach it annually through 2009.

The course has three topics:  production, trade, and consumption, or agroecology, economy, and consumer culture.

Every semester we took the students on a field trip to the farmers market, and then home to teach them how to cook the things we’d fed them during the course, and also how to use the vegetables they’d brought home from the market.

Many students from this class have gone on to become food activists.

The Syllabus is below

 

 

This course was developed in 1995 and taught annually at 4 universities until 2009, which is the last time the syllabus was updated.

all materials are provided for educational use only.

Books:

  • Christopher D. Cook, Diet for a Dead Planet. 2006: W W Norton & Co.
  • C. Clare Hinrichs, Thomas A. Lyson, ed., Remaking the North American Food System: Strategies for Sustainability. 2008: U of Nebraska Press
  • Angus Lindsay Wright, Wendy Wolford, To Inherit the Earth: The Landless Movement and the Struggle for a New Brazil. 2003: Food First Books

Schedule

week 1: introductory class

topic 1: production

Week 2 the green revolution

required readings

week 3 scale & efficiency (is bigger better?)

required readings

  • Cook, Diet for a Dead Planet pages 79-152 and 217-229.
  • Marty Strange, Family Farming. 1989: University of Nebraska Press, particularly chapters 1, 2, 5, 6.
  • Kevin Morgan, Terry Marsden, and Jonathan Murdoch, “Geographies of Agri-Food” 53-70 in Worlds of Food. 2006: Oxford University Press, Oxford. (this pdf includes the whole chapter; note that you only need to read to page 70)

optional readings

organizations and resources

Week 4 organic

required readings

• Cook, Diet for a Dead Planet pages 155-173

• Peter Goering, et. al, From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture. 1993: Zed Books, London.

• AND one from each section below:

synthetic pesticides and fertilizers

Week 5 “alternative” production

required readings

• Edward Goldsmith interviews Mudiyanse Tennekoon, “Traditional Agriculture in Sri Lanka”, The Ecologist, 1982. Reprint 47-56 [10]

• Nicanor Perlas, “Detoxifying the Green Revolution”: A Success Story From the Philippines”

one from each section below:

Agroecology

 

recommended film: Global Gardener (Permaculture)

 

 

Week 6 biotechnology

what is it?

regulations & policy

Mae-Wan Ho, “The End of Bad Science and Beginning Again with Life”. Lecture for Conference on “The Limit of Natural Selection”, French Senate, Paris, March 18, 2000.

 

topic 2 : economics

Week 7 international economics

required:

• Cook Diet for a Dead Planet pages 229-242

• any four articles below

Week 8 free trade

required: read at least 5 articles from below

organizations and resources

  • recommended film: This is What Free Trade Looks Like

week 9 alternative trade

required:

C. Clare Hinrichs & Thomas A. Lyson, ed., Remaking the North American Food System. 2007: University of Nebraska Press: pages 65-344.

Herman Daly, “A Steady-State Economy“. Sustainable Development Commission, UK (April 24, 2008).

Read one from each section below.

urban agriculture

fair trade

community currency

organizations and resources

 

Recommended readings

  • John C. Cross, Informal Politics: Street Veendors and the State in Mexico City. 2002: Cambridge University Press.

topic 3 : consumption

Week 11 food culture studies

Week 12 land reform

Angus Lindsay Wright, Wendy Wolford, To Inherit the Earth: The Landless Movement and the Struggle for a New Brazil. 2003: Food First Books.

 

 

 

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