- Food, Agriculture and Social Change: The Everyday Vitality of Latin America ed. by Stephen Sherwood, Alberto Arce, and Myriam Paredes
Food, Agriculture and Social Change: The Everyday Vitality of Latin America.
Abdingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2017. xvi + 234 pp. Notes, references, index. $49.95 paper (978-1-138-21498-9); $135.00 cloth (978-1-138-21497-2); $44.96 electronic (978-1-315-44008-8).
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This insightful and innovative edited volume challenges scholars of critical food studies to engage concepts of multiplicity, intersubjectivity, and relationality. The editors are academics, connected through Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and many contributors are previous or past Wageningen students. Sherwood and Arce, an agronomist and sociologist, respectively, are professors at Wageningen, while Paredes received her doctorate from Wageningen and now works at Facultad Latino-americana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) in Ecuador. Through this book, the editors present food crises (including obesity, loss of cultural food traditions, increasing monocropping) of recent decades in Latin America not as policy failures but instead as emerging from the “‘success’ of modernization” projects in food production (p. 13). The introduction frames the collection as a project to decenter in food relations institutions such as the market and nation-state. Instead the editors establish a platform for empirically grounded discussions of the everyday, material, and affective activities around food’s production, processing, and consumption throughout the region. The volume successfully and cohesively makes the argument that critical food studies can open new possibilities for activism, alternative futures, and sustainable agriculture, and in doing so can move food studies scholarship beyond the limiting binaries of modern and traditional, urban and rural, and local and international.
The editors’ introduction invites the audience into a dynamic conversation among scholars committed to theorizing food not as object or commodity but instead as material experience, relationship, and promoter of political change. The editors organize the thirteen contributions into three themes: modern food embodiments, corporeality, and assemblages and multiplicities. The first section addresses such questions as how the introduction of highly processed foods into traditionally subsistence Ecuadorian communities reshapes bodies and relationships with food (Gross, Guerrón Montero, Hammer & Berti); how indigenous notions of abundance in the Colombian Amazon may help us view food systems more holistically (Torres & Verschoor); and how transnational soy production creates new subjectivities among farmers (Ofstehage). The second theme, corporeality, includes chapters on both on food’s biological effects on the mind and body as well as considering the physical presence required in food’s cultivation and circulation. For example, consumption of the Peyote cactus is often a consciousness-altering experience and, according to Oscar Reyna, perhaps politically mobilizing. Other contributors argue that the bodily occupation of space in unexpected social associations, such as agroecology networks (Charão-Marques, Job Schmitt & Oliveira) or biointensive workshops (Curiel), inspires potential for political action or an imagining of a more equitable food system. The third grouping of chapters challenges ideas of “the public” (Silva, Cortés Belmar & Arce) and agency (Biteri) in relation to food practices and citizenship action. Assemblage theory and the concept of rhizomes organize authors’ thinking on knowledge-sharing networks, social organizing in cooperatives, and markets formed to [End Page 231] improve local relationships as well as foment responsible cultivation practices. The concept of contingency, or an uncertain but possible future action, weaves throughout the book. Authors argue that unexpected political action in support of more healthy and equitable food systems emerges from relational interchanges between humans, non-humans, and technology.
The volume’s strengths include its theoretical engagements and regional focus. Engagement with ideas of human and non-human assemblages and rhizomic networks reflect current discussions across disciplines. Many contributors draw heavily from the work of Alberto Arce, Michael Carolan, Gilles Deleuze, Manuel DeLanda, Félix Guattari, Bruno Latour, and Ted Schatzki. The chapters converse dynamically as authors approach theory from diverse disciplines including anthropology, development studies, science and technology studies, sociology, and agricultural economics. Participants in this book include not only traditional university academics but also scholars working in nongovernmental organizations throughout Latin America. Ethnographic methods of participant observation and interviews feature prominently. In...