Food Sovereignty and the Anthropology of Food

Antropology Forum has recently published a special issue on Food Sovereignty and the Anthropology of Food: Ethnographic Approaches to Policy and Practice.

The articles collected here began as papers at a panel on Food Sovereignty organised  at the annual conference of the Australian Anthropological Society, held at the Australian National University in November 2013. The subtitle ‘local and global solutions to human survival under deteriorating climatic conditions’ stressed the relevance and indeed urgency of anthropological attention to food. While the editors saw this relationship between food policy and practice as a fallow field awaiting urgent anthropological cultivation, similar seeds were being sown across the world at the same moment.

These papers are selected because they contribute to the task of filling this gap by providing anthropologically conceived and ethnographically driven investigations of global and national processes, policies, organisations and discourses as they intersect with the lives of local communities.

The special edition consists of several countries studies, some of them are:

Food Systems Governance

How to explain that despite growth in food production, many are still lacking of adequate food? This is a classic question that has been investigated by many leading lights from various disciplines, including the Noble Laureate Amartya Sen in his groundbreaking research in the 1970s. But challenges remain and this is the focus of the new volume edited by Amanda Kennedy and Jonathan Liljeblad from University of New England Australia. The title of this book is Food Systems Governance: Challenges for justice, equality and human rights. Their starting point is law, and what is the role of law to form the pivot around which these issues are addressed in society in the form of food governance mechanisms. Accordingly the chapters in this book address a range of issues in food governance revolving around questions of justice, fairness, equality and human rights.

I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to contribute to this exciting publication. My chapter entitled ‘Transnational Legal Processes of the Right to Food: Lessons Learned from Papua, Indonesia’, discusses whether and how the growing network between transnational actors that advocate the right to food delivers political change, in the sense that they challenge order the power in society. The paper is based on the paper I presented during the Conference under a similar title, held in Beijing China, May 2014.

Who owns the right to food?

The journal of Third World Quarterly recently published my article entitled: “Who owns the right to food? Interlegality and competing interests in agricultural modernisation in Papua, Indonesia”.

The  article dicusses the extent to which the competing as well as conjoined interests of actors involved in agricultural modernisation are reconfiguring the right to food. Agricultural modernisation provides such a context to study the interplay between global and local levels and between various legal and normative frameworks, as well as how the right to food is promoted or jeopardised in these interactions. The focus here is twofold: first, it is on existing norms linked to the wider understanding of the right to food; and second, on the diverse interests supported by the state, corporations and civil society organisations, particularly indigenous rights movements.

Food Sovereignty

In a FIAN Publication, Winfur and Jonsén argue on the political weight of the concept of food sovereignty.  The focus on social movement and autonomy provides a distinctive feature of food sovereignty in comparison to food security, which they observe as to provide technical guidelines.

Similar to food security, food sovereignty consists of an overarching claim. At the World Food Summit in 1996 the concept of food
sovereignty was launched by the international movement
La Via Campesina as:

The right of each nation to maintain and develop their own capacity to produce foods that are crucial to national and community food security, respecting cultural diversity and diversity of production methods.

According to the 2007 Declaration of Nyéléni, food sovereignty encompasses:

The right of peoples, communities, and countries to define their own agricultural, labour, fishing, food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. It includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food-producing resources and the ability to sustain themselves and their societies. Food sovereignty means the primacy of people’s and community’s rights to food and food production, over trade concerns.

Recently, a special issue on Food Sovereignty is published  in the journal of Globalization. The issue includes some interesting topics, such as:

What is Food Security?

Food security, despite its simple label, is an immensely complex concept, which has been defined in different but similar ways. Some estimate that approximately 200 definitions and 450 indicators of food security exist (Smith et al. 1992). Currently, the common definition applies: food security is a situation that “exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO 1996).

Food insecurity may occur because of the lack of availability of food, insufficient purchasing power, and inability to produce food and feed themselves at the household level. Additionally, inadequate care, especially for women and children, insufficient health service, and unhealthy environment that are closely connected to inadequate education and other societal factors are also the underlying determinants for food and nutrition status. Food insecurity may be chronic, seasonal, or transitory.

This essay provides a bird’s-eye view explanation on food security, and it is based on the entry I wrote for Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics (2014).

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