Food Justice Racial Projects: Fighting Racial Neoliberalism from the Bay to the Big Apple (Environmental Sociology 2017, 3(1): 30-41, co-written with Joshua Sbicca).
Food justice scholarship utilizing racial formation theory has largely analyzed race and racism within the conventional food system and the food movement, leaving under examined the political projects of food justice organizations to realize racial equity. This article recovers the dialectical spirit of racial formation theory, that of oppression and resistance, and interjects a distinct focus on activism in the context of racial neoliberalism to investigate two food justice organizations, Planting Justice and East New York Farms!. These organizations reveal through their work some of the heterogeneity of food and urban agriculture related race-making practices, namely antiracist racial projects that challenge racial and economic inequities. We show how these projects intervene in the system of mass incarceration, reclaim land for cultural reproduction, and build racial and class solidarity. We argue that the food justice movement, which is comprised of many racial projects, contributes to setting in motion emancipatory racial formation processes. In closing, the article reflects on the possible range of food justice racial projects, how these antiracist projects might work to transform race relations, and some of the limitations that food justice activists might encounter resisting racial neoliberalism.
Towards a Public Food Infrastructure: Closing the Food Gap Through State-Run Grocery Stores (Geoforum 2016, 72: 30-33, co-written with Christine C. Caruso)
There has been a national movement towards closing the grocery gap through public-private partnerships. In this short review, we consider the limits of these interventions in addressing the economic barriers shaping food access and contend that the weaknesses are rooted in the politics of the neoliberal state. We then introduce the concept of the affirmative state and the examples of the military commissary and state-run alcohol stores to legitimate the notion that state-run grocery stores can overcome the limits of conventional grocery gap interventions.
Bridging Good Food and Good Jobs: From Secession to Confrontation within Alternative Food Politics (Geoforum 2015, 61: 17-26, co-written with Joshua Sbicca)
Much of the alternative food movement is predicated on a prefigurative politics of building alternatives to the conventional agrifood system, with only a smaller segment invested in a politics of confrontation with that very same system. In the context of actually existing agrifood relations, this raises a number of concerns. First, the movement often ignores challenging race and class inequality within the agrifood system in favor of realizing environmental sustainability and supporting small farmers. Second, corporate agribusinesses often co-opt the movement’s consumer-centric and health-centric framings to legitimate low-wage big-box retail development in low-income urban communities. Third, the movement does not always recognize how low-income urban communities are developing language and tactics to shape local economic development. In this article, we investigate new alliances between alternative food organizations and labor organizations that use confrontational politics to demand greater food justice and economic justice in the conventional agrifood system. Specifically, we focus on struggles against Wal-Mart in New York City and Los Angeles and the discourse of “Good Food, Good Jobs,” which is used to build alliances between alternative food activists and labor activists working to address the root causes of food insecurity and food deserts. We find that at the core of the Good Food, Good Jobs discourse is a politics committed to increasing the power and health of food chain workers, and more broadly, the communities within which they live, by rejecting the tradeoff between food and jobs, which empowers working class people to shape the development of their communities.
The Logic of the Gift: The Possibilities and Limitations of Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food Alternative (Agriculture & Human Values 2013, 30(3):405-415)
The majority of literature on Slow Food focuses on the organization or actors involved in the movement. There is a dearth of material analyzing Carlo Petrini’s aspirations for Slow Food, particularly in light of his desire within Slow Food Nation (2007) and Terra Madre (2010) to make “freewill giving a part of economic discourse.” This essay corrects the literature gap through historicizing and critiquing Petrini’s alternative to global capitalism while rooting it in actually existing practices. First, Petrini’s problematic conceptualization of freewill giving will be compared to feminist theorizations and documentations of the gift economy. Second, Petrini’s avoidance of the toxic mimic of the gift, its subsumption to capitalism, will be amended by discussing how the gifting of food aid and emergency food networks actually reproduces inequality, poverty and hunger. Third, Petrini’s example of gifting by a Trappist Monastery will be juxtaposed to the ongoing direct action strategies of Food Not Bombs, a much stronger example of an oppositional gift economy, one that is subsequently repressed by the state. In doing so, this essay seeks to expand discussion of the gift economy within the alternative food movement while amending many of the theoretical, historical and political problems embedded within Petrini’s work, which performs a strong disservice to the politics of possibility embedded within gifting.