From disruptive to emancipatory politics: transforming food governance

Session convenors:
Ana Moragues Faus, Cardiff University (
Terry Marsden, Cardiff University (

Current political events – from raise of nationalistic and populist movements to the growth of support for post-colonial, feminist and anti-austerity perspectives – present a rupture with managerial and the so-called post-democratic politics [1–3]. The food system embodies this highly politicised arena which, to date, still results in increasing levels of food poverty and health inequality, environmental degradation and increasing concentration of power [4–6]. For example in Europe, policy synergies between a private-interest governance regime and a corporatist EU state-based regulatory regime coexist with an ever-growing number of alternative food networks and food justice movements [7–9]. These fragmented governance landscapes require deeper examination to understand how current disruptive events – in the form of multiple crises, Brexit, social mobilisations or creative destruction events – can be harnessed into more emancipatory politics.

Despite recent works on key food and socio-ecological systems governance deficiencies [10–13], to date, in the food studies community, governance remains an ill-defined term and will benefit from further engagement with political geography debates. In this session, we want to explore further what forms of governance can contribute to transforming food and socio-ecological systems into more egalitarian and emancipatory foodscapes. For that purpose, we welcome contributions from critical geographies that critically analyse:

  • The concepts, analytical tools and mechanisms that can harness more emancipatory politics. This might include mobilising bodies of work such as political ecology, the pluriverse, everyday politics, the post-political, assemblages or participative justice [14–20].  
  • New and old forms of governance such as networks, partnerships, alliances, policies or food policy councils.
  • How different actors, sectors and scales interact in specific governance spaces, creating distinct degrees of connectivity and autonomy. This includes interrogating the rise of urban food politics or the rearrangement of urban-rural relationships.
  • The transformative capacity of disruptive politics such as Brexit


[1]        Davidson, M.; Iveson, K. Recovering the Politics of the City: From the “post-Political City” to a “Method of Equality” for Critical Urban Geography. Prog. Hum. Geogr., 2014, 39, 543–559.

[2]        Swyngedouw, E. Impossible Sustainability and the Post-Political Condition. In: The sustainable development paradox: urban political economy in the United States and Europe; Kreuger, R.; Gibbs, D., Eds.; The Guilford Press: New York, London, 2007; pp. 13–40.

[3]        Swyngedouw, E. Interrogating Post-Democratization: Reclaiming Egalitarian Political Spaces. Polit. Geogr., 2011, 30, 370–380.

[4]        FAO. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2001; Rome, 2002.

[5]        Godfray, H.C.J.; Beddington, J.R.; Crute, I.R.; Haddad, L.; Lawrence, D.; Muir, J.F.; Pretty, J.; Robinson, S.; Thomas, S.M.; Toulmin, C. Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People. Science (80-. )., 2010, 327, 812–818.

[6]        IPES-Food. Unravelling the Food–Health Nexus: Addressing Practices, Political Economy, and Power; 2017.

[7]        Marsden, T.; Hebinck, P.; Mathijs, E. Re-Building Food Systems: Embedding Assemblages, Infrastructures and Reflexive Governance for Food Systems Transformations in Europe. Food Secur., 2018, 1–9.

[8]        Herman, A.; Goodman, M. New Spaces of Food Justice. Local Environ., 2018, 23, 1041–1046.

[9]        Sage, C. The Interconnected Challenges for Food Security from a Food Regimes Perspective: Energy, Climate and Malconsumption. J. Rural Stud., 2013, 29, 71–80.

[10]     Moragues-Faus, A.; Sonnino, R.; Marsden, T. Exploring European Food System Vulnerabilities: Towards Integrated Food Security Governance. Environ. Sci. Policy, 2017, 75, 184–215.

[11]     Cash, D.; Adger, W.; Berkes, F. Scale and Cross-Scale Dynamics: Governance and Information in a Multilevel World. Ecol. Soc., 2006, 11, 8.

[12]     Folke, C.; Hahn, T.; Olsson, P.; Norberg, J. Adaptive Governance of Social-Ecological Systems. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour., 2005, 30, 441–473.

[13]     Termeer, C.; Dewulf, A.; Lieshout, M. Van. Disentangling Scale Approaches in Governance Research: Comparing Monocentric, Multilevel, and Adaptive Governance. Ecol. Soc., 2010, 15, 29.

[14]     Swyngedouw, E. Impossible Sustainability and the Post-Political Condition. Mak. Strateg. Spat. Plan., 2010, 185–205.

[15]     Beveridge, R.; Koch, P. The Post-Political Trap? Reflections on Politics, Agency and the City. Urban Stud., 2017, 54, 31–43.

[16]     Yates, L. Everyday Politics, Social Practices and Movement Networks: Daily Life in Barcelona’s Social Centres. Br. J. Sociol., 2015, 66, 236–258.

[17]     Moragues-Faus, A.; Marsden, T. The Political Ecology of Food: Carving ‘Spaces of Possibility’ in a New Research Agenda. J. Rural Stud., 2017, 55, 275–288.

[18]     Escobar, A. Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy and the Making of Worlds; Duke University Press: Duke, 2018.

[19]     Anderson, B.; Kearnes, M. On Assemblages and Geography. Dialogues Hum. Geogr. Hum. Geogr., 2012.

[20]     Loo, C. Towards a More Participative Definition of Food Justice. J. Agric. Environ. Ethics, 2014, 27, 787–809.


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