This course will explore the ecological and socio-cultural aspects of farming systems, agricultural politics, and food cultures throughout history in various regions of the world. Throughout the class we will explore the relationships between food cultures and political regimes, historical memories, cultivation practices, geographic and ecological conditions, nutrition and diet, certification standards, national policies, and processes of globalization.
This course is divided into four parts: agricultural histories, alternatives and their discontents, current debates, and food futures. Each section includes both theoretical readings that can be used to analyze various aspects of food and agricultural systems and critical anlyses of in-depth case studies. Readings cover social, cultural, environmental, and political aspects of various inputs, farming practices, and rural development strategies.
The first section will trace the history of agrarian change, beginning with the neolithic revolution, to the establishment of “traditional” food and agricultural systems, through to the Green Revolution and industrial agriculture. The second part of the class explores how alternative agricultural models, such as organic, fair trade, local food, and peasant movements have sought to counter problems in the industrialized food system, and questions in what respects they have succeeded and/ or failed. The third part of the course focuses on current debates surrounding agricultural development. We will investigate current controversies such as hunger and obesity, GMOs and property rights on seeds, and the effects of climate change. In this section studnets will engage in a role play debate as their midterm class exercise. We conclude the class with a look forwards toward proposed future actions and more sustainable and just food futures. The final assignment will to write an analytical and argumentative essay on a topic related to class readings.