Global Food, Agriculture, and Development

Course Description: 

The fields of food and agriculture are inherently interdisciplinary, as they integrate the large-scale politics of agricultural policy-making with the cultural specificity of taste; farmer agricultural practices with their environmental and social impacts; local knowledge systems with academic research findings. Therefore this course is cross-listed between two departments and will explore the ecological and socio-cultural aspects of farming systems, agricultural politics, and food cultures throughout history in various regions of the world.                        

This course is divided into four parts: agricultural history, development discourses, alternative agriculture systems, and food cultures. 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. The second part of the class focuses on understanding debates surrounding agricultural development, aid, trade, and subsidies. We will investigate current controversies such as land grabbing, land sparing, GMOs, and property rights on seeds. This will culminate in a mid-term exercise of a simulation of agricultural negotiations in the European Union. The third part of the course critiques alternative agricultural systems, such as organic, fair trade, local food, and food sovereignty movements, and the types of changes in the status quo that ecah does or does not bring about. The final part of the class will explore the relationship between social, cultural, political, and ecological determinants of taste and food as culinary heritage. 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. The final assignment will to write an analytical research paper on a topic related to class readings.

 Please note that this is a reading-based discussion seminar (rather than a lecture) and plan your schedule accordingly. 

Learning Outcomes: 

  • Develop broad understanding of ecological, social, political and cultural issues related to agriculture, development, and food systems
  • Evaluate and critique academic literature on agricultural sustainability, politics, and food and agriculture movements
  • Understand the complexities of controversial issues and be able to present arguments from various perspectives
  • Formulate one’s own informed opinion on relevant issues, analyze them theoretically, and present them in a written final paper

Assessment: 

Class attendance and participation 15%

Critical reading and moderation and participation of discussions online and in class 25%

Negotiation exercise 25%

Final paper 35%