CfP Conference: The Politics and Political Possibilities of Alternative Food Movements


Dear colleagues
This is a reminder for scholars working on alternative food and farming movements that I will be running in Brussels, September 13-15, entitled 'The Politics and Political Possibilities of Alternative Food Movements'. The conference will explore both the politics that underpin alternative food movements, as well as the possible political futures that may be opened up by producing and consuming outside of industrial agricultural systems. The conference will include keynote lectures from Brad Weiss, Birgit Müller and David Giles.
Abstracts of up to 200 words will be accepted until June 9, and can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (as can any inquiries about the conference). Full text of the call is provided below.

This conference is being run as part of Olivia Angé's SeedsValues project, funding for which was secured through and ERC Starter Grant (GA 9950220). More information on 'SeedsValues' can be found here:

The politics and political possibilities of alternative food movements.
People are working in every region of the world to reconceptualise and restructure their relationship to food and food production, motivated by concerns regarding the health, environmental and economic impacts of industrial food systems. Advocates for changing the dominant model of industrial food challenge the modes of production, distribution and consumption of global food systems and propose new ways of relating to food-producing ecosystems. Activists and academics have promoted alternative food movements for their ecological-sustainability, the health benefits with which they are associated, and their (ostensibly) worker-friendly labour conditions. These claims have been problematized by academics who have not only called into question the reality of alternative food movements’ liberatory potential, but also have exposed the problematic political beliefs and practices underwriting some of these movements. Jointly attending to the critiques and the praises that alternative food movements receive, this conference proposes to investigate simultaneously the politics that underwrite alternative food movements and the political possibilities that they might enable. Doing so will acknowledge the inherit connection between agriculture and food, as evaluating the politics of food requires a thorough understanding of the conditions of its production. Political claims regarding the production, consumption, and valuation of foods have material underpinnings in the eco-systemic relations of food production, the working conditions of labourers, and the effects on bodies that food consumption entails. The conference will explore foods’ materialities as a means of recognising the specificities of food and the varied impacts foods can have on human and non-human wellbeing.
The politics of alternative food movements have already come under sustained academic scrutiny. Authors have suggested that such movements might reinforce exploitative labour conditions or reaffirm the unequal distribution of land and wealth (Guthman 2004; García 2021; McNamara 2022). Others have questioned their grass-roots credentials (Edelman 2014) even suggesting such movements function as an avenue for the expression of state, NGO, or corporate power (Galvin 2021; West 2006; Cockburn 2014). Participants will be invited to push this dialogue further by thinking through the ideological commitments implicit in alternative food movements, the politics of land tenure, how such movements reinscribe or challenge racial, class, and gender hierarchies, and the interpersonal politics that give these projects their form and ultimately contribute to their
success or failure. This exploration implicitly contains an inverse project: participants will also be invited to “speak back” to this academic discourse: what is at stake, politically, in social scientific critique of food production?
To push beyond the established discourse mentioned above, this conference will also take seriously the proposal that food movements outside of the industrial agricultural model have the potential to open up alternative political possibilities. Put differently: What kind of political foundations can emerge from an agro-social formation? There is a long history in political science and environmental anthropology that has demonstrated the importance of agricultural systems to the maintenance of political systems (Mintz 1985; Friedmann and McMichael 1989). In these works, industrial agriculture is foundational to how global power and dominant political systems have developed. Authors such as Giles (2021), who argues that consumption outside of capitalist food markets represents a ‘slow insurrection’ against the liberal state, and Lyons (2020), who demonstrates the extent to which alternative agriculture alters practitioners’ subjectivities, point toward the political possibilities that new ways of engaging with food and agriculture might enable. This conference will consider how food and farming movements that exist outside dominant models have the potential to challenge the current configuration of land, capital, gender, and political power as they exist throughout the agro-industrial food system.