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SOCI319 The Global Politics of Food

Theories and issues relating to the global politics of food and agriculture.

This paper provides a critical, historically grounded introduction to one of the most important political, economic and social aspects of the contemporary world - food. The paper begins with the industrial revolution and identifies the factors that restructured how people feed themselves. An integral part of the industrial revolution was the expanding working class in England. During the 18th, 19th and into the 20th century this food system drew differing regions of the globe into close relations with each other - totally transforming the nature of local society and culture. In the 20th century this food system underwent another period of transformation as the industrial processing of food, the emergence of large food transnational corporations and the integration of ever-widening portions of the globe into the world food system restructured world food relationships. These dramatic transformations are examined through the lens of food regime theory, which seeks to understand periods of stability and periods of transformational crisis in world food relations.

The contemporary situation in world food relations can be argued to be entering one of these periods of transformational crisis. Characterised by the World Food Crisis of 2008, increasing arrays of ecological shocks and threats and dramatically changing cultural and political dynamics around food, this paper seeks to understand the sociological bases around which a future world of food might take shape. The paper has proved of great interest to students who are:

  • Interested in critical political economy approaches that inform social scientific understandings of contemporary crises
  • Those interested in food activism and politics or issues around environmental sustainability and resilience
  • Those in traditional areas of food research who are looking for a wider social and historical context to the specific issues they are examining in other papers.
This paper also draws on insights from past graduates of the paper who are now working in food activism, NGOs, university teaching or research.|

Paper title The Global Politics of Food
Paper code SOCI319
Subject Sociology
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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18 200-level ANTH, CRIM, GEND or SOCI points or 54 200-level Arts points
ANTH 319
Schedule C
Arts and Music
Students who have not passed the normal prerequisites may be admitted with approval from the Head of Department.
The paper has been designed to cater for two student groups. First, there is enough social theory in this paper to satisfy students who are interested in sociological approaches to contemporary phenomena. However, there is not too much theory, as this paper has traditionally been open to students from a range of other backgrounds who have a strong interest in the politics of food.

Teaching staff

Co-ordinator: Professor Hugh Campbell

Paper Structure
The four main sections of the paper are:
  • Empires of Food: The Industrial/Imperial Food Regime
  • The Second Food Regime
  • Food under Neoliberalism: The Emerging Crises
  • The New Politics of Food
Teaching Arrangements

The paper is arranged around classroom teaching and tutorials, and recommended food-related films.

Assessment involves three major assignments (students can choose to only do two out of three of these), which address each of the following three issues: historical dynamics of global food, contemporary crises of industrial food, strategic interventions in food politics.

There is no final exam for the paper.

The paper does not use a single textbook, but collected readings and documentaries about key topics in the paper are made available through Blackboard.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Ethics, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
The aims of the paper are to:
  • Become familiar with an understanding of the political and social importance of food
  • Understand different kinds of politics around food's production and consumption
  • Appreciate the value of looking at history through food and its relevance today
  • Grasp the complexity of food as it relates to the politics of resources, the environment and social justice
By the end of the paper students should be able to:
  • Employ food regimes theory as a critical theoretical tool
  • Critically examine research literature
  • Compare and contrast the social impact of different kinds of commodities throughout history
  • Explain basic concepts and theories related to a politics of food

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system