Seeing Nature Beyond the Farm: Towards a Feminist Political Ecology of Food Systems

Food is simultaneously a vital human necessity, a commodity with a volatile exchange value, and the object of over half of all human labor (Galt, 2013). Understanding labor as the force that mediates a dialectical relationship between humans and non-human nature, we view food as an ideal subject for exploring socioecological relations under capitalism. In this session, we seek to develop a feminist political ecology of food systems that engages a broad understanding of food systems labor. While existing scholarship in political ecology explores the complex role that nature plays in agricultural production, more work is needed to understand how “nature” circulates across the food chain--in processing plants, slaughterhouses, refrigerated trucks, and grocery store shelves. Looking beyond the farm can help us understand the myriad transformations, exchanges, and social relations operating between the field, the final point of consumption, and beyond. 

A more holistic analysis of the role of food labor in the production and reproduction of the global food system can also help us understand why the struggles of food chain workers must take center stage in the movement for more just and sustainable food systems. Moreover, developing a feminist political ecology of food systems can help us understand the vital role that women’s unpaid and underpaid foodwork plays in both mediating socioecological relationships and reproducing current and future generations. To this end, we seek to add to the breadth and depth of political ecology work that explores the radical potential of paid, unpaid, and decommodified forms of food provisioning (Heynen, 2009 & 2010; Shillington, 2013). We welcome a broad range of papers on topics including, but not limited to:


• Paid and unpaid food systems labor.

• Decommodified and other alternative forms of food provisioning.

• The interaction between human labor and other forms of non-human “work” performed by machines, chemicals, and packaging systems.

• Efforts to bridge the labor, food, and environmental movements and/or build coalitions.

• Feminist, ecofeminist, critical race, and critical sustainabilities approaches to food systems organizing

Please send a title and abstract of no more than 300 words to Amy Coplen ( and Jennifer Gaddis ( by Saturday, November 26. Please feel free to also direct inquiries to either of the organizers. Participants must also register for the conference by December 1:



-Heynen, Nik. 2009. “Bending the Bars of Empire from Every Ghetto for Survival: The Black Panther Party’s Radical Antihunger Politics of Social Reproduction and Scale.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99 (2): 406–22. 
-Heynen, Nik. 2010. “Cooking up Non-Violent Civil-Disobedient Direct Action for the Hungry: ‘Food Not Bombs’ and the Resurgence of Radical Democracy in the US.” Urban Studies 47 (6): 1225–40.
-Shillington, Laura J. 2013. “Right to Food, Right to the City: Household Urban Agriculture, and Socionatural Metabolism in Managua, Nicaragua.” Geoforum 44 (January). Elsevier Ltd: 103–11.

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