Food sovereignty as counterhegemony: Radical pedagogy and the war of position

Authors: Bryan Dale*, University of Toronto
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Rural Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Food sovereignty, capitalism, farmer subjectivities, alternative food initiatives, Canada, system change, prefigurative politics, radical pedagogy, counterhegemony
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Governor's Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Food sovereignty and agroecology struggles remain marginal in Canada, and these concepts have not gained traction in terms of influencing food and agricultural policies. This paper deals with the need for radical political education as a key part of counterhegemonic efforts geared toward transforming society in order to deal with the interconnected food and climate crises. I demonstrate a tendency among some farmers to argue that capitalism ought to merely be reformed in order to deal with its most harmful repercussions, and contrast this with sentiments expressed by farmers who suggest that more radical change is needed. I argue that a counterhegemonic pedagogy has the potential to steer both farmers and non-farmers toward a critical analysis of capitalism and its role in structuring the contemporary food and agricultural system. I then relate this argument to the possibilities and challenges associated with envisioning alternative political programs that would support food sovereignty. The development of such alternatives will involve a war of position that combines a prefigurative politics with a long-term vision for transformation at the level of the Canadian state, and the simultaneous rejection of dystopian notions that radical change will only come once climate and socio-economic crises reach a peak. I argue though that radical pedagogy needs to incorporate direct action and civil disobedience training, pointing to the need for what I call a ‘war of leverage’ — a component of Gramsci’s war of position that can be underemphasized in some discussions of counterhegemonic struggles.

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