Broadening Solutions for Food Sovereignty? Evaluating the role of embedded food markets in Jamaica

Authors: Beth Timmers*,
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: diverse economies, food sovereignty, Jamaica
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Governor's Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Food sovereignty scholarship offers a useful lens to problematize power dynamics impacting
food and agriculture, in particular how unequal trade relationships result in social and ecological
consequences in low- and middle-income countries (McMichael 2009; Otero et al. 2013).
However, the anti-capitalist peasant-led social movement recommended to leaven our global
food system is not immediately apparent in any context. This paper evaluates one such context in
Jamaica: an ostensibly liberalized country where global trade rules undermine food and
agricultural sustainability (Barker 1993; Weis 2004; McGregor, Dodman, and Barker 2009).
Select scholars recommend a food sovereignty model be applied to Jamaica, necessitating
peasant mobilization (Talbot 2015; Weis 2004). Yet Jamaica has no peasant-led social
movement on the ground. Instead, trends of self-reliance, a central tenet of Caribbean political
economy, manifest in a food system that delivers fresh produce from small farms to citizens
across the island (Mintz 1974; Beckford and Witter 1982). This paper draws on a survey of 702
households triangulated by interviews with farmers and traders to evaluate food self-reliance
efforts through a non-essentialist and contextualized lens (Gibson-Graham 2006). In Jamaica,
small-scale farmers sell food through a capitalist market that is both deeply embedded in context
and also inextricably linked to the global economy. The diverse economies approach, when
properly contextualized, raises important questions about the role of embedded markets in
today’s food system. This paper gives insight into the subjectivities of farmers and traders within
global capitalism, in the absence of peasant mobilization.

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