Territories of Agrarian Industrial Transformation

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group, Landscape Specialty Group, Socialist and Critical Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Plaza Court 1, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Organizers: Stefan Norgaard, Mariel Collard Arias
Chairs: Mariel Collard Arias

Call for Submissions

Organizers: Mariel Collard, Harvard University Graduate School of Design (mcollard@gsd.harvard.edu) and Stefan Norgaard, Columbia University (spn2121@columbia.edu).

Contemporary agrarian-industrial transformations animate key debates in geography and urban studies. These debates include, but are not limited to, questions of depeasantization, differentiation and dispossession (Araghi, 1999; Sanyal, 2007; Berstein, 2001); the dialectics between concentrated and extended urbanization, and questions of ‘planetary’ urbanization (Lefebvre, 1970; Brenner, 2014; Brenner and Schmid, 2014); typologically distinct forms of recombinant urbanization, specific to layered, cumulative institutional apparatuses and arrangements (Balakrishnan, 2019); and questions of whether potential “disarticulations” might exist from the increasingly hegemonic international divisions of capital and labor (Piore and Sabel, 1984; Bair and Werner, 2011).

The development and growing complexity of global metropolitan areas—where urban-planning and urban-geography efforts tend to be focused—are directly related to agrarian transformations. The last three decades have seen a massive expansion of infrastructure, shifts in labor dynamics, and environmental impacts intensified by rampant agro-industrial extraction (Goodman and Redclift, 1994). Dominant trends and trajectories in agro-industry include firm consolidation and vertical integration, “cheap food,” and compounded futures speculation over commodity-driven growth (Cronon, 1991; Moore, 2010; Patel and Moore, 2017). These phenomena produce specific spatial forms common the world over: plantation-style megafarms, off-site technical and logistics infrastructure, contract farming, and economic corridor regions, among many others. Global supply chains, speculative commodification, and “cheap food” increasingly require new or revamped spatial forms that resist and supplant these trends.

We seek papers that engage scholarly debates around agrarian studies and geographies of food and agriculture in the context of climate disintegration; urban-rural inequality, integrated territorial development, and urban bias in geography; public/private arrangements; and depeasantization/rural dispossession. We are interested in potentially generative practices, solidarities, movements, or alliances that seek more socially and ecologically just agrarian and urban systems, and focus on the flows and links between rural and urban. We are interested in learning more about questions including, but not limited to, the following:

1. To what extent do today’s inter-firm networks and public/private arrangements—in and beyond food and agriculture—represent a continuation of late liberalism and its associated territorial restructuring? (See, Brenner, 2013). Alternatively, do contemporary dynamics transcend the specific, contingent post-1980s contexts of market liberalization?
2. Are there typical commodities or products that lend themselves more often than others to potential counter-insurgencies, disarticulations, or alternatives to agro-industrial consolidation? Why? Do factors like production differentiation and branding matter (Porter and Bond, 1999)? Products’ physical properties (i.e. dairy, cheese)? Histories of artisanal or “craft” production and localized knowledges (Humphrey and Schmitz, 2016)? Similarly, are there distinctive geographies and specific landscapes associated with different transformations?
3. Grounding perspectives “from below” (i.e. from workers), how does the subjective experience of working in plantation-style consolidated agro-industry differ from work in a techno-field, from a non-networked firm, or in subsistence agriculture? (Answering this question may well require ethnography, or research giving voice to farmworkers, agrarian movement leaders, or agro-industrial workers).
4. What are instances of agrarian-industrial spatial forms that have emerged “organically” (i.e. without intensive nation-state sponsored political strategy)? What are instances of those forms that received intense support, or those that were pre-planned or designed outright?
5. Zooming out to debates about planetary urbanization and regional clusters, path dependencies, and countries’ institutional legacies, what ideologies and knowledge(s) do different agro-industrial spatial and geographical models purportedly advance? Why?
6. Are contemporary agrarian spatial and geographic forms “under threat” from “above?” (i.e., from increasing demands toward product standardization, vertical integration, and homogenous global standards?) If this is empirically observable, what are the spatial, social, and economic consequences?
7. How do geographically bounded designations and models of ownership configure or transform agrarian space and processes? These might include “Denominations of Origin,” production certifications, and natural or cultural reserves established under preservation or conservation acts.
8. What constitutes “failure” and/or “success” in this landscape of agro-industrial transformation, and why? What type of political coalitions do different solutions seem to typically foster? Do potentially generative solutions offer dynamic regional synergies (“clusters”) that might push back against the “core / periphery” dynamic (Scott and Storper, 2016; Schmitz and Nadvi, 1999)? To what extent is “success” or “failure” contingent on scalability or replicability? What examples of agrarian or agro-industrial regimes are “nonscalable” and how are they a form of resistance (Tsing, 2012)?

To participate in this session, please submit an abstract (250 words or less) as well as your conference PIN by October 23, 2019 to spn2121@columbia.edu and mcollard@gsd.harvard.edu. Participants will be For more information, please see: www2.aag.org/aagannualmeeting

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Bair, Jennifer and Marion Werner. “The place of disarticulations: global commodity production
in La Laguna, Mexico.” Environment and Planning. 2011. Vol. 43. 998-1015.

Balakrishnan, Sai. “Recombinant Urbanization: Agrarian-Urban Landed Property And Uneven
Development In India.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Vol. 43, no. 4. July 2019. 617-632.

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Upgrading in Industrial Clusters?” Institute of Development Studies. University of Sussex. 2016.

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Ecology, 1450–2010.” Journal of Agrarian Change. Vol. 10, no. 3. July 2010. 389–413.

Patel, Raj and Jason W. Moore. “Cheap Food.” A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things:
A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet. Oakland: University of California Press, 2017.

Piore, Michael J. and Charles F. Sabel. The Second Industrial Divide: Possibilities for
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Porter, Michael C. and Gregory Bond. “The California Wine Cluster.” Harvard Business
School. Case. HBS Case Collection. June 1999 (Revised February 2013).

Sanyal, Kalyan. Rethinking Capitalist Development: Primitive Accumulation, Governmentality,
and Post-Colonial Capitalism. New Delhi: Routledge, 2007.

Schmitz, Hubert and Khalid Navi. “Clustering and Industrialization: Introduction.” World
Development. Vol. 27, No. 9., pp. 1503-1514. 1999.

Scott, Allen and Michael Storper. “Current Debates in Urban Theory: A Critical Assessment.”
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Scales.” Common Knowledge. Vol. 18, no. 3, 2012. 505-524.

Organizers' abstract (250 words):

We introduce and critically engage Specialized Agrarian Industrial Districts (SAIDs), geographically bounded zones that produce distinctive agricultural products, with localized-producer networks and regional inter-firm relations. We define characteristics that animate these zones, and their social/ecological opportunities and pitfalls. We examine the role that public actors—specifically nation-states—and local institutional arrangements play in supporting and enabling SAIDs as counters to global agro-industrial consolidation. Moreover, we consider SAIDs as new spatial sites, or geographical arenas for critical study.
Our investigation examines cheese in the Franche-Comté, France and in Minas-Gerais, Brazil; and alcohol in South Africa’s Western Cape (wine) and Jalisco, Mexico (mezcal). Cheese and alcohol often require artisanal, centuries-old production and storage techniques; their biophysical properties and longstanding cultural traditions explain why SAIDs produce these commodities.

Regulations and specific “denominations of origin” bound SAIDs, protecting them from pernicious, “race-to-the-bottom” globalization. SAIDs relate to land and property systems with long histories (agrarian reform, collective ownership, natural protection, and cultural/touristic heritage) and distinctive “terroir” (physical geographies with climate, topography, and soil central to production).

SAIDs offer regional-development opportunities, negotiated relationships between workers and producers, and quality food. SAIDs cannot be created, but can be fostered where nascent. Yet concerns abound: exclusionary divisions that privilege “insiders” over “outsiders”; informal and exploited labor; nation-states that promote SAIDs at the expense of long-marginalized communities and social justice; and mass producers who deceive consumers by imitating SAIDs’ appeals. Nevertheless, if done right, SAIDs represent an urgently necessary alternative to “cheap food” and a just, sustainable regional-development strategy.


CFP AAG 2020: Territories of Agrarian Industrial Transformation

Meetings of the Association of American Geographers, Denver, Colorado, April 6-10, 2020

Session organizers:
Mariel Collard Arias, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA (mcollard@gsd.harvard.edu)
Stefan Norgaard, Columbia University, New York, NY (spn2121@columbia.edu)

Sponsored by the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group; the Geography of Wine, Beer, and Spirits Specialty Group; the Landscape Specialty Group; and the Socialist and Critical Geography Specialty Group.

To participate in this session, please submit an abstract (250 words or less) as well as your conference PIN by October 21, 2019 to spn2121@columbia.edu and mcollard@gsd.harvard.edu. Participants will be notified by the 25th and must submit their abstract by the AAG paper abstract deadline of October 30th. For more information, please see: www2.aag.org/aagannualmeeting


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Stefan Norgaard*, Columbia University, Mariel Collard Arias*, Harvard University, Trading on Terroir: Fostering Artisanal Cheese and Alcohol Production through Specialized Agrarian Industrial Districts 15 4:40 PM
Presenter Colin Korst*, Yale University, Entering the Cashew Economy: Intersectional Identity and Agrarian Transformation in Central Ghana 15 4:55 PM
Presenter Hannah Wittmsn, Academic Director, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm & Professor, Faculty of Land and Food Systems and the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, The University of British Columbia, Evan Bowness*, The University of British Columbia, Annette A. Desmarais, Canada Research Chair in Human Rights, Social Justice and Food Sovereignty and Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Department of Geography, University of Manitoba, Sites, Stakes and Scales: Theorizing the Urbanization of the Global Food Sovereignty Movement 15 5:10 PM
Presenter Kristin Reynolds*, Independent Scholar, New York, NY; Lecturer, The New School; Lecturer, Yale F&ES, Urban Agriculture and the 21st Century Agrarian Transformation?: Agtech, Ag Policy, and the Agrarian Question 15 5:25 PM
Presenter Ayan Meer*, MIT, Swarnabh Ghosh*, Harvard University, Extended Urbanization and the Agrarian Question: Convergences, Divergences, and Openings 15 5:40 PM

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