Capitalism, Racism, Colonialism… and Agriculture: Farmers’ Role in Radical Food System Praxis

Authors: Bryan Dale*, University of Toronto
Topics: Food Systems, Cultural and Political Ecology, Rural Geography
Keywords: systemic racism, urban-rural relations, solidarity, radical praxis, food sovereignty
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While capitalism’s negative socio-ecological consequences on agricultural processes have been increasingly evident in recent years, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has severely exacerbated and made visible how systemic racism, colonialism and other forms of oppression affect the food system. In this paper, I discuss the role that farmers and farm organizations may play in contributing to a praxis for radical food system change. Drawing on research undertaken in the Canadian context, I review evidence of farmers’ efforts to be in solidarity with Indigenous, migrant-worker, and other groups, as well as various cultural and political economic challenges inherent to such efforts. On the one hand, the National Farmers Union (NFU), a Canadian member of La Vía Campesina, is notably taking proactive steps to engage with issues of colonialism and systemic racism. On the other hand, theoretically informed actions for profound food system change are often met with intractable difficulties. These difficulties centre in large part on conflicting interests and practical limitations, raising broader, praxis-oriented questions about how to confront systemic injustices in the face of hegemonic power relations. I argue that urban-rural geographies are key to consider with regard to a praxis that will underpin food system change, as well as a focus on localized solidarities and relationships, which can be held in productive tension with national organizing and policy-related struggles for food sovereignty.

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