Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association (SSA): SOCIAL JUSTICE IN TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY

Articulating food, place and social justice in the context of global health and environmental uncertainties

The human relationship to food and nutrition is a highly complex one influenced by multiple social, ethical and symbolic factors. With the increased awareness of the ecological crisis and even more under the current health pandemic, issues about food production, trade and consumption have gained attention and renewed food justice mobilizations. Many current food trends promote locality and placeness as an answer to the double ethical issue of the struggle against environmental degradation and against social injustice, since they value human labor and refer often to equality, in particular gender equality. Simultaneously, some food movements meet criticism for relying on globalized food circuits, ignoring environmental and social issues in the global south and/or reproducing social, racial or gender inequalities. Moreover, the current pandemic made food scarcity more visible even in the richest cities, fueling larger debates on the redistribution of wealth and access to food. This panel proposes to explore how food trends and movements define social justice and articulate it with place (local vs. global scales). Examples could include organized food movements (like slow food or the promotion of “terroir”), promotional and patrimonial certification strategies (like organic labels, regional food labels), current trends in food production (like permaculture or biodynamics) or individual lifestyles (such as veganism or locavorism) and issues relating to food (in)security. Indeed, how do food movements and trends articulate food, place and social justice in times of uncertainty? How do food discourses and
practices promote different notions of locality and placeness? How are ethical issues in regard to food debated inside food movements and more generally in the public sphere? How do these discourses relate to structural, environmental or societal changes? This panel will prioritize empirically-grounded contributions and is meant to allow sub-disciplines of social sciences to gather together from multiple perspectives (such as the sociology of health and medicine, of religions, of migrations or urban sociology).


  • Edmée Ballif, University of Cambridge and University of Kent;
  • Irene Becci Terrier, University of Lausanne;
  • Alexandre Grandjean, University of Lausanne


  • Marco Antonio Teixeira, Institute for Latin American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany;
  • Aline Borghoff Maia, Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Chenjia Xu, Department of Anthropology, SOAS University of London, United Kingdom Xueshi Li, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, China
  • Dominic Zimmermann, Institute of Sociocultural Development, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts – Social Work, Switzerland
  • Renata Motta and Nicolas Goez, Lateinamerika-Institut, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Food movements and agrifood systems at the level of the national state: the Brazilian Marcha das Margaridas

Marco Antonio Teixeira, Institute for Latin American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany; Aline Borghoff Maia, Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The present paper examines the potential for food movements to transform agrifood systems. Existing analyses within the field of food studies predominantly examine agrifood systems at either the global or local level. By contrast, our analysis begins with the national sphere, and seeks to demonstrate how national transformations relate to those on the global and local scales. We, thus, challenge the approach of dichotomous scales by providing categories and perspectives that highlight the relational and interdependent character of food movements. To do so, we examine the Marcha das Margaridas – a movement based in Brazil – and its achievements in transforming the national agrifood system. Created in 2000, the Marcha das Margaridas is a feminist movement of women from the lands, the forests, and the waters, which still lives today. This mobilization plays a central part in the fight against inequalities in agrifood systems and foments discussion of food politics on a multiplicity of scales. With an impressive performance at the national level, the analysis of the Marcha das Margaridas’ actions contribute to these debates by bringing to light the potential for changes in agrifood systems through nationally directed action. We demonstrate this by mapping the march’s public policy achievements, and by analyzing three of these in detail: joint land titling (2000 and 2003); National Policy on Agroecology and Organic Production (2011); and productive yards policy (2015). The cases analyzed cover different editions of the Marcha and, thus, are illustrative of the debate on agrifood systems at each moment, as well as the power relations at stake in each situation.

Food politics and urban politics: social justice and place making in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Renata Motta and Nicolas Goez, Lateinamerika-Institut, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Social mobilizations around food provide exceptional lenses to analyze key dimensions of social inequalities and the multiple scales for overcoming these; they identify injustices related to food and construct solutions. Each movement focuses on specific axes of injustice – sometimes also thematizing intersecting inequalities and building alliances and solidarities – and chooses a preferred scale of political action. Research has focused on one or another aspect of these dimensions and scales of food inequalities. Often, different studies are mapped into different world regions, such as food justice movements fighting racism emerging at the community-level in the US (Alkon and Agyeman 2011); food sovereignty movements centered on class-inequalities stronger in the Global South, acting nationally and transnationally (Martínez-Torres and Rosset 2014), agroecology stronger in Latin America (Altieri and Toledo 2011), and local food movements more common in the Global North (Goodman, Dupuis, and Goodman 2012). Goodman et al. (2012) question the conflation of the local as the alternative and the just by criticizing the essentialization of scalar categories such as the local and the global. In a similar vein, Allen (2010) highlights the need to include social justice and
democratic participation in all efforts at localizing food systems. This article aims to make a conceptual and empirical contribution to debates articulating social justice, food, and place. On one hand, with the concept of food inequalities, it offers an analytical tool to research social movements according to, first, their emphasis on different axes of inequalities in an intersectional analysis and, second, their preferred scale of political action, in a multi-scalar analysis. An on the other hand, distancing from the essentializing scalar categories (e.g., local/global), we turn to urbanization debates (Schmid et al. 2018) to approach place and scale as a political process of spatial production. Thus, we embed our work at the intersection of food and urban studies. Empirically, we conduct a case study of an urban housing movement that has strongly engaged in food production both as a form to address food insecurity and a form of sustainable peripheral urbanization (Caldeira 2017). Izidora is one of the most emblematic “informal settlements” in Brazil and Latin America in the past decade. It is located in the north the city of Belo Horizonte and extends over an area of approximately ten square kilometers. Four neighborhoods (Helena Grego, Vitória, Rosa Leão, Esperança) and one quilombo (Mangueiras) which exists since the 1890s compose the settlement. Altogether, they are home to more than 10.000 families who gradually started occupying the territory between 2011-2013 and successfully opposed evictions with an intersectoral coalition of social movements and local politicians. Our contribution aims at showing how this broad coalition of urban activism articulated diverse demands of social justice around agroecological practices and urban farming in peripheral areas. Based on fieldwork (in the period between 2018-2020) and digital ethnographic data, we argue that the convergence of housing and food politics in Belo Horizonte created an arena for the encounter of located and dislocated struggles that produced sustainable technologies of urbanization and new urban territories, as well as intersectional subjectivities and alliances in the fight for social justice.

  • Alkon, Alison Hope, and Julian Agyeman. 2011. Cultivating food justice: Race, class, and sustainability (MIT press).
  • Altieri, Miguel A., and Victor Manuel Toledo. 2011. ‘The Agroecological Revolution in Latin America: Rescuing
  • Nature, Ensuring Food Sovereignty and Empowering Peasants’, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 38: 587-612.
  • Caldeira, Teresa. (2017). Peripheral urbanization: Autoconstruction, transversal logics, and politics in cities of the global south. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 35(1), 3-20.
  • Goodman, David, E. Melanie Dupuis, and Michael K. Goodman. 2012. Alternative Food Networks: Knowledge, Practice, and Politics (Routledge: New York).
  • Martínez-Torres, María Elena, and Peter M. Rosset. 2014. ‘Diálogo de Saberes in La Vía Campesina: Food Sovereignty and Agroecology’, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 41: 979-97.
  • Schmid, Christian, Karaman, Ozan, Hanakata, Naomi C., Kallenberger, Pascal, Kockelkorn, Anne, Sawyer, Lindsay, . . . Wong, Kit Ping. (2018). Towards a new vocabulary of urbanisation processes: A comparative approach. Urban Studies, 55(1), 19-52.

Time & Location

Jun 28, 2021 | 10:45 AM