The Origins of RC-40
First RC-40 President
University Distinguished Professor of Sociology Emeritus
Michigan State University
Whereas Buttel and Friedland described in some detail some of the theoretical issues and political divides that made the Sociology of Agriculture and Food possible, I will focus in this short note on the creation of RC-40. Doubtless, I will have left out some details and some people as I am sure that my memory is not photographic.
In 1978 the International Sociological Association was to hold its ninth quadrennial congress in Uppsala, Sweden. Several of us who wished to go decided to propose the creation of an Ad Hoc Group on food and agriculture. Our proposal was accepted and we were allowed to organize several sessions. As a result of the success of the Ad Hoc Group we pressed to be recognized as a Working Group and, eventually, as a Research Committee. Each step required meeting the rules of the ISA in terms of focus of the group and numbers of members.
The first few years were particularly difficult for the group. On the one hand, this was a sufficiently new endeavor for sociologists that few were aware of our scholarship. On the other hand, several attempts were made by members of the Executive Committee to merge our group with those focused on Rural Sociology and on Peasant Studies.
RC-40 has accomplished two major tasks (in addition to many minor ones) over the course of its existence. First, it created a venue for international discussions of issues related to agriculture and food including comparisons of events and trends in many countries. Second, it became a central ‘go to’ place for organizing other conferences on agriculture and food.
On a more personal note, many long-term friendships were built thanks to RC-40. Sandro Bonanno, former president of the International Rural Sociological Association, became my student after we met at the meeting in Uppsala. My family and that of Ana Barbič of the University of Ljubljana (ret.) became lifelong friends. I also became friends with Manuel Moreira of the Technical University of Lisbon (ret.) and Reidar Almås of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (ret.) and lectured at each of these institutions. Likely none of this would have happened were it not for RC-40.