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The Food System in the (Post-)Pandemic World [by Atakan Büke]

The Food System in the (Post-)Pandemic World: Disruptions, Vulnerability, Resilience, and Alternatives

ISA RC40 Mini-Conference, October 20-21, 2022, Leipzig, Germany

Atakan Büke - on behalf of the Organizing Committee

The agrifood-related challenges we are facing today abound. The increasing levels of hunger and poverty are accompanied by diversifying forms of insecurity and inequality in terms of access to a healthy and ecologically sustainable diet. Accelerating ecological threats like climate change and agrobiodiversity loss are accompanied by the rise of authoritative regimes and anti-democratic governance of the agrifood system. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only demonstrated once again the vulnerabilities of capitalist-industrial agrifood relations but also has significantly intensified them. And now, on top of all, the world is faced with a war, which is further deepening the already existing problems while creating new ones.

Both, the scope, depth, and intensity of current agrifood issues, as well as the proliferating search for alternatives in the pandemic and the post-pandemic world, propel us to revisit, deepen, and extend the analysis of major themes of the sociology of agriculture and food. These themes, which have been central to the emergence of the sociology of agriculture and food as well as its discussions for the last three decades, can be listed as follows:

  • Globalization of Agriculture and Food: Capital, State, Governance and Corporate Hegemony

  • Reconfiguration of the Social and Ecological Linkages Between Food, Agriculture, Rural and Nature: Agri-Food Cultures, Spaces, Infrastructures, and Technologies

  • Politics of Agriculture and Food: Resistance, Movements, Discourses, Identities, Imaginations, and Utopias

  • Agrifood Knowledge and Scholarship: Theories, Approaches, Methodological Strategies, Research Agendas, and Questions

The RC40 mini-conference, titled “The Food System in the (Post-)Pandemic World: Disruptions, Vulnerability, Resilience, and Alternatives”, aims to revisit these themes with a specific focus on what the pandemic has revealed about them. The conference will take place at the Research Center Global Dynamics at Leipzig University in Leipzig, Germany, on October 20-21, 2022. We are planning to organize the mini-conference as an intellectually stimulating in-person two-day event. In the tradition of RC40, ample time will be dedicated to discussion and debate allowing us to integrate varied theoretical frames, problem definitions, and empirical observations across scales and geographies. The mini-conference welcomes contributions that engage with, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  • How has the pandemic affected agri-food relationships, what kinds of disruptions have we observed, and what are the implications for power relations and existing inequalities? How has the pandemic affected people’s access to food, agricultural working environments, agricultural production, or climatic and ecological conditions across different contexts?

  • What vulnerabilities have emerged during the pandemic, for example, due to various COVID-19 restrictions and political measures, different forms of pandemic governance, changing power balances between food system actors, or financial and economic, and social stresses? How have people tried to cope with these vulnerabilities?

  • What new forms of resiliency have been emerging out of the pandemic situation? What creative solutions have people developed in the face of the pandemic, and what forms of resistance has the pandemic spurred? What can we learn from these resiliencies and resistances for working towards alternative food systems, and the imagination of different agri-food relationships in a (post-)pandemic world?

  • How can we make sense of the complexity of agri-food relationships during the pandemic? What methodological and theoretical challenges have we encountered, what new concepts and methods have emerged, and how can we address and integrate these within the sociology of agriculture and food and critical agri-food studies?

At this point, it is also worth noting that the Research Committee on Sociology of Agriculture and Food (RC40) of the International Sociological Association has been working towards generating and stimulating scientific and public debate on the social organization of agriculture and the food system since 1978. As a collective informed by diverse critical schools of thought and theoretical frameworks, RC40 tries to create spaces of sustained scholarly dialogue and critical engagements in relation to the intensifying social and ecological problems and challenges shaping the field of agriculture and food. The RC40 “mini-conference” tradition is among the most important of those collaborative spaces of intellectual and scholarly engagement, which has made significant contributions to the critical agrifood scholarship reflected in the edited books as well as special issues and journal articles that came out of the previous mini-conferences. We hope that this mini-conference will also take its place in this invaluable tradition.

For further information on the mini-conference and abstract submission please visit:

*) Atakan Büke is a Philipp Schwartz Initiative Fellow at Leipzig University Research Center Global Dynamics.
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