The Politics of Co-optation: in the Struggle for Just Sustainability: Stuffing Agroecology into the Innovation Box

See below for more detailed description of this ‘Politics of Co-optation’ seminar/workshop at  Laboratoire Agriculture Urbaine

List of freely available pieces of related writing that I will draw from are at the bottom of this page.

Contact for follow up: colin.anderson@coventry.ac.uk 

politics of co-optation

This is what the politics of co-optation looks like: Powerful actors and systems are continually adapting, mobilising and channelling dissent in ways that maintain the status quo. The staying power of industrial corporate-led agriculture, and other powerful systems, stems both not only from direct economic and political power, but also in the battle over ideas. As proposals for radical alternative arise, powerful actors and systems are re-framing transformative ideas back into conventional ways of thinking in order to maintain the status quo. 

This talk will draw from examples and stories in different contexts to flesh out the politics of co-optation in relation to different grassroots food movements and their relationship with mainstream institutions. The primary example I will focus on will be the current dynamics in the global debates on, and movements for, agroecology. 

Agroecology has been proposed by social movements as a transformative-paradigmatic shift away from profit- and growth- led agricultural development towards people- and planet- centred food systems.  Yet, as it gains ground and attracts the interest of mainstream institutions, it is now being recast as one of many possible “innovations”, alongside high-tech solutions like gene-editing, automation and big data. This often serves to strip the politics of agroecology away, reducing agroecology to a technical practice rather than a radical process of social-political transformation. 

Similar dynamics are found across food movements (e.g. charity approaches undermining the advance of radical politics in urban food justice movements) and generally reflects a de-politicization and rounding off of the transformative potential of agroecology and other struggles for food system change. 

Thankfully, social movements are advancing a transformative approach to food system change, for example by resisting the cooptation of agroecology, by articulating radical approaches to food justice and food sovereignty and by building real alternatives in communities and territories. I will also share stories from social movements in different parts of the world to highlight some of these important efforts to claim and reclaim the debates on the future of food and agriculture. 

[See also our resource collection]

Underpinning Research on the politics of co-optation

Some of the ideas in this talk are also reflected in these recently published resources, available for download (if you want to learn more)

Politics of Co-optation outline in French: 27 novembre 2018 in Conférence

The Politics of Co-optation in the Struggle for Just Sustainability: Stuffing Agroecology into the Innovation Box

Une conférence en anglais de Colin Anderson

Le système agro-alimentaire est de plus en plus reconnu comme un échec social et environnemental. La perte de la biodiversité et la pollution dépassent actuellement les limites planétaires. Les risques catastrophiques engendrés par les changements climatiques exigent une action immédiate. Les coûts sociaux du système alimentaire sont désastreux pour un grand nombre d’agriculteurs et travailleurs de l’alimentation.

Dans ce contexte actuel, cette présentation se concentrera sur des exemples et récits des politiques de co-optation en relation avec les différents mouvements citoyens de l’alimentation et leurs relations avec les institutions traditionnelles. Il sera également question de la dynamique actuelle des débats et des mouvements mondiaux en faveur de l’agroécologie.

Colin Anderson, chercheur principal au Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience à Coventry University au Royaume-Uni.

Jeudi 13 décembre 2018, 12h30 à 14h00
Local: PK – 3210
201 Avenue du Président-Kennedy, métro Place-des-Arts

Une conférence organisée par le Laboratoire sur l’agriculture urbaine (AU/LAB) en partenariat avec le Conseil – Système alimentaire montréalais (Conseil-SAM), Dawson College – Food Justice and Sustainability Research Project et l’Institut des sciences de l’environnement de l’UQAM (ISE-UQAM).

The images featured in the header is this – thanks to the FAO:

politics of co-optation
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Official Photostream
23 February 2012, Rome, Italy – FAO Director-General Jose Graziano Da Silva (second from left) meeting Bill Gates (centre), co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with delegation, FAO headquarters.
Photo credit must be given: ©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti. Editorial use only. Copyright FAO.


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