Publication Date

April 2015


Ann Wightman


Latin American Studies


English (United States)


Through food sovereignty – a framework for daily action, social activism and global organizing – campesinos, indigenous people, and Afro-descendants in Colombia are constructing and transforming approaches to agriculture, food systems, and sociopolitical engagement. Subalterns are working towards social transformation and the articulation of new visions and realities of development, modernity, and globalization. These actors and organizations work to construct empowering places for marginalized peoples engaged in the food system in attempt to counter the commodification of labor and food, the erasure of localities, and the destruction of small-scale agriculture through an assertion of rights, identities, and ways of life. Subaltern people and communities have begun developing, articulating and connecting practices and discourses of food sovereignty to affirm the importance of small-scale food systems and their actors in response to the marginalizing and destructive forces of globalization. Colombian campesinos, indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants practice food sovereignty work as a strategy of resistance and contestation against such forces, in diverse actions from the preservation and planting of native seeds to the establishment of culturally-legitimated legal restrictions on GMO crop production. But they also engage deeply with globalization, negotiating and appropriating the potential advantages that globalization, as a heterogeneous and fluctuating force, can offer. Indigenous peoples living in remote, rural communities have adopted techniques and strategies in their agroecological work and political organizing from other communities; in 2013 and 2014, activists and agriculturalists used social media to coordinate a large series of agrarian strikes across the country. Within the food sovereignty framework and movement, actors and activists are creating small-scale, horizontally structured, place-based forms of engagement that also incorporate greater linkages across communities, regions and nations. These expressions of food sovereignty, and many others across Colombia, facilitate dynamic and complex engagements with the processes of globalization. This thesis examines the framework of food sovereignty as it is constructed and realized in contemporary Colombia. Through translocality, a politics of place and a politics of difference, and an examination of a broad range of experiences, this thesis proposes that food sovereignty is a unique, critical framework for campesinos, indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants in their efforts to negotiate with the forces of globalization and create transformative, alternative realities. This thesis, building from my own field research, deepens the relatively new field of food sovereignty studies, especially in the realm of alternative political geography, and broadens the untended field of contemporary Colombian sociopolitical and cultural analysis. The translocal approach of the experiences and the analysis indicates that the food sovereignty practices and principles of marginalized peoples in Colombia could have significant implications for subaltern actors throughout the world.



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