My research focuses on the sociological drivers and outcomes of contentious food politics, focusing on how social inequalities intersect with the food system, and the simultaneous ways in which social movements use food to resist and alter power relations. I am particularly interested in urban food systems, the complexity of food movement organizing, networked coalition development processes, and the tensions inherent in trying to create food system change amidst the urban pressures of mass incarceration, gentrification, racial stratification, and neoliberalization. Underlying these interests is an ongoing engagement with how activists and scholars articulate and practice food justice and what this means for building broad based social movements that strive to redirect our institutions to serve the interests subordinated groups.
In short, I study various intersections between the environment, food and agriculture, and social movements. While food is my focus, it helps me to address a broad range of sociological questions around social change, political economy, urban development, race and class relations, human/nature relations, and power.
My first book, Food Justice Now!: Inequality and the Expanding Politics of Social Struggle (In press, University of Minnesota Press), combines ethnography, case study, and historically attuned conjunctural analysis to call for engagement in the struggle against structural inequalities within and beyond the food system. I draw on the method of dialectical humanism to investigate food and social justice movements and urban food politics in California to decipher the roots of problems to arrive at possible solutions. In the face of market-centric food system change strategies, food justice continues to offer the greatest potential to mobilize people against the tide of the post-political. It demands attention to the agonistic process of social struggle. Democracy’s radical potential rests on the range of political entry points that parallel the openness of social life. With a synthesis of the diverse social movement history of food justice as well as its contemporary expansion into the realms of carceral, labor, and immigration politics, Food Justice Now! reveals new ways to build collective power. Instead of just focusing on food, food justice allows the scholar and political organizer alike to investigate the causes behind inequities, map out the dialectical struggle, and evaluate and undertake confrontational and prefigurative political strategies.
I teach courses on the sociology of food and agriculture, food justice, social movements, and social problems.