Welcome to the spring 2021 edition of the Food Justice Scholar-Activist/Activist-Scholar Community of Practice (FJSAAS) blog!
The FJSASS blog began in January 2021 and will be published 3-4 times per year. Each edition will include recent FJSAAS Activity Updates; Monthly Meeting Highlights; a Member or Project Spotlight; and a Topic or Current Issue Brief. Any FJSAAS participant is welcome to contribute to the blog. See information about contributing below.
Table of Contents:
1. FJSAAS Activity Updates
2. Monthly Meeting Highlights
3. Member Spotlight
4. Topic Brief
1. FJSAAS Activity Updates
By Kristin Reynolds
FJSAAS Session at AAG 2021
As a part of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group (GFASG), FJSAAS organizes a session at the annual AAG meetings each year. Our session at this year’s online AAG meetings, “Navigating Food Systems Scholar Activism from within, and beyond the Ivory Tower: Exchanging and Strategizing Together across Geographies,” was held on April 10th. The session was a collaboration between FJSAAS, the Agroecology Research-Action Collective (ARC), and People’s Knowledge. The session included a panel focused on perspectives on food systems scholar-activism and activist-scholarship, followed by a participatory discussion about successful scholar-activist/activist-scholar strategies. Two key themes in the session were that many participants engage in, or are inspired to connect activism and scholarship as a commitment to contribute to a more just food system; and that recognizing community-based knowledge is essential in such endeavors. Small group discussions also focused on questions of uneven power in the food system, including topics of racial capitalism, intersectionality, and spatial dimensions of justice.
The session was organized by FJSAAS members Drs. Rosie Kerr, Kristin Reynolds, Colleen Hammelman, and Daniel Block, along with Dr. Colin Anderson, representing People’s Knowledge. It was sponsored by the GFASG and was part of the conference theme “Expanding the Community of Geography.”
We welcome ideas for the FJSAAS session at the 2022 AAG Meetings in New York City. Ideas can be sent to: fjscholaractivists[at]gmail.com.
New FJSAAS-GFASG Liaison
Brittany D. Jones, Ph.D. Candidate in Spatially Integrated Social Sciences at University of Toledo, was elected to a two-year term on the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group’s (GFASG) Executive Board as the FJSAAS-GFASG liaison. In this role, she will keep each group (FJSAAS and GFASG) informed about activities and events of the other, along with serving on the FJSAAS Steering Committee and the GFASG Board. She will be the point-person for the FJSAAS session at the 2022 AAG meetings in New York City. This role was previously held by FJSAAS member Dr. Kristin Reynolds, who will continue to coordinate the group, as a member of the FJSAAS Steering Committee. See the Member Spotlight below to learn more about Brittany’s work. Congratulations, Brittany!
2. Monthly Meeting Highlights
By Sahil Patni
FJSAAS monthly meetings involve discussions of member projects, articles written by members and collaborators, and current events relevant to FJSAAS’ focus on the nexus of scholarship, activism, and geography. Meetings are facilitated in line with FJSAAS’ ongoing commitment to provide a safe meeting space for people from all backgrounds. This includes suggesting anti-racist readings to participants and announcing ‘safe space agreements’ in each meeting, to make attendees cognizant of their positionality, knowledge, perspectives, assumptions etc. during discussions.
In the January 2021 meeting, Sahil Patni, an FJSAAS Steering Committee member, discussed his Mumbai-based social enterprise ‘Harvest Connect’. The project had an operational focus that sought to build direct farmer-consumer supply chains. The FJSAAS discussion involved understanding the startup experience, food justice, and smallholder farmer cooperatives in the Indian context. We did not meet in February. Then, at the March meeting, we discussed the recent article, “Poultry and Prisons: Toward a General Strike for Abolition” by FJSAAS Steering Committee member Dr. Carrie Freshour. Using a small-group discussion format, participants delved into highly engaging discussions around racial capitalism, conditions of factory workers, and related policy contexts. Unique, unanticipated themes like ‘racialized time’ came to the fore while discussing the demands of the factory jobs on workers’ day and life. The May meeting involved a review of FJSAAS’s session in AAG on scholar-activist/activist-scholar strategies. (See AAG session description above.) Participants shared personal experiences with scholarship and activism and the need to balance the tension between self-care and self-doubt.
These examples give a glimpse into FJSAAS meetings, co-learning and value provided to attendees through different discussions. During our June meeting we will read and discuss the article “The Afterlife of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Rock Steady:’ A Case Study in DJ Scholarship” by Dj Lynnée Denise, before taking a two month break until September 2021. We hope you will join us!
3. Member Spotlight
By Brittany D. Jones.
Hello! Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, I am a fourth-year PhD Candidate in the Spatially Integrated Social Sciences program at the University of Toledo. The way food brings people together and “growing your own” always fascinated me as a child. It was not until I attended entered my Master’s program in Urban Planning, that scholarship was introduced to me, ushering me into my current research on land accessibility for urban agriculture, a county land bank’s role within the local food system (Toledo and Dayton, Ohio), and the Black agrarian movement as a means of liberation in response to food apartheid and redlining.* During the 3 years that I have participated in FJSAAS, I have learned many varying concepts that are valuable to my research and as a researcher. My work reflects that of scholarship-activism, as knowledge can bolster change and healing to ongoing societal issues.
*Redlining describes the racist practice in which services or mortgage financing are denied due to the racial and/or economic makeup of a neighborhood, resulting in perceived lower resale value. One consequence of this is food apartheid, another word for ‘food deserts,’ or the absence of high-quality, nutritious foods due to the lack of full-service food outlets resulting from structural racism infused into social and political spheres. This term thus takes into account racial experience and spatial presence.
4. Topic Brief: Thoughts on Conducting Research During the Pandemic
By Melody Lynch
Conducting research during the pandemic is not easy, particularly for geographers who undertake fieldwork as central parts of their projects. We must continuously adapt our projects to the ever-changing context of the pandemic at our home institutions and at our field sites. This can be incredibly challenging; however, there are ways we can move forward while potentially strengthening our research approach. I will reflect on some of these here, based on my experience designing my graduate research project in geography.
First, ahead of fieldwork, we can learn about our field sites through digital ethnographies or other methods of online research, which might include systematically searching through online archives, news articles, and social media. This could serve to decolonize our research approach, for example, if more in-depth online research ahead of field visits means not wasting the time of interview respondents while asking for information already available online. Second, our projects could be more collaborative, working with various experts based at our field sites. This approach might serve to reject the commonly extractive process of research and instead support the priorities of local people and/or organizations.
Carrying out research during a pandemic is difficult, but there are resources available to help us, such as the AAG Learning Series for Graduate Students: Geography Methods during a Pandemic. Overall, what might be most helpful is to focus on what we can do, rather than focus on what we cannot.
That concludes our spring edition!
Our next blog will be released in the fall of 2021. If you would like to contribute content to future posts, please email fjscholaractivists[at]gmail.com for more information.
Melody Lynch, Sahil Patni, and Kristin Reynolds, FJSAAS blog editors.