Activist Scholarship

Food Justice Scholar-Activist/Activist-Scholar (FJSAAS) Community of Practice

Our next community meeting with take place via Zoom on Friday, July 10, 2020, from 11 am-12:30 pm eastern (CAN/US). Please mark your calendars and RSVP* to attend!

All are welcome, including those who have recently joined! You will receive call-in details after you RSVP.

Email for questions about FJSAAS or how to join our listserv or next meeting.

About us:
Food justice scholarship and activism have evolved alongside each other, and at times have been intertwined, over the past decade. At times there are clear distinctions between “scholarly” and “activist” activities in this realm. However, often, individuals, groups, and their actions take on characteristics of both. Recognizing and building upon these dynamics is important in strengthening the effectiveness of food justice work. These topics are of direct and historical relevance to the field of geography, both theoretically and practically.

Since 2014, a small-but-growing group of individuals interested in the intersections between food justice scholarship and activism have met at the annual American Association of Geographers meetings to begin to create a community of practice.

The AAG sessions have been sponsored each year by the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group, and, in some years, by additional AAG specialty groups.

As a community of practice, we are focused on:

  • the meaning and scalability of “food justice” (in urban and rural spaces), as both a paradigm and material goal;
  • productive questioning of the dichotomy between activist and scholar;
  • recognition of experience-based food systems expertise in a variety of settings (e.g., community; academia; policy making);
  • the potential roles of academics/academic work in advancing food justice.

Our name, “Food Justice Scholar-Activists/Activist-Scholars Community of Practice,” reflects our commitment to breaking down dichotomies that we feel reinforce power imbalances with respect to activist and expert.

Our intent is to support collaboration among a broad diversity of actors in the food system, through the lens of geography and other fields, and help to strengthen the integrity of both food justice scholarship and activism.

Our specific goals are:

  • Sharing learning based on experiences connecting food justice activism and scholarship;
  • Creating pathways for on-the-ground activists and scholar-activists to collaborate to improve conditions in the food system;
  • Critically examining and questioning the role of academics in defining reality through writing and other scholarly activities;
  • Building upon existing theoretical work on the intersections between theory and practice, including in feminist, (post)marxist, critical race, indigenous, environmental justice, and social movement scholarship, as well as geography, as we move forward with evolving food justice work.

Watch the panel discussion from our session with Blackademics and Peoples’ Knowledge “Exploring Synergies in the Work,” part of AAG’s 2020 virtual conference.

Read our special journal issue in ACME:

Building on themed conference sessions and field trips that we have organized at AAG meetings over the past several years, we published a special issue on food justice scholar-activism in the open-access journal ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies in 2018 (volume 14, number 4). Articles are free for anyone to download here.

Join us:

Remote: We hold regular video/conference calls through which we continue to build our work together. The meetings are open to all, including community-based activists, independent scholars, academics, and professional geographers.

In Person: We also meet at AAG meetings each year. In April 2019, we co-hosted the Radical Food Geographies, full day pre-AAG conference that in Washington, D.C. See the Events page.

In 2020, the AAG in-person conference has been canceled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of meeting in Denver, Colorado, we held our session online via Zoom on Tuesday, April 7th.

Here is the full session description:

Geographies of Food Justice Scholar-Activism/Activist Scholarship: Exploring Synergies in the Work

AAG Sponsor Groups: Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group, Black Geographies Specialty Group


Scholarship and activism surrounding agriculture, food, and social justice have evolved alongside each other, and are intertwined at specific places and times. In some instances there are clear distinctions between “scholarly” and “activist” activities related to the food system and social justice. However, as is the case in both the various subdisciplines of academic geography (and in the broader geographies that connect space, place, time, and people), there are often intersections, and there exist additional possibilities for linking food and social justice activism and scholarship. Recognizing and building upon these dynamics is important in strengthening the effectiveness of agrifood and social justice work. This is especially salient in an era in which academia seeks more public engagement, at least in rhetoric, yet has a complicated history of appropriating and/or dismissing activist knowledge and scholarship. It is additionally salient to examine the tensions between scholarship and activism in an era in which scientific expertise is being questioned or disregarded in critical global policy decisions affecting food, the environment, social equity, and human rights. These topics are of direct and historical relevance to the field of geography, both theoretically and practically.

In this session, representatives from three initiatives engaged in navigating these contours will discuss the work of their respective groups:

Food Justice Scholar-Activist/Activist-Scholar (FJSAAS) is a community of practice within the AAG Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group that seeks to productively explore intersections of geography, scholar-activism, and activist-scholarship in advancing social justice in the food system, including placing value on experience-based knowledge.

Blackademics is a group of Black academics (broadly defined) connected to the National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA). Our purpose is twofold: 1) to connect Black academics who do work on food and land to each other in order to reduce isolation and 2) support NBFJA’s mission by offering research support.

People’s Knowledge, based out of the Centre for Agroecology, Water & Resilience, involves community of practice of people working for cognitive justice in different contexts from different positionalities. We aim to support each other in developing a praxis that mobilizes knowledge for social justice and sustainability in, for example, the traditions of decolonial, feminist, participatory and action- research and pedagogy. This, we hope, can allow new collective understandings and action to emerge that create a more just and sustainable society.

Panelist remarks will be followed by a participatory discussion about the praxis of this work and potentials for synergies between initiatives.

FJSAAS may also meet at other conferences throughout the year that are related to our goals.

Kristin Reynolds, Independent Scholar, New York, NY; Lecturer, The New School.

Email for questions about FJSAAS or how to join our listserv or next meeting.