Food sovereignty and campesino moral economies: market embeddedness, autonomy and solidarity in the Matagalpa Highlands of Nicaragua

Ripoll, Santiago (2016) Food sovereignty and campesino moral economies: market embeddedness, autonomy and solidarity in the Matagalpa Highlands of Nicaragua. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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In the past two decades, social movements advocating for food sovereignty, the most visible being Via Campesina (the peasant’s way), have successfully articulated an alternative paradigm to the dominant models of industrial food production and free trade. Food sovereignty is constructed upon particular conceptions of the moral economies of peasants and assumptions about how peasants deploy moral values and economic practices to resist commoditisation.

This ethnography establishes how peasants relate to the commoditisation of grain, land and labour in their everyday lives, and in turn reflects on what a food sovereignty rooted in campesino moral economies would look like. To do this, I conducted fieldwork in a village in the Matagalpa Highlands of Nicaragua, documenting campesinos’ everyday practices, moral ideologies and social norms regarding the production, transfer and exchange of food, land and labour.

This research breaks down the idea that market exchanges are only profit-seeking and gift-giving is solely the product of mutuality. I argue that campesino households and communities engage partially with capitalist markets whilst pursuing autonomy from them. This is achieved through resisting commoditisation to different degrees for different commodities, with moral norms allowing certain things to fall in and out of commodity status. Moral norms allow for grain and labour to be sold as a commodity in particular circumstances whereas fully resist the sale of land. Autonomy from the market is underpinned by ideologies of solidarity, shaped by the social embeddedness of exchanges determined by relations of kinship, affiliation and locality. Whilst these ideologies succeed in stalling capitalist accumulation, they can reproduce conservative notions of the family and disguise intra-community class inequalities. I show how market exchanges are frequently used to deliver solidarity and that family networks can also be used to extract profit: exchanges have become a contested battlefield, where exploiters can portray themselves as helpers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology > GN406 Cultural traits, customs, and institutions > GN448 Economic organisation. Economic anthropology
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2016 11:30
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2016 11:30

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