The Global Politics of Food

University of Otago

Course Description

  • Course Name

    The Global Politics of Food

  • Host University

    University of Otago

  • Location

    Dunedin, New Zealand

  • Area of Study

    International Politics, Sociology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

    18 200-level SOCI, GEND, CRIM or ANTH points or 54 200-level Arts points

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Credit Points

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
    3 - 4
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
    4 - 6
  • Overview

    Theories and issues relating to the global politics of food and agriculture

    This paper provides a critical, historically-grounded introduction to one of the most important political, economic and social aspects of the contemporary world - food. The paper begins with the industrial revolution and identifies the factors that restructured how people feed themselves. An integral part of the industrial revolution was the expanding working class in England. During the 18th, 19th and into the 20th century this food system drew differing regions of the globe into close relations with each other - totally transforming the nature of local society and culture. In the 20th century this food system underwent another period of transformation as the industrial processing of food, the emergence of large food transnational corporations and the integration of ever widening portions of the globe into the world food system restructured world food relationships. These dramatic transformations are examined through the lens of Food Regime Theory which seeks to understand periods of stability and periods of transformational crisis in world food relations. The contemporary situation in world food relations can be argued to be entering one of these periods of transformational crisis. Characterised by the World Food Crisis of 2008, and increasing arrays of ecological shocks and threats, and dramatically changing cultural and political dynamics around food, this course seeks to understand the sociological bases around which a future world of food might take shape. The paper has proved of great interest to students who are:

    Interested in critical political economy approaches that inform social scientific understandings of contemporary crises
    Those interested in food activism and politics or issues around environmental sustainability and resilience
    Those in traditional areas of food research who are looking for a wider social and historical context to the specific issues they are examining in other course

    Course Structure
    The four main sections of the paper are:
    -Empires of Food: The Industrial/Imperial Food Regime
    -The Second Food Regime
    -Food under Neoliberalism: The Emerging Crises
    -The New Politics of Food

    Learning Outcomes
    The aims of the course are to:
    -Become familiar with an understanding of the political and social importance of food
    -Understand different kinds of politics around food's production and consumption
    -Appreciate the value of looking at history through food and its relevance today
    -Grasp the complexity of food as it relates to the politics of resources, the environment and social justice

    By the end of the paper students should be able to:
    -Employ food regimes theory as a critical theoretical tool
    -Critically examine research literature
    -Compare and contrast the social impact of different kinds of commodities throughout history
    -Explain basic concepts and theories related to a politics of food

    The course does not use a single text book, but collected readings and documentaries about key topics in the course are made available through Blackboard.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

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Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

Please reference fall and spring course lists as not all courses are taught during both semesters.

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Please note that some courses with locals have recommended prerequisite courses. It is the student's responsibility to consult any recommended prerequisites prior to enrolling in their course.