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The Politics of the Global Food System


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor and tutorProfessor Alex Colas
  • Assessment: a 3000-word essay (90%) and three seminar logs (10%)

Module description

In this module we examine key questions about power in the global food system. We will consider major debates about global supply chains in the food system, the impact of food on international relations and security, and its role in fostering transnational ‘hybrid’ cultures. We will be concerned with political structures such as multilateral regimes an economic processes like commodity exchange in the reproduction of the global food system, and how the latter in turn affects climate change and our patterns of consumption.

This module is self-consciously cross-disciplinary, incorporating sociological, geographical, political economic and environmental policy literatures into the syllabus.

Indicative syllabus

  • Food and the city
  • The political economy of the global food system
  • Famines, wars and starvation
  • Race, ethnicity and transnational foodways
  • Food and social movements
  • Food and global security
  • Food and climate crisis
  • Food choices and food deserts
  • Food, the media and celebrity cooks

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you willl be able to:

  • understand and critically evaluate arguments about the main theoretical debates concerning the relationship between food, politics and society, and to communicate these arguments and propose your own arguments to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • demonstrate a critical understanding of key subjects in political sociology, and the global economic and cultural geography of food production and consumption
  • apply the methods and techniques learned to review, consolidate, extend and apply knowledge of key subjects in the global political sociology of food production and consumption, and in current problems around the production and consumption of food, such as malnutrition, regulation of food markets, food security
  • demonstrate skills of analysis and critique that can be transferred to further study in the social sciences and humanities.