Matthew Canfield is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology, New York University (NYU). He received an MA from the Institute for Law and Society at NYU and a BA in Anthropology and International Studies from Johns Hopkins University. Matthew also works closely with food sovereignty movements. In October 2014 he served as the coordinator for the Africa-US Food Sovereignty Strategy Summit in Seattle, Washington and currently serves on the coordination team of North American participants in the Committee on World Food Security’s Civil Society Mechanism.
Matthew has been awarded a number of fellowships including the McCracken Fellowship at New York University as well as awards from the American Council of Learned Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education. His research was generously funded by the National Science Foundation’s Law and Social Science Program Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition’s Thomas Marchione Food-as-a-Human Right Student Award, the National Association of Student Anthropologists’ Emerging Leader in Political and Legal Anthropology Prize, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Anthropology of law, human rights, socio-legal studies, anthropology of food and the environment, agrarian studies, global governance, political economy, transitional justice
Organic Economies explores how transnational food activists construct social justice claims within changing forms of local and global governance. Over the past two decades, food has emerged as a vibrant site of cultural activism, as farmers, consumers and food-chain workers respond to the everyday effects of global neoliberalism on the way they produce, acquire and consume food. Yet as these new activists demand regulation of the global food system, they have encountered changing political and legal processes that transform the way power is exercised. From local food policy councils to new international “multi-stakeholder” initiatives, new participatory, consensus-based and voluntary forms of “governance” are proliferating in attempt to resolve growing conflicts generated by the global food system.
Matt explores how transnational activists navigate these emerging sites of symbolic struggle through multi-sited fieldwork in two sites—the Puget Sound region of Washington State and the transnational networks of activists participating in the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s Committee on World Food Security based in Rome. Drawing on ethnographic, historical and socio-legal approaches to understand how food is culturally conceptualized as a symbol of economic justice, my research investigates: What are the practices, ideologies, and forms of power implicit in new multi-stakeholder approaches? How do activists reimagine their claims to food justice and food sovereignty through their participation in these arenas? How do these sites of symbolic struggle constitute new political-economic orders? \