Hey, my name is Andrew R. Smolski, a doctoral candidate in sociology at North Carolina State University. I am currently writing and finishing my dissertation, “A Comparative Historical Analysis of Incorporation, Agricultural Development and Cuba’s Social Metabolic Order, 1898-2016.” My primary areas of study are environmental sociology, agri-food systems, development, and social movements. I employ qualitative research methods and rely on ecologically-oriented anarchist, Marxist, and decolonial frameworks. My current research projects focus on the conditions for an agroecological transition in Latin America, the links between work, health, and environment in pasture-based dairy and pork systems, farmer mental health and fiscal crisis, and racial equity in the food system.
My published research can be found in Capital & Class, Latin American Perspectives, Agriculture, and Development in Practice.
I began my life in Houston, Texas, the most diverse city in the United States. Growing up in a mixed-race/ethnicity, working class neighborhood shaped my understanding of the world as a place that can be built on cooperation and solidarity between groups. While I did not understand at that time the social forces that shaped our neighborhood, they impacted the everyday life of our community. We developed a hybrid community, one that shared our respective heritages and morphing them into a narrative that was distinctly Mission Bend.
When I was in high school, we moved to Katy, a majority white, upper-class suburb. Through that change of place, I lived the drastic contrast in resources that structure inequality in the United States. It is hard not to notice the difference in housing conditions, vacations, the members-only gyms, the golf courses, and so much more that represents wealth and prestige in a capitalist society. It was also hard to miss that structural and institutional racism pervaded this geographic segregation. Although, I was still unaware of exactly how history was reproducing itself, as these critical conversations were so often absent.
It was when I entered community college that I began to encounter a critical discussion of the social forces that had built me, that I moved from the passive subject to an active agent of history. Professors like Mark Tiller and Ann Bragdon taught me about Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, they offered me opportunities to participate in intellectual debate and represent Houston Community College. They gave me confidence and showed me the path of a scholar-activist. My life continued to offer me these opportunities due to my own white, male, middle class privilege, such as a study abroad in Australia or a Spanish immersion program in Mexico. It was through the program in Mexico that I met my now partner, and began my research on Mexico’s public market system with the help of my in-laws. I was fascinated by a different type of economy, the culture and solidarity of a community able to distribute food without the supermarkets that dominate the American landscape.
Through that research in Mexico City, I met and worked with two social scientists at UNAM and IPN in Mexico City, Gerardo Torres Salcido and Mario del Roble Pensado Leglise. I published two articles with them on public policy and building egalitarian, alternative food systems. Mario put me in contact with Sarah Bowen, who is now a member of my dissertation committee
Now, as a father of two bi-national children, spouse to an immigrant-turned-citizen and happy friend and colleague to a cosmopolitan network, I strive to make my research ask questions that can build the pluri-racial, pluri-national, egalitarian and just society that we will need to confront the problems of the 21st Century. All these experiences inform my sociological practice, the questions I ask and the way I teach. I strive to make class an inclusive environment, to be critical of the ways things are and strive for multiple better worlds, while maintaining fidelity to the highest standards of scientific and historical research.