In Progress: 

Extensive Agriculture and the Social Metabolism of Neo-Colonial Cuba, 1898-1958  

Scholarship in social metabolic analysis demonstrates the role of structure in conditioning the impacts of the social system on ecological cycles and the flow of matter and energy. Specifically, social metabolic scholars argue that capitalist commodification structures a rift-making relationship with ecological cycles, whereby increasing production with the goal of capital accumulation ruptures processes, such as the carbon cycle. I build on this scholarship by adding the role of uneven development and dependency in conditioning the rift-making impact of commodification. Latin American scholars, like José Carlos Mariáteguiargue that colonization led to an uneven development of capitalist social relations, with the co-existence of semi-feudal and semi-capitalist relations. That uneven development led to an under-use of productive capacity, such as was the case in Peruvian agriculture in the early 1900s. Furthermore, development scholars, such as the dependistas, argued that the export orientation of post-colonial countries reliant on foreign exchange to import industrial goods for development led them into an underdevelopment trap. Agriculture was often not industrialized, reliant on exploitation of labor to extract surplus value, while industrializing processing and other parts of the economy. As such, together uneven development and dependency tend to dampen the impact of commodification on the social metabolic order, while deepening commodification within the social structure.

I utilize a historical analysis to interrogate this theoretical argument, utilizing neo-colonial Cuba as a case. I rely on data collected from censuses and secondary sources to formulate the historical narrative. From 1898 to 1958, Cuba was a neo-colony of the United States. US corporations controlled large tracts of land and sugar mills. The national agrarian bourgeoisie relied on rural proletarians for harvesting, and sharecropping and tenant farmers for managing the land. This uneven development of capitalist social relations and neo-colonial dependency on the US structurally conditioned agriculture in Cuba. The majority of land in cultivation was used for sugar production and the amount of land used for agriculture expanded over the period. At the same time, there was little machinery, irrigation, fertilizer, or insecticides used in the production process. Thus, agriculture was extensive, but not intensive. Therefore, the Cuba case follows the argument that commodification conditions a rift-making social metabolic order, but in which uneven development and dependency tend to reduce the intensity of rift-making.

Differential Conditions of Pasture-Based Hog and Dairy Systems Pre- and Post-COVID-19 and Their Impacts on Health and Injury

The current set of health and economic crises have produced increased social and economic stress among farm families, compounding problems experienced by pasture-based dairy and hog producers (e.g., newspaper stories document farmers dumping milk). Pasture-based dairy and hog operations, especially ones that have pursued niche markets and participation in local food chains, may or may not be able to survive the current set of crises. This project seeks to investigate and understand the farm and household well-being of pasture-based dairy and hog operations pre- and post-COVID-19. Specifically, the project interrogates the role of farm economic security, farm production and marketing and labor process across different types of pasture-based hog and dairy systems (i.e., size, distribution channel, etc.) in conditioning farm and household well-being. Has labor-intensity increased from the pandemic? How have sales been impacted? What are the impacts of those types of changes on physical and mental health? On agricultural injuries?

To our knowledge there is no data describing the connection between these components and farm and household well-being on pasture-based small farms in the Southern United States. As such, North Carolina could be used as a benchmark for improvement efforts and understanding the resilience of pasture-based systems during crisis. Through interviews with a convenience/snowball sample of farm operators, information about their farming operations and the health and well-being of their families pre- and post-COVID19 will be collected to document changes in the farm operations and their families’ health and safety.

Navigating Financial and Mental Health Crises

The purpose of the project is to reduce the loss of farms and lives by researching and testing culturally-responsive information and information delivery that addresses the combined financial, land tenure and mental health issues faced by farm families in severe financial distress. 

This project is a collaboration between experienced farm financial, legal and mental health experts and farmers who have experienced fiscal trauma to research the ways in which farmers facing crisis access and process information. Based on what we learn from this phase, we will identify gaps in available resources and set priorities for adapting or developing new materials that support farmers in crisis, as well as identify methods for effectively disseminating these resources. We will work with our farmer partners to co-create draft materials, and disseminate these through direct service to farmers at two of our partner organizations, as well as broad publication online. 

The project will work with partners in NC, VA and TX to research effective communication and intervention on financial, mental health and land tenure issues in farm decision-making in White, First Nations and African-American farm communities. The approach will address these issues together, and the experience of farm financial stress as financial trauma to build culturally-appropriate, decision-making skills and the ability of farm families to move beyond crisis. 45 farmers or farm families who have experienced farm financial crisis will be interviewed to determine the information needed and how they were able to access information during the crisis. Farmers will be identified from the direct services of RAFI and the Land Loss Prevention Project with decades of assistance for farmers in financial and legal crisis.

The results of the interviews will be used to create evaluation criteria for existing materials on farm financial and mental health stress to identify materials that match the needs and form identified in surveys. The project team will then prioritize adaptation or development of additional materials to address identified needs.

The results of surveys will be disseminated through professional and popular publications and presentations at professional conferences. Identified, adapted or developed materials will be disseminated to farmers through presentations at conferences and through a specific page on the ATTRA web site.

The partner organizations bring to this project decades of experience with farmers in financial and mental health stress, and research and materials development and testing will take place in a context of ongoing services for farmers in crisis.

North Carolina Food Resiliency Plan 

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) and the Duke World Food Policy Center (WFPC) are analyzing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the North Carolina (NC) food system. This analysis will inform recommendations aimed at improving NC food system resilience and mitigating existing disparities in health, wealth, and opportunity that disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and rural communities. The food system does not exist in isolation and offers opportunities for philanthropic impact on interconnected issues, such as poverty, housing, health, environment, economic opportunity, and rural community development. This research, supported by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, will create a strategy for NC philanthropic community investments.


Under Review: 

Intersectionality and the Matrix of Spatial Inequality at New York City’s Farmers Markets

Prior scholarship on the unequal spatial distribution of farmers markets has shown a
tendency for them to be located in whiter and higher socioeconomic status census tracts. This study builds on that scholarship through a mixed method process combining geographic information systems, cluster analysis, and regression to collect and analyze data on intersectionality and spatial inequality in New York City’s farmers market system. 42 variables across 2,100 census tracts from the 2015 American Community Survey are combined into 11 geodemographic clusters to represent distinct intersectional groupings. The result is an intersectional structure ranging from a White, Capitalist cluster to a Collective Black and Single Mothers Service-Unemployment cluster. Farmers market geocode data are put in ArcGIS to get a measure for distance to use as a variable in a least squares regression. The relationship between clusters and distance to farmers market is non-linear, with mixed race, middle socioeconomic status, intersectional clusters more likely to be farther away from farmers markets than higher socioeconomic status, White clusters or lower socioeconomic status, Collective Black clusters. The results corroborate prior scholarship and call for further research on the role of social services and social movements in the spatial distribution of farmers markets.

Capitalism and Sustainability: An Exploratory Content Analysis of Frameworks in Environmental Political Economy 

A critical divide within environmental sociology concerns the relationship between capitalism and the environment. Risk society and ecological modernization scholars advance a concept of reflexive political economy, arguing that capitalism will transition from a dirty, industrial stage to a green, eco-friendly stage. In contrast, critical political economy scholars, whose theoretical orientations borrow and advance Marxist perspectives, suggest that the core imperatives of capitalist accumulation are fundamentally unsustainable. We conduct a content analysis of 136 journal articles that characterize this divide to assess how these frameworks have been implemented in empirical studies. Our analysis provides important commentary about the mechanisms, agents, magnitude, scale, temporality, and outcomes these frameworks analyze and
employ, and the development of a hybrid perspective that borrows from both these perspectives. In addition, we reflect on how and why reflexive political economy has not answered key challenges levelled in the early 21st century, mainly the disconnect between greening values and the ongoing coupling of economic growth and environmental destruction. Finally, we reflect on the significance of critical political economy, as the only framework we study that provides analysis of the roots of ecological crisis in an era increasingly defined by environmental risk and degradation.

Case Studies in the Sociology of Absence and Emergence: Anarcho-Populism in Russia and Mexico

This paper practices Sousa Santos’ sociology of absences and emergences by establishing the absence of anarchism in populism studies and the presence of anarcho-populism as a concrete yet underappreciated type of populism. We conduct a comparative case study analysis of a set of historical cases, Zemlya i Volya and the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM). We define the term “anarchopopulism,” and analyze the relationship between anarchism and populism through a discursive and
ideological theory of populism as a thin-centered ideology reliant on a rhetoric of the people. The results of our case studies demonstrate the existence of anarcho-populism in both Russia and Mexico, however not in all cases examined. Our findings challenge conceptualizations of populism that circumscribe populism within representative democracy and the logic of state sovereignty, highlighting the utility of anarchism in understanding a type of populism rooted in direct democracy and the sovereignty of federated communes.



Violence, Capital Accumulation and Resistance in Contemporary Latin America: An Introduction

This issue’s focus is on the structural roots of violence in Latin America, and more specifically on violence’s connections with capitalism and colonialism. After decades of neoliberalization, based on the retreat of the state from its social obligations, privatization of public goods and services, deregulation in favor of business, a regressive fiscal policy shifting the tax and fee burden onto the general population, and stagnation in wages and benefits, it appears the state’s remaining function in the region is social control in the service of profit justified as a fight against crime (Paley, 2015; Lorenzen and Orozco, 2016). Critical scholarship counters this crime fighting narrative by theoretically and empirically demonstrating that the varied expressions of violence follow from a structural and institutional arrangement to facilitate capital accumulation through subjugating workers, peasants, Black people, Indigenous people and any social group deemed materially expendable by a hegemonic ideology converting victims into deviants.

Lessons from exits foreclosed: An exilic interpretation of the Mexican and Russian Revolutions, 1910-1924 

We apply a typology of exile to factions involved in the Mexican and Russian
Revolutions of the early 20th century. Our typology is based on Grubačić and
O’Hearn’s theory of exile, which seeks to explain how alternative social institutions
based on mutual aid, substantive reproduction, and egalitarian, direct democracy
come into being and sustain themselves. We argue for exile as a determinant
of revolutionary outcomes and the state (de)formation process and that we must
understand exile-in-rupture as a moment when structures are at maximal flux
due to the existence of exilic factions. By doing so, we offer a novel approach
to understanding revolutions and state (de)formation based upon the alliances
between exilic and incorporative factions. Through descriptions of loyalty bargains
made, maintained, and broken during the Mexican and Russian Revolutions, we
demonstrate how factions representing autonomy and exit are excluded from the
resulting political-economic order post-Revolution, while their energy and power
are leveraged during revolution itself. Based on this, we argue that exile is a key component of radical strategy, but that it is often precariously based on loyalty
bargains that underpin it. Due to exile’s precarity, revolutions are foreclosed
by reincorporation into the capitalist world-system as states are (re)formed
by incorporative factions. Therefore, exile is both a necessary and contingent
component of revolution and state (de)formation.

An Eco-Egalitarian Solution to the Capitalist Consumer Paradox: Integrating Short Food Chains and Public Market Systems

Presently, alternative agri-food networks are in a renaissance, utilizing an economy of proximity to compete against transnational agri-business and food distributors. While this is positive ecologically and socioeconomically, the overreliance on market mechanisms in short food chains has led to class distinctions in food distribution and consumption. The result has been a capitalist consumer paradox exacerbating inequality in the alternative agri-food networks. To resolve this inequality, we focus on how public policy can leverage state investment in public markets to reduce or overcome the capitalist consumer paradox in short food chains. To clarify our argument, we begin by examining the benefits of short food chains in the urban food system. Then, we explain how type of consumption and policy regime effect food access. After this, we utilize Mexico City and New York City’s public market systems as representative of an alternative policy regime and the effects of moving away from state-oriented development. We conclud by describing possible conflicts and complements to the integration of public markets into short urban food chains.

Food distribution’s socio-economic relationships and public policy: Mexico City’s municipal public markets

Traditional food supply systems, like municipal public markets (MPM), are in crisis.
Nevertheless, MPMs continue to demonstrate importance in the lives of the cities. In this article we discuss the case of Mexico City and the importance of the public markets for its neighbourhoods. We present the results of two research projects, completed in Mexico City at two different historical times and interpreted longitudinally. The results demonstrate the importance of socio-economic relationships for MPM’s survival and potential. The article concludes with public policy recommendations to permit conservation, given the MPM’s importance for the city’s social cohesion.