Agro-Food Studies in the ‘Age of Ecology’: Nature, Corporeality, Bio-Politics



The theoretical purview and contemporary political relevance of agro-food studies are restricted by their unexamined methodological foundations in modernist ontology. The nature-society dualism at the core of this ontology places agro-food studies, and their ‘parent’ disciplines in the orthodox social sciences, outside the broad intellectual project that is advancing the greening of social theory, and militates against effective engagement with the bio-politics of environmental organizations and Green movements. The disabling consequences of the erasure of nature in agro-food studies are explored by analyzing several recent theoretical perspectives: the consumption ‘turn’ in the work of Fine, Marsden and their respective colleagues, and Wageningen actor-oriented rural sociology. The merits of actor-network theory in resolving these ontological limitations are then considered using brief case-studies of food scares, agri-biotechnologies, and the recent proposals to regulate organic agriculture in the United States.