Omar Felipe Giraldo & Peter M. Rosset

Agroecology as a territory in dispute

between institutionality and social movements
Monday 6 November 2017 by LRAN

Agroecology is in fashion, and now constitutes a territory in dispute between social movements and institutionality. This new conjuncture offers a constellation of opportunities that social movements can avail themselves of to promote changes in the food system. Yet there is an enormous risk that agroecology will be co-opted, institutionalized, colonized and stripped of its political content.

In this paper, we analyze this quandary in terms of political ecology: will agroecology end up as merely offering a few more tools for the toolbox of industrial agriculture, to fine tune an agribusiness system that is being restructured in the midst of a civilizational crisis or, alternatively, will it be strengthened as a politically mobilizing option for building alternatives to development?

We interpret the contemporary dispute over agroecology through the lenses of contested material and immaterial territories, political ecology, and the first and second contradictions of capital.

Keywords: agroecology; political ecology; contested territories; contradictions of
capital; accumulation by dispossession; alternatives to development; FAO

Introduction: contested material and immaterial territories

Theorists of contested or disputed territories argue that social classes and relationships generate territories and spaces that are reproduced under conditions of conflict, which gives rise to spaces of domination and spaces of resistance. Territorial contestation is carried out in all possible dimensions: economic, social, political, cultural, theoretical and ideological. In the case of rural areas, this gives rise to disputes between grassroots social movements and agribusiness, mining companies, and other forms of extractive capitalism and their allies in government over both material and immaterial territories (Fernandes 2009, 2008a, 2008b; Rosset and Martinez-Torres 2012). The dispute over material territories refers to the struggle to access, control, use and shape, or configure land and physical territory. Immaterial territory refers to the terrain of ideas, of theoretical constructs, and there are no con-
tested material territories that are not associated with contestation over immaterial
territories. The dispute over real and tangible territories and the resources they contain
necessarily goes hand in hand with the dispute over immaterial territories, or the space of ideology and ideas. Disputes over immaterial territories are characterized by the formulation and defense of concepts, theories, paradigms and explanations. Thus, the power to interpret and to determine the definition and content of concepts is itself a territory in dispute. Rosset and Martínez-Torres (2012) and Martínez-Torres and Rosset (2014) argue that agroecology itself a terrain or territory that is disputed both materially (‘agroecology as farming’) and immaterially (‘agroecology as framing’). This essay focusses on the recent intensification and evidencing of this dispute.

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6 November 2017
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