The Politics of Food in the United States

deadline for submissions: 
June 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Alice Béja - Lille Institute of Political Science

Food in the United States is framed by myths and stereotypes. The myth of America as a land of plenty, embodied by the “first” Thanksgiving, is far from the reality the first settlers encountered, and creates an image of harmonious relations between Native Americans and New England colonists that belies the violence of colonization. Today, the image of the “fast food nation” masks the diversity of local cuisines and the rich history of food and foodways in the US.


In the last decades, the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes have turned abundance into a nightmare of individual and public health; in parallel, there has been a rise in multiple movements advocating alternative models for the production and consumption of food, based on locavorism, vegetarianism and veganism, environmentalism, anti-capitalism and animal rights.


Such movements derive from earlier political struggles that aimed at changing the way in which Americans eat, from the Pure Food movement of the Progressive era (Swainston Goodwin) to the political struggles against agribusiness in the 1960s and 1970s (Belasco). Such movements led to utopian experimentations and protest and to the passing of legislation on food security and food production. However, as Michael Pollan wrote in “The Food Movement, Rising,” in 2010, “food in America has been more or less invisible, politically speaking, until very recently.” The field of food studies as it intersects with political science and history is more developed in the United States than in other countries, but the analysis of the interactions between food and social movements is only beginning.


This issue of Politique américaine seeks to address these interactions and to analyze the politics of food in grassroots social movements. Beyond the legitimate issues linked with public health and public policies, food-based social movements often advocate alternative ways of living together and provide a new perspective on civil society that is built outside the mainstream. Food is sustenance, but it is also a locus of socialization, sociability and education (Flammang), where issues of gender (Counihan), race (Witt, Opie) and class (Finn), are played out.

Contributors are invited to submit proposals related to the following themes:

-       Political mobilizations around food (boycott, strikes, demonstrations…)

-       Social movements’ positions on food (feminism, movements around racial equality, Native American movements…)

-       The theorization of food by political movements and activists (vegetarianism, locavorism, the role of food in imagining alternative communities…)

-       Political struggles around the patrimonialization of regional, racial or ethnic culinary traditions.


Paper proposals (500 words) should be submitted by June 30, 2021 along with a short biography.

Papers (8 000-10 000 words) will be due in January 2022 to be evaluated (peer review) before acceptance.

Please send your proposals to