Anna Jurkevics

Assistant Professor

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Indigenous food security and the limits of food sovereignty (2023)

Progress in combatting food insecurity, the condition of not having reliable access to nutritious and culturally appropriate food, has stalled in this century, especially in developed countries. In Canada and the United States, while food insecurity remains common across the broader population, indigenous peoples are disproportionately impacted and face even higher rates of food insecurity, with percentage estimates ranging from a third to almost half. In this thesis, I provide a philosophical examination of the two principal frameworks for countering food insecurity—one which I call the “neoliberal food security paradigm”, and the second known as the “food sovereignty” paradigm—with the goal of uncovering the mechanisms and reasons for which these frameworks can interfere with or promote indigenous food security. Via a case study on manoomin (wild rice) cultivation in the Great Lakes region by the Anishinaabeg, I explore the ways that settler-industrialism, and more specifically large-scale agricultural ventures backed by the sovereign state, continue to interfere with indigenous self-determination and modes of subsistence. I argue that this approach to agriculture and the governance of land are supported by proponents of the “neoliberal food security paradigm”, notably the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and thus that proponents of this paradigm reiterate the domination of indigenous communities. While “food sovereignty” was in many ways designed to counter the shortcomings of the "neoliberal food security" approach, I challenge its continued reliance on territorial sovereignty in the advancement of its goals; I use a case study on First Nation state formation in the Yukon to argue that territorial sovereignty restricts autonomy and opportunities for self-determination by limiting the adaptive capabilities of collectives, and by making it more difficult for diverse communities to treat food insecurity as a collective problem. This encourages an approach to food insecurity which responds to the limitations of territorial sovereignty in addition to the deficiencies of the neoliberal food system.

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