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Engaging in the 'multi-territorial site of the political': Political practices of Latin American landless movements in the struggle for food sovereignty



In both the global north and south the claim for food sovereignty (FS) has become a powerful antithesis to the globalized economy of food. Drawing on scientific debates around the spatial and political dimensions of FS, we will focus in this contribution on how this emerging claim materializes in practice and space. Therefore, we will analyze in an exemplary manner political practices of the Brazilian and Bolivian Landless Movements, which adopted the idea of FS as a guideline for their political action. Our results reveal that these groups do not only fight for FS in the form of 'typical' repre-sentational and overt political actions such as land occupations, the blocking of roads and manifestations. Rather, we will show that the Landless Movements also express their claims quite subtly, in surprising but yet very powerful ways through multifarious, spatially effective and meaningfully interconnected social practices, which reveal their political character only upon second glance. In order to conceptualize our observations and to recognize the political momentum of these practices, we draw on insights from social theory and political theory and identify three constitutive principles that enable us to make political practices in their 'worldliness' distinguishable and recognizable. Building on this con-ceptualization, we will further propose the approach of the 'multi-territorial site of the political' as an analytical tool to investigate the complex geographies of social movements, in particular but not exclusively, in the context of FS in Latin America. Zusammenfassung Die Forderung nach Ernährungssouveränität ist sowohl im Globalen Norden als auch im Globalen Süden zu ei-nem mächtigen Gegenentwurf zur globalisierten Agrar-und Nahrungsmittelindustrie geworden. Aufbauend auf den wissenschaftlichen Debatten um die räumlichen und politischen Dimensionen von Ernährungssouveränität, widmen wir uns in diesem Beitrag der Frage, auf welche Weise sich diese Forderung in der Praxis und im Raum manifestiert. Zu diesem Zweck untersuchen wir beispielhaft politische Praktiken der brasilianischen und der bolivianischen Landlosenbewegungen, die die Forderung nach Ernährungssouveränität zum Leitbild für ihre politischen Aktivitäten gemacht haben. Unsere Ergebnisse zeigen, dass diese Gruppen nicht nur in Form von ‚ty-pischen' offen ausgetragenen und symbolischen politischen Aktionen für Ernährungssouveränität kämpfen, wie z.B. Landbesetzungen, Kundgebungen oder Straßenblockaden. Vielmehr wird deutlich, dass die Landlosenbe-wegungen ihre Forderungen auf subtile und häufig überraschende, aber dennoch machtvolle Art und Weise ein-klagen-und zwar durch verschiedenartige räumlich wirksame und kontextuell miteinander verwobene soziale Vol. 150, No. 4 · Research article
197DIE ERDE · Vol. 150 · 4/2019
Engaging in the ‘multi-territorial site
of the political’: Political practices of
Latin American landless movements
in the struggle for food sovereignty
Benno Fladvad1, Johannes Glöckler2
1 Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies “Futures of Sustainability”, University of Hamburg, Gorch-Fock-Wall 5-7, 20354 Hamburg, Germany,
Manuscript submitted: 14 April 2019 / Accepted for publication: 14 November 2019 / Published online: 20 December 2019
In both the global north and south the claim for food sovereignty (FS) has become a powerful antithesis to the globalized
contribution on how this emerging claim materializes in practice and space. Therefore, we will analyze in an exemplary
manner political practices of the Brazilian and Bolivian Landless Movements, which adopted the idea of FS as a guide-
sentational and overt political actions such as land occupations, the blocking of roads and manifestations. Rather, we
will show that the Landless Movements also express their claims quite subtly, in surprising but yet very powerful ways
through multifarious, spatially effective and meaningfully interconnected social practices, which reveal their political
character only upon second glance. In order to conceptualize our observations and to recognize the political momentum
of these practices, we draw on insights from social theory and political theory and identify three constitutive principles
  -
investigate the complex geographies of social movements, in particular but not exclusively, in the context of FS in Latin
Die Forderung nach Ernährungssouveränität ist sowohl im Globalen Norden als auch im Globalen Süden zu ei-
 
den wissenschaftlichen Debatten um die räumlichen und politischen Dimensionen von Ernährungssouveränität,
widmen wir uns in diesem Beitrag der Frage, auf welche Weise sich diese Forderung in der Praxis und im Raum
manifestiert. Zu diesem Zweck untersuchen wir beispielhaft politische Praktiken der brasilianischen und der
bolivianischen Landlosenbewegungen, die die Forderung nach Ernährungssouveränität zum Leitbild für ihre
politischen Aktivitäten gemacht haben. Unsere Ergebnisse zeigen, dass diese Gruppen nicht nur in Form von ‚ty-
pischen‘ offen ausgetragenen und symbolischen politischen Aktionen für Ernährungssouveränität kämpfen, wie
z.B. Landbesetzungen, Kundgebungen oder Straßenblockaden. Vielmehr wird deutlich, dass die Landlosenbe-
klagen – und zwar durch verschiedenartige räumlich wirksame und kontextuell miteinander verwobene soziale
Vol. 150, No. 4 · Research article
Journal of the
Geographical Society
of Berlin
Benno Fladvad, Johannes Glöckler 2019: Engaging in the ‘multi-territorial site of the political’: Political practices of Latin
American landless movements in the struggle for food sovereignty. – DIE ERDE 150 (4): 197-213
198 DIE ERDE · Vol. 150 · 4/2019
Engaging in the ‘multi-territorial site of the political’: Political practices of Latin American landless movements
in the struggle for food sovereignty
1. Introduction
In recent years, Latin American peasant movements
 
Especially in regions most affected by negative con-
sequences of the globalized world economy as well as
by persistent poverty and ongoing struggles for land,
the transnational peasant network La Vía Campesina
          
redistribution of land and resources, self-determined
food production and the assertion of peasants’ rights.
The underlying notion of their key demand, the right
to food sovereignty (FS), is entirely emancipatory and
represents a radical counter-claim to processes of de-
peasantization (Araghi 1995; van der Ploeg 2009) and
to the dominant ‘corporate food regime’, represented
by industrialized agriculture and globalized food pol-
icies (Friedmann 1993; McMichael 2005, 2009, 2012,
      -
tions have adopted the idea of FS as a guideline for
their political action. In particular, the Brazilian and
the Bolivian Landless Movements (MST)1, both lead-
ing members of LVC, are key actors of the FS move-
ment. In both countries, these groups are known for
executing land occupations as the primary means to
access land and to establish agroecological commu-
nities. Yet, the occupation of land and agroecological
farming are not the only MST-activities: Our empiri-
cal observations from Bolivia (in 2013 and 2015) and
Brazil (in 2016/2017) show that the MST – parallel to
overtly expressed political action such as marching,
protesting, blocking roads – expresses its demands
in a rather ‘micro-political’, mundane and subtle, but
yet surprising and very powerful way. In doing so, the
MST engages in multifaceted forms of political prac-
tices, understood as agonistic practices “of speaking
and acting differently” (Tully 1999: 164) that aim to
change the intersubjective rules of living together.
Thereby, the MST creates situational and multi-terri-
torial political spaces that transgress the boundaries
of their agroecological territories or remote rural
In this contribution, we will examine, in an exemplary
manner, how the claim of FS materializes situationally
in practice and space. Therefore, we will show how FS
practices unfold their complex geographies and their
transformative, political character. In doing so, this
article adds a political-geographical perspective on
the production of space and territories in the context
of the struggle for FS in Latin America. We draw on
insights from political theory and praxeology in order
to discuss the core characteristics of political action.
On the one hand, this makes us alert for the relational
and complex geographies of FS in Latin America; on
the other, it enables us to recognize the distinctively
       
sight may seem rather mundane, quotidian and apo-
litical. We are convinced that this discussion is most
helpful for a deeper and analytical understanding of
FS in practice and of political action in general. Firstly,
because contributions that explicitly focus on the spa-
tial dynamics of FS are rather the exception than the
rule within relevant research (these are Hopma and
Woods 2014; Jarosz 2014; Trau g e r 2014); and secondly,
because such an approach emphasizes the meaning,
the construction and in particular the reclaiming of
political space and power, which from our point of
view are the key aspects of the struggle for FS in Latin
After outlining in brief the origin and the concept of
the right to FS, we draw, in section 2, as a conceptual
starting point, on a notion of territory that takes into
Praktiken, deren politischer Charakter sich erst auf den zweiten Blick offenbart. Um unsere Beobachtungen zu
        
auf Ansätze aus der Politischen Theorie und der Sozialtheorie. So wird es möglich, drei konstitutive Prinzipien
herauszuarbeiten, die es uns erlauben, politische Praktiken in ihrer ‚Weltlichkeit‘ erkennbar und unterscheidbar
‚multi-territorialen politischen Ortes‘ vor, der dazu dient, die vielschichtigen Geographien von sozialen Bewe-
gungen – insbesondere, aber nicht ausschließlich im Kontext der Forderung nach Ernährungssouveränität – zu
Keywords food sovereignty, political action, re-/territorialization, practice theory, peasant movements,
transnational justice
199DIE ERDE · Vol. 150 · 4/2019
account both the physical and the ideological dimen-
sions of space, which are both central within FS prac-
tices. Building on these insights, in section 3, we will
develop a geographical concept of political action,
since we argue that the struggle for FS is best un-
derstood as a conglomerate of multifaceted forms of
political practices, which emerge “from worldly situ-
ations of injustice” (Barnett
this Arendtian notion of the political, emphasizing
three constitutive principles that give social practices
a distinctive political meaning. In section 4, we dis-
cuss two empirical examples from Bolivia and Brazil.
In these, the right to FS spatializes situationally in the
form of allegedly quotidian practices, which reveal
their political character only at a second glance. Sub-
sequently, in section 5, we suggest the concept of the
‘multi-territorial political site’ as an open and rela-
tional ‘topology’ that is alert to spatial and temporal
multiplicity and which represents a tool for political
geographers and other scholars to analyze the geog-
raphies of social movements and their transnational
claims for justice.
2. Territorializing food sovereignty
When referring to territory, one usually considers it
being a delimited portion of bounded physical space,
a ‘bordered power container’ (Giddens 1987: 120),
which is controlled by a sovereign power. In the mod-
ern world, in particular since the Peace of Westphalia,
the most obvious manifestations of this division of
space are national borders dividing the world into a
tessellation of sovereign nation-states (Skinner 2010;
Elden 2013). But what happens if this territorial order
is put to the test? What happens if social movements,
e.g. indigenous, feminist or environmentalist move-
ments address their universal rights-claims directly
at the transnational sphere in order to call for trans-
national solidarity and justice?
 
One of these emerging universal rights-claims is La
Vía Campesina’s call for food sovereignty. It emerged
throughout the 1990ies as a political counter-claim to
neoliberal, entrepreneurial and globalized agrarian
politics and practices, which Friedmann (1993) and
McMichael (2005; 2009; 2014) conceptualize as the
‘corporate food regime’. Analogously, van der Ploeg
speaks of a ‘food empire’, which he describes as an all-
encompassing ordering principle “that increasingly
governs the production, processing, distribution and
consumption of food” (van der Ploeg 2008: 11). In the
face of land grabbing, rural displacements, structural
adjustment policies, price dumping and an increas-
ingly industrialized and privatized monocultural ag-
riculture, FS received broad attention within peasant
organizations and movements, primarily of the global
south (Martínez-Torres and Rosset 2010). Its most
   
seminal La Vía Campesina meeting in Mali. It states
“Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to
healthy and culturally appropriate food pro-
duced through ecologically sound and sustain-
food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspira-
tions and needs of those who produce, distribute
and consume food at the heart of food systems
and policies rather than the demands of markets
and corporations.” (LVC 2007: u npag.)
cal concept. It rather includes a variety of claims for
justice and self-determination and is therefore best
understood as a ‘big tent’, within which “disparate
groups can recognise themselves in the enunciation
of a particular programme” (Patel 2009: 666). FS thus
ties together subaltern identities and their claims to
a powerful utopian vision that Edelman (2014: 960f.)
 -
ing kind of content”. Its mobilizing power does not
should look like but rather in its contingency and its
transferability from the local to the global, from the
rural to the urban and from one place to the other
(Bové and Dofour 2001; Jarosz 2014; McMichael 2014).
Consequently, Patel (2013) metaphorically describes
gency and processuality on the one hand as well as its
However, despite its contingent character, FS has a
particular political meaning. At its core lies the right
of peoples to control their own local, regional and na-
tional food systems, without being subject to external
pressures and global market forces. Simultaneously, it
refers to a set of norms and r ights such as fair markets,
agroecological production modes, unrestricted access
to natural resources, self-determined food consump-
Engaging in the ‘multi-territorial site of the political’: Political practices of Latin American landless movements
in the struggle for food sovereignty
200 DIE ERDE · Vol. 150 · 4/2019
tion as well as the full recognition of the rights of in-
digenous peoples and women (Rosset 2003; Wittmann
2011). In contrast to the older United Nations concept
of food security, which “is agnostic about the produc-
tion regime, about the social and economic conditions
under which food ends up on the table” (Patel 2007:
89), FS entails a radical and emancipatory notion in
addressing and questioning the circumstances and
spatially effective power relations of food production,
distribution and consumption (Hopma and Woods
2014; Jarosz 2014; Fladvad 2017 ).
In the last years, several papers have been published
that discuss the paradoxes, the contradictions and
the various contents of FS (see e.g. Patel 2009; Mar-
tínez-Torres and Rosset 2010; Bernstein 2014; Edel-
man 2014; Edelman󰅺-
ing these discussions in depth, for our purposes, we
want to focus in more detail on FS’ spatial modes of
action: As noted above, FS serves as a countermove-
ment, as an antithesis to the deterritorializing forces
of neoliberal globalization, which are characterized
by a violent appropriation of food and agriculture,
i.e. via land grabbing, privatization of common goods
and other forms of capital accumulation (McMichael
2005; McMichael 2012). However, the practitioners of
FS do not respond in merely criticizing the capitaliza-
tion of agriculture and food in claiming redistributive
measures and state interventions. They rather aim at
a self-determined re-appropriation of food and natu-
ral resources via engaging in different forms of sol-
idarity-based or ‘moral economies’ and agroecology
(Edelman 2005; Rosset and Martínez-Torres 2012) as
well as by referring to community spirit, to custom-
ary and indigenous rights, which van der Ploeg (2008)
synthesizes as processes of ‘re-peasantization’. This
strong orientation on re-ordering and re-appropriat-
ing space, therefore, urges us to have a deeper look at
the conceptualization and usage of the idea of terri-
tory within FS discourses.
2.2 Fighting for FS – a dispute over material and im-
material territories
The notion of territorial sovereignty, i.e. the rule over
          
means omnipotent and irrevocable. Likewise, the
actual practices of sovereignty are rarely absolute
and can be questioned (Agnew 2009; Elden 2010). As
Trau g e r puts it, “the myth of the territorial basis of
the Westphalian state system is increasingly chal-
lenged, and is being replaced with a network ontol-
ogy in which sovereignty is an emergent property
of social relations” (2014: 1141). Some argue that in
particular neoliberal economic relationships are the
key drivers of the eroding sovereignty of individual
national states, leading to new post-national forms
of exceptional sites and hegemonies (see Ong 2006;
Agnew 2009; Mountz 2013). True or not, without de-
          -
ized, LVC draws on the idea of self-determined and
self-governing communities and producers, distribu-
tors and consumers of food. Thereby, FS essentially
builds on a spatial imagination that challenges both
the paramount sovereignty of state territoriality and
the ordering power of capitalism/neoliberalism (Patel
2009; Tr au g e r 2014), which includes the construction
of alliances bet ween most heterogeneous groups from
both urban and rural places. In one of its newsletters,
LVC states:
“Capital is appropriating our territories. Hence,
we must respond by turning the struggle for land
into a struggle for territory. This will require
forging unions between – on one side – peasant
farmers, day laborers, indigenous peoples, no-
and other rural communities, and – on another –
city dwellers, especially those in suburban com-
munities and consumers. [...] We must show that
land in community hands is better for society and
Mother Earth than land which is at the mercy of
capital.” (LVC 2016: 1)
Obviously, LVC understands the struggle for land as a
strategic struggle for territories of food sovereignty.
Now, one could interpret these struggles as being dis-
putes over purely material entities – over land, water
or resources. Likewise, LVC’s activism appears as a
claim for the formal recognition of peasant territories
within the territorial boundaries of the respective
state (Patel 2009; Edelman 2014). However, territory,
in this case, is used in a much broader sense, namely
as a ‘political technology’ (Elden 2010: 812), since it
is embedded in an ideological struggle between two
diametrically opposed understandings of how food
ought to be produced, consumed and distributed
(Rosset 2003: 2): One, in which food is a commodity,
interchangeable and decontextualized from local food
production; and another, in which food bears deep
intrinsic values, originating from localized, cultur-
ally and ecologically adequate farming systems and in
which it is perceived as a fundamental human right.
Engaging in the ‘multi-territorial site of the political’: Political practices of Latin American landless movements
in the struggle for food sovereignty
201DIE ERDE · Vol. 150 · 4/2019
Following Fernandes (2009), this discursive struggle
is best understood as a dispute over material and im-
material territories that constantly produces spaces
of domination and spaces of resistance. This means
that the (re-)claiming of territories of FS is indeed a
matter of the occupation of physical materiality in
the form of land and resources such as water, seeds
and livestock. Furthermore, these struggles are part
of a larger contestation of societal relationships and
intimately interwoven with the immaterial sphere of
ideas, paradigms and normative explanations. This
far more subtle dimension of the struggle for FS re-
fers to the cultural-symbolic appropriation of space,
to the world of ideas and intentionalities that organ-
izes and structures the world of objects and things.
The dispute over material and immaterial territories
is thus complementary and both dimensions are not
to be dissociated from each other.
Consequently, we argue that peasant movements are
not only to be understood as a sociological object of
study, which could be analyzed adequately by simply
dismantling its forms of organization. They also have
to be interpreted as political counter-movements to
capitalist modes of production and state power that
spatialize through the struggle for (im)material ter-
ritories. This struggle, in turn, materializes via the
enactment of a multiplicity of transformative and po-
sovereignty in the context of neoliberal globalization
(van der Ploeg 2008; Haesbaert 2013; McMichael 2014;
Trau g e r 2014). However, these practices, we argue,
can neither be reduced to ‘classic’ forms of doing poli-
tics, such as negotiating, marching, blocking roads,
nor to rather hidden and destructive forms of peas-
ant resistance (Scott 1985). We rather follow the sug-
gestions of van der Ploeg to look for “a wide range of
heterogeneous and increasingly interlinked practices
through which the peasantry constitutes itself as dis-
tinctively different ” (van der Ploeg 2008: 265 [empha-
sis in the original]).
Nevertheless, if we also take  2011:
376) argument seriously that political action “can-
not be theoretically posited or socio-spatially located
a-priori, [but that] it is an emergent property [that]
can arise anywhere and everywhere”, we have to
            
basically every imaginable situation of human living
together, no matter how mundane it may seem. This,
however, does not mean that any situation and every
social practice are always inherently political. On the
contrary: In previewing our empirical results, we are
convinced that there are 
give social practices a distinctive political meaning
and that allow us to recognize them as such.
3. Towards a geographical conceptualization of
political action
In this section, we will dissociate ourselves from FS-
related literature in order to gain a broader and more
differentiated perspective on the peculiarity and the
meaning of political action and spaces. In drawing on
insights from political theory and practice theory, we
will discuss three common constitutive principles of
political action – ‘publicness’, ‘affectedness’ and ‘self-
referentiality’ – that will provide an adequate basis
for interpreting our empirical examples outlined in
section 4 and for putting forward our own conceptual
approach in section 5.
3.1 Publicness
Since human geography is traditionally concerned
with the spatial dimension of social life, we start in
asking the question ‘where’ political action material-
izes and at which sphere of human living together it
is directed. In doing so, it is most helpful to gain an
insight into the work of Hannah Arendt, which in the
past has been rather neglected by human geographers
and spatial social scientists (for exceptions see Mar-
kell 2011; Barnett 2012; Debarbieux 2017). In “The
Human Condition”, Arendt (1998 [1958]) distinguish-
es human activity into three separate modes: labor,
nify all those human practices that serve to sustain
life and that produce artifacts and objects of use, such
as tools or commodities. Action is the mode of human
activity that takes place and materializes in-between
people via the acts of ‘speech and action’. It therefore
makes humans distinguishable in their plurality and
uniqueness: “In acting and speaking, men [sic] show
‘who’ they are, reveal actively their personal unique
identities and thus make their appearance in the hu-
man world” (ibid.: 179).
In consequence, ‘speech and action’ operate at the
same time as the cause and the effect of plurality
and difference and can thus be interpreted as the po-
litical mode(s) of human interaction. This becomes
especially evident in view of the presumption that
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‘speech and action’ rest on and actively produce the
public realm, which Arendt separates from the not
commonly shared private sphere of property, feelings
and intimacy (ibid.: 50ff.). The public realm, instead,
is the political realm, the ‘space in-between people’,
a ‘dissensual space’ (Swyngedouw 2011: 376), where
humans interact and communicate with each other,
using ‘speech and action’, to express themselves in
their plurality and distinctness (see Lipping 2010).
‘The public’, however, is not exclusively tied to human
deeds and utterances; it also materializes in the form
of shared symbols, artifacts such as commodities,
everyday utensils or works of art. It does therefore
not disappear as soon as physical encounter or visibil-
ity has ended; it rather persists in the form of various
In consequence, ‘the public’ is best understood as a
shared space of diversity, difference and pluralist per-
spectives (Schmidt and Volbers 2011: 29).
        -
lic’, Arendt (1998 [1958]: 50) establishes a distinction
between “two closely interrelated but not altogether
identical phenomena”: ‘appearance’ and ‘the world’.
       
appears to us. It is not identical to the material earth
and to things or humans themselves but rather to the
shared space of interaction in-between things and
humans. ‘Appearance’, instead, entails an active and
 -
ble of individual experiences, passions, thoughts and
feelings with the objective and with the result that
they can be commonly shared by others in a ‘space
of appearance’, “through which shared worlds of as-
sociation and co-existence are constituted” (Barnett
2012: 679). With this idea, Arendt explicitly empha-
sizes the potential omnipresence of political action as
well as their contingency and their spatial situated-
ness: “Wherever people gather together, it [the space
of appearance] is potentially there, but only poten-
tially, not necessarily and not forever” (Arendt 1998
[1958]: 199).
In sum, Arendt teaches us that ‘to act politically’
means to act in the public sphere. Additionally, it be-
comes clear that the boundary between the public and
the private realm has to be understood in a relational
way (Markell 2011), since it is possible to make private
things – situationally and in a purposeful way – pub-
lic, i.e. to express them, or to put it in s words,
to ‘deprivatize’ and to ‘deindividualize’ them (Arendt
1998 [1958]: 50). However, if publicness alone would
be the only criterion for political action, it would im-
ply that every thinkable social practice is per se po-
litical, unless it is carried out privately and hidden
from the public. Therefore, the aspect of publicness in
itself does not enable us to recognize the difference
between apolitical and decidedly political practices,
understood as practices that aim at changing the
organizational structure of human living together.
Therefore, we will now turn our attention to the as-
pect that political practices from our point of view
always refer to and presuppose commonly shared ex-
periences of affectedness and subjection.
3.2 Affectedness
The discussion of this second feature of political
practices requires an engagement with an explicitly
geographical understanding of the substance, the
framing and the legitimacy of justice claims, which
is especially mirrored by the work of political theo-
rist Nancy Fraser (Fraser 2005; Fraser 2008). Without
abandoning her former argument that justice claims
are moving between the analytically distinct but em-
pirically inseparable poles of economic redistribution
and cultural recognition (Fraser 1995), Fraser devel-
ops a theory of justice that takes into account that
contemporary “disputes about justice are exploding
the Keynesian-Westphalian frame” (Fraser 2005: 4).
She argues that in times of “injustices in a globalizing
world, which ar e not territori al in charac ter” (ibid.: 12)
– e.g. free trade regimes, global media, the bio-politics
of climate change – the regulatory power of national
(social) democracy is no longer apt for guaranteeing
equal rights and obligations for their citizens. In con-
sequence, Fraser introduces a third, explicitly political
dimension of (in-)justice which refers to the norma-
tive question of who belongs to a political community
as “fellow subjects of justice” (Fraser 2005: 12).
This third dimension, which she calls ‘representa-
tion’, is however faced with a fundamental issue: If
the state is no longer the adequate politico-legal arena
for addressing, negotiating and guaranteeing justice
in a globalizing world, there is neither an entity nor
an ordering principle that decides who is represented,
i.e. who belongs to a political community, and who is
entitled to raise claims for justice. Furthermore, the
question arises: How can we understand why people
across borders, cultures and continents unite and
form coherent and powerful political communities,
such as the transnational movement for FS?
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The answer is as easy as persuasive: Since nowadays,
“globalization is driving a widening wedge between
affectedness [from deterritorialized institutions, de-
cisions and structures of governance] and member-
ship” (Fraser 2008: 95), Fraser argues that it is nec-
essary to decouple the idea of affectedness2 from the
principle of state-territoriality. In consequence, basi-
cally all structures of governance that are not limited
to the national frame are only democratically legiti-
mized, if those who are affected by and subjected3 to
them, have fair and equal chances to participate in the
process of their politic al genesis (Barnett 2017: 17 3ff .).
Accordingly, the answer to the question, “what [is it
that] turns a collection of people into fellow subjects
of justice” (Fraser 2005: 13), is neither shared nation-
al citizenship, geographical proximity, nor a common
cultural heritage, “but rather their joint subjection to
a structure of governance that sets the ground rules
for their interaction” (Fraser 2008: 96).
This principle therefore urges us to take into account
that the emergence of political energies and commu-
       
foremost in terms of the context out of which the ex-
perience of affectedness and subjection results. Af-
fectedness is therefore the second constitutive prin-
ciple for the exertion of commonly shared political
practices, since it functions as “an animating political
intuition, as a worldly normative force generating po-
litical claims and counter-claims” (Barnett 2012: 682).
If we now transfer this mode of thinking to our ex-
      
for FS, we understand why, for instance, politically
moderate and rather conservative farmers from
Southern Germany seek alliances with Latin Ameri-
can or Southeast Asian peasant and/or indigenous
         -
ian reforms, autonomy and global peasants’ rights4.
The reason is that these groups are all affected by a
‘corporate food regime’, which levels out differences
in class, culture, identity, nationality and political
socialization and thereby generates a unifying and
highly political energy. It becomes thus clear that be-
ing commonly affected by structures of governance or
being commonly subjected to forms of domination is
the key driver for the emergence of political energies
and communities.
3.3 Self-referentiality
As ‘publicness’ and ‘affectedness’ are from our point
of view crucial to understand where, why and within
which geographical framing political actions are be-
ing carried out, the questions of how they come into
being and in which way they change society, neverthe-
less remain unanswered. In approaching these ques-
tions, it is most useful to have a deeper look at social
practices themselves, in particular at their modes of
in brief the main assumptions of  s
practice theory – the ‘site ontology’ – that explicitly
focuses on the internal organization of social prac-
tices and their spatiality (Everts 󰅺  -
ever, since Schatzki’s theory is relatively silent about
the political dimension of social life, we will open his
theory to the ideas of the agonistic thinker James Tully
(see also Dünckmann and Fladvad 2016).
Central to Schatzki’s theory is the ontological assump-
tion that the world is being constituted by a more
or less dense and far-reaching mesh of commonly
shared social practices, unfolding in the form of ‘do-
ings and sayings’, and arrangements, i.e. orders, arti-
facts or materialities (Schatzki 1996; Schatzki 2002).
Even though it is analytically possible to separate
social practices and arrangements, they appear as
inseparable ‘practice-arrangement-bundles’. These
‘bundles’ are, as Schatzki (2015: unpag.) claims, “in-
herently spatial phenomena [since] the spaces perti-
nent to social life are ever increasingly the product of
practices”. Furthermore, there exist four organizing
components that give social practices their mean-
ing and that make them recognizable as such. These
are: (1) the ‘practical understanding’, i.e. the know-
ing how to do something; (2) ‘rules’, which are more
or less formalized instructions how and under which
circumstances a certain practice ought to be enacted;
(3) ‘teleo-affective structures’, which entail both a
teleological as well as an emotional dimension; and
(4) ‘general understandings’, understood as overarch-
ing principles, such as shared norms, values, or ideas
that organize not only one but various social practices
(Schatzki 1996: 89).
According to the ‘site ontology’, social practices as
well as their organizational components are never
static or remain unchanged. Schatzki emphasizes this
aspect in denoting that social practices are constantly
        
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only certain changes can occur (Schatzki 2002: 211f.).
However, in regard to the questions how and why
social change takes place, Schatzki’s theory remains
rather silent. It is therefore most appropriate to look
at a branch of political philosophy, which (like Schatz-
ki) draws on Wittgensteinian philosophy.
According to Wittgenstein (2011 [1953]), human liv-
ing together manifests in social practices that are
organized by more or less binding social rules. These
           
interpretation, adaptation and transformation – an
understanding that is made very explicit by Tully.
Drawing on Arendt’s thoughts, he accordingly speaks
of “the freedom of speaking and acting differently
(Tully 1999: 164) and thereby indicates that even in
the most mundane, quotidian and routinized contexts
there is always room for “reasonable disagreement
and dissent” (ibid.: 170f.). These ‘practices of freedom’
thus bear the capacity of breaking with the routine, of
beginning something new and thereby aim at modi-
fying the intersubjective rules and understandings of
human living together. In contrast to the widespread
assumption that ‘the political’ consists in fundamen-
tal ruptures with the norm and in most visible clashes
of antagonisms (see e.g. Rancière 2010), Tully thereby
emphasizes the notion that political action, and there-
fore the exercise of power, exist and emerge within
the alleged banalities and routines of everyday con-
duct (Tully 2008: 307).
However, it would be highly misguided to assume that
social practices are always per se political. On the con-
trary, we are convinced that there is a fundamental
difference in the large variety of social practices, not
in ontological terms, but rather in regard to the ques-
tion how these practices are being organized. This
becomes especially evident as soon as one tries to
comprehend the ‘teleo-affective structures’ of certain
social pract ices (Dünckmann and Fladvad 2016), which
means asking why and with which objectives and af-
fectivities they are being carried out: Do they merely
serve to sustain life or to satisfy needs (labor)? Are
they carried out in order to produce enduring things
such as tools or other objects of utility (work)? Or do
they – additionally or exclusively – aim at the public
realm, at ‘the world’ with the objective that they are
commonly shared by others (action)?
ative, we may also have a look at the context they are
embedded in: If they are related to an affecting and
subjecting structure of governance and if they simul-
taneously aim at questioning or altering in a self-ref-
erential way the rules of social living together, we can
assume that the respective practices are ‘practices of
freedom’, i.e. decidedly political practices that bear
the capacity to question, to dispute and to alter in a
self-referential way the intersubjective rules of social
living together. ‘Practices of freedom’ are therefore
characterized and organized by self-referentiality, i.e.
by their ambition to question and to change their very
own organizational components.
In the next part we will show, in an exemplary man-
ner, how this geographical conceptualization of politi-
cal action enables us to recognize political practices
of Latin American Landless Movements struggling for
food sovereignty.
4. Political practices of Latin American landless
        
epistemological and methodological approach. Sec-
ondly, we will present two examples from Brazil and
Bolivia, in which it becomes obvious how the strug-
gle for food sovereignty materializes in practice and
4.1 Following the phenomenon across space – epis-
 
As we have argued already, the claim for FS takes con-
          
practices. These ‘doings and sayings’ always occur in a
take place. Hence,
they form contextual bundles of practices and mate-
rial arrangements and thereby they become empiri-
Taking into account this phenomenological, social-
constructivist presupposition, it is most appropriate
to draw on a hermeneutic approach that is attentive
to the relational spatiality of the social (see Crang and
Cook 2007). We thus conceive of social space as a dy-
namic, horizontally evolving ‘topology’ of meaning-
fully interconnected social practices and material ar-
rangements, which represent our objects of research
(Marston 󰅺
           
is imagined as a spatial container with a predeter-
mined shape, waiting for the researchers to describe
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 
is essentially being co-constituted and co-designed
by ourselves, i.e. by our research practices such as
observing, asking questions or taking pictures (see
Marcus 1995; Hannerz 2003). As we ‘follow the phe-
nomenon’ through space and across multiple sites,
        
shape in situ. We therefore connect with the investi-
gated practices and never leave the respective sites
untouched. Taking into account these methodologi-
      
approach whose essence is “to follow people, connec-
tions, associations, and relationships across space
(because they are substantially continuous but spa-
tially non-contiguous)” (Falzon 2009: 2).
In exploring these facets of food sovereignty in prac-
tice, this section draws on several months of ethno-
graphic research in Bolivia in 2013 and 2015 as well
as in Brazil in 2016/2017. In particular, we combined
narrative and problem-oriented interviews with MST
      -
tions during MST-gatherings and events. The research
stay in Brazil comprised four interviews and several
participations at local and regional MST events, e.g.
the annual state-wide meeting ‘Encontro Estadual do
MST/PE’. The work in Bolivia was part of a broader
research project on state-led and civil society efforts
resentatives and three participations at MST-events
such as the annual MST-meeting in the context of
BioBolivia, a national fair for agricultural produce
(see Fladvad 2017).
4.2 Modifying the rules: ‘Um modelo diferente
The Brazilian Landless Movement Movimento dos
Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) is considered
         -
ments in Latin America. Since the 1980ies, the MST
pressures the authorities for a profound and exten-
sive Agrarian Reform, consisting of the redistribution
of land and the construction of agroecological com-
munities in the rural, so-called assentamentos (see
Fernandes 1996; Ondetti 2008; Carter 2015; Robles and
Veltmeyer 2015). As one of the leading members of the
transnational peasant network La Vía Campesina, the
MST has increasingly inserted the struggle for land
into larger contestations of the dominant model of ag-
ricultural production on a global scale.
One of its assentamentos, the settlement Chico Mendes
III in the state of Pernambuco in the Brazilian North-
east, is located at the rural margins of the metropoli-
tan region of Recife, the state’s capital with about 1.5
million inhabitants. The former sugar cane plantation
was occupied by MST activists in 2004 and the gener-
al land tenure was granted to the 55 settling families
by the National Institute for Colonization and Agrar-
ian Reform (INCRA) four years later. The established
settlement covers 385 hectares for housing and culti-
vation as well as 126 hectares for forest restoration.
The manifold histories of the farmers before having
joined the occupation are remarkable. Some of them
were already agriculturists that were unjustly dis-
placed from their lands or were forced to abandon
their farmlands in the Sertão region due to severe
droughts. Many others have been employed on the
vast sugarcane or fruit plantations in the surround-
ing area, commonly with the oral, non-committal per-
mission of the landowner to cultivate a small portion
of land for self-supply. Some, in turn, had been urban
workers or unemployed city dwellers.
Although different in extent and effect, they shared a
political and economic marginalization and social ex-
clusion and it was this joint experience of subjection
that provided the common ground for their ‘practices
of freedom’ (Tully 1999). According to the logic of the
‘all-affected principle’ (see section 3.2), the histori-
cal mechanisms of exclusion and exploitation of the
rural and urban poor, the denied access to the means
of production – particularly land – as well as the ex-
pansion of the ‘corporate food regime’ with its social
and ecological consequences, generated an imagined
community of ‘fellows of justice’, independent of their
social or cultural origin (Fraser 2005). This ‘worldly
exertion of political practices in order to proactively
change the circumstances of life. Marginalization, po-
lice repression and violence during the years of occu-
pation further consolidated this community over the
course of time.
Due to their very diverse contexts, the majority of the
occupants had little or no small-scale farming expe-
rience and even less knowledge about the concepts
and techniques of agroecological and organic agri-
culture when joining the occupation. In combination
with extreme soil degradation as a consequence of
decades of monocultural sugarcane production or in-
tensive livestock farming on the site, the new farm-
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          -
tive plantations and suffered crop failures caused by
        
        
the local government, the settlement then initiated
a process of agroecological transition in coopera-
tion with students and academic staff of the Federal
Rural University of Pernambuco (UFPRE) in Recife.
This transition involved projects of soil regeneration,
reforestation activities, education and training in
  
settlements working with agroecology as well as or-
      
the complete adoption of organic cultivation practices
by all settlers in the assentamento and the successful
establishment of an organic farmers’ market. There-
fore, the ‘Rural Farmers’ Associat ion of the Settlement
Chico Mendes III’ was founded in 2011 and cumulated
shortly after in the creation of the farmers’ market
‘Feira Agroecológica Chico Mendes’, located at a public
square in Recife.
In an interview, the president of the association re-
members how they resolved that
“the settlement won’t cultivate anymore with
pesticides, won’t cultivate anymore with slash-
and-burn, this will all come to an end, because
what we want today is preserve nature. And in
order to achieve this, we have to begin a differ-
ent form of plantation, a completely different
In view of our arguments in the preceding section,
          
how political practices of FS are characterized by the
aim of changing their very own organizational com-
ponents: The association’s president emphasizes the
initiation of a different model of agricultural pro-
duction. On a weekly basis, this completely different
model becomes visible as a mesh of certain practices
and arrangements during the farmers’ market. The
president of the association, a farmer herself, gives an
insight into
“the manner how we work on the market: on the
market, we don’t shout out loudly, you know?
On the market, we ensure that the clients feel at
ease, we don’t urge them to buy, because if I have
the right to sell my goods, my comrades have the
same right. So we let the clients decide freely
where to buy. We don’t make a mess, we don’t
shout, we don’t call the clients, you understand?
The only thing we do is, if the client comes and
asks, let’s say – Do you have cabbage? – And I don’t
have cabbage, I tell him – I don’t, but my comrade
over there, he has cabbage to sell! – And then I let
him know, because everyone should sell”6.
What makes this profoundly interesting for this work
is the fact that these rules – which appear to be rath-
er informal agreements among the farmers – derive
from a comprehensive codex established by the as-
sociation’s members. Titled ‘Internal regiment for the
agroecological production and commercialization’, it
comprises basic agreements for general orientation
as well as a concrete set of praxis-orientated rules,
which are mandatory for all members of the associa-
tion. One of the more generalized principles encour-
ages the producers to always cooperate and seek the
equilibrium with nature by respecting, conserving
and restoring the natural resources at the farm. An-
other principle encourages them to sell directly to
the consumers and, in doing so, to create new societal
relationships. Regarding the production, they agree
on rules such as the abandonment of any industrial-
     
friendly and species-appropriate livestock breeding;
closed energy cycles, etc. With regard to the com-
mercialization, the framework contains norms like
the maintenance of clean market stands in good con-
dition; respectful and pleasant behavior; uniformity
and neatness of the vendors’ shirts, aprons and caps;
high sanitation standards; no price-beating among
the vendors, etc.
        
nothing more than simple supportive indications to
establish successful farm management and market-
ing. Anyhow, is it really a political act to grow vegeta-
bles, selling them in a f riendly manner while wearing a
neat apron? In order to answer this question, we need
to recall the remarks relating to political practices
outlined in section 3.3. With that in mind, this mesh
of practices and arrangements reveals a distinctively
emancipatory dimension. The associations’ members
impose quite strict rules, or ‘moral economic norms’
(Edelman 2005: 338), on themselves and seek for
‘shared values’ (van der Ploeg 2008: 269) of mutual
respect, community spirit and solidarity. The agree-
farming as completely different. Moreover, it also de-
   not comprise – the ‘not-doings and
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creates an explicit and clear-cut distinction from the
conventional, predominant model of agricultural pro-
duction and commercialization. It provides guidance
for the farmers and underlines the message of Jorge
Mattos, the academic supervisor and co-initiator of
the farmers’ market: “The people have to see that
what we do here is being done in a different way7.
litical disruption, but in the form of a self-determined
enactment in a peculiar ‘micro-political’ way. The rule
breaking of the conventional praxis takes place in a
quite neat, organized and mundane manner. Those
trivial practices, though, unfold their effectiveness
and potency by the self-referential act of breaking
with the routine and turning alleged banalities into
    
transformative potential. As Jorge Mattos points out,
a key component of the project is the creation of pub-
lic visibility. The farmers’ market not only provides an
opportunity to commercialize products. It also serves
as an important platform to generate attention. Thus,
it creates a situational political space in the urban
public realm, which, on the one hand, inheres features
of both material and immaterial territorialities and,
on the other, mirrors Arendt’s idea of the ‘space of ap-
pearance’, outlined in section 3.1.
4.3 Producing the public: ‘13 años MST-B
In order to further illustrate how the MST purpose-
claims symbolically and physically in the public rea lm,
we want to take a glance at another scenery that was
orchestrated by the Landless Movement in the neigh-
boring country Bolivia.
Driven by liberal reforms in the 1990ies and grow-
ing international demand, in the tropical lowlands of
Bolivia, vast areas of arable land are being converted
into monocultural plantations for the production and
         
Additionally, the country’s food security depends
on low price policies and importation of staple food,
which undermines domestic production and small-
scale farming (Ormachea 2009; Ormachea and Ram-
irez 2013; Castañón Ballivián 2014). Despite of the gov-
ernment’s ambition to decolonize the state of Bolivia
from economic and cultural heteronomy as well as
to establish a society which is based on the cosmovi-
sion of the ‘good life’ and the right to Mother Earth8
(Kennemore and Wee ks 2011; Yates and Bakker 2014),
these manifestations of the ‘corporate food regime’
are driving more and more small-scale farmers into
landlessness. This development is further reinforced
       
land rights (Urioste and Kay 2005).
Hence, inspired by the MST in Brazil, the Bolivian
Movimiento Sin Tierra (MST-B) was founded in 2000.
Since then, it rapidly gained attraction by landless
farmers and migrants from the western parts of Bo-
livia. In the last years, the MST-B basically gained
prominence by occupying land and converting it into
‘islands’ of agroecological production within agro-in-
ian reform and for food sovereignty9. Although being
less numerous and institutionalized than its Brazilian
ally, its struggle is indeed successful. After years of
physical and juridical struggles, the oldest and larg-
est of these asentamientos, named Tierra Prometida,
became formally recognized by the Bolivian state as
Comunidad Agroecológica Tierra Prometida (Collière
and Cruz 2011). Additionally, the MST-B is expanding
its economic activities through the establishment of a
national cooperative. Its main objective is to reduce
the dependency from intermediaries and to gain more
control over the supply chain for their agricultural
We therefore see that the MST-B is not only making
progress in terms of the growing number of members
or of receiving a legal status for their asentamientos.
Furthermore, the MST-B also aligns it self strategically
towards economic issues in building up self-governed
and independent market structures. Apart from that,
presenting themselves not as a combative organiza-
tion of squatters that use means of civil disobedience
to push their political demands. They rather appear
and describe themselves as an organization of pro-
ducers with high community spirit, equipped with
the unalienable right to produce food organically, self-
governed and according to shared traditional norms
and values11. The following observations, that were
made during a research stay in 2013 in the city center
of La Paz, the politically most important city of Bolivia
(see Fladvad 2017), are therefore of utmost interest.
BioBolivia is a yearly fair for agroecological produce,
which also serves as a meeting place for those organi-
zations and movements that feel associated with the
tion stems from a joint affectedness by the corporate
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in the struggle for food sovereignty
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food regime that either manifests in various forms of
material and economic dispossession, indignation and
deprivation; i.e. in restricted access to markets, credit
and resources, in price dumping, food insecurity, or in
physical exposition to GMOs and chemical pesticides.
Therefore, numerous and quite different organiza-
tions attend this event: Peasant and indigenous move-
ments from the Western Bolivian Altiplano and from
the Eastern tropical lowlands, associations of produc-
ers and cooperatives of quinoa, amaranth, tubers and
other products as well as the Bolivian Landless Move-
ment. This heterogeneity, however, is not a matter of
course, especially if we take into consideration that
     
these organizations, due to different understandings
of land tenure and market access12. Once again, we
its ‘worldly normative force’ in creating an imagined
and powerful community of ‘fellows of justice’.
As typica l for a fair, BioBolivia stages agricultural pro-
duce and the traditional ways of rural life. The stall of
the MST-B is no exception and several members pre-
sent the high diversity of ecologically produced food-
stuff such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. However, the
MST-B not only attends BioBolivia for market activi-
ties. Furthermore, they use the whole scenery for a
celebration of their 13th anniversary. In singing and
dancing together, taking group photos and arranging
produce to spell out “13 years of MST-B”, they turn the
fair into a public stage for their anniversary and their
community spirit.
        
situation obviously represents Arendt’s idea of the
‘space of appearance’, a situational political site. In
purposefully making themselves visible and audible
they recontextualize quite mundane ‘doings and say-
ings’ (dancing, singing, taking photos, arranging a
collage) as political ‘speech and action’. While aim-
ing at a ‘deprivatization’ of their community spirit, of
their way of living together and, most importantly, of
their way of producing food, they situate themselves
(and their claims) symbolically and physically in the
public realm and thereby produce a situational and
(im)material territory of FS. To be more precise, the
MST-B members use their agriculture produce, i.e. ob-
jects of consumptions and commodities – those things
that originate from ‘labor and work’, and which are,
if considered individually, dissociated from the pub-
lic realm – to “make their appearance in the human
world” (Arendt 1998 [1958]: 179) and to materialize
the ideological and symbolic dimension of ‘the space
of appearance’.
From the perspective of the site ontology, the de-
scribed practices (presenting food, dancing, sing-
ing, arranging a collage) and their materialities (the
stalls, the produce, the bodies of the MST-B members)
are thus being actively connected to other practices
      
for agrarian reform or sovereignly producing, con-
suming and distributing food. Furthermore, these in-
terlinkages illustrate very clearly that the boundary
between ‘the private realm’ and ‘the public realm’ is
      
and ultimately dependent on the social practices and
their contextual embedding (Markell 2011).
In consequence, the described scenery and the pub-
licly performed practices of the MST-B members are
not political a priori. Instead, what gives them their
distinctive political meaning, i.e. their ‘worldliness’,
is the fact that they are, on the one hand, embedded
within a certain contextual framing of affectedness
and subjection (see section 3.2) and, on the other,
that their ‘teleo-affective structure’ basically consists
in questioning and altering in a self-referential way
the rules of social living together (see section 3.3).
The MST-B does not only celebrate its anniversary at
BioBolivia to win new customers or improve its public
image, they rather engage in these practices because
they aim to change society’s relationship towards
food and towards those who produce it. Obviously,
these ‘practices of freedom’ are not characterized by
direct political confrontation and fundamental rup-
tures with the norm, but rather by triviality, happi-
ness and laughter. However, this does not mean that
they are ineffective; on the contrary, following Tully
(and bearing in mind our Schatzkian interpretations)
we see how they reveal their political character in the
actual doing, i.e. in conducting practices of “speaking
and acting differently” (Tully 1999: 164).
5. Engaging in the ‘multi-territorial site of the
These two sceneries illustrate, quite vividly, in which
ways the Landless Movements of Brazil and Bolivia
produce and engage in situational political sites which
express the human capacity to ‘act’, i.e. to intervene
in the world through ‘speech and action’. Thereby,
the MST-members actively contribute to giving the
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emerging claim for FS practical meaning and material
shape. In this regard, our argument here is that we
consider the described social practices of engaging in
market activities and of celebrating an anniversary to
be decidedly political practices, since they are charac-
terized by three common constitutive principles that
make them in their ‘worldliness’ distinguishable and
powerful: (1) they are directed at and manifest in ‘the
public’, (2) they are embedded in and structured by
a commonly shared feeling of ‘affectedness’ and sub-
jection and (3) they aim, in a self-referential way, at
changing the rules of social cohabitation, in particular
of those social practices that are associated with pro-
ducing, consuming and distributing food.
At this point in our argument, we would like to intro-
duce the idea of the ‘multi-territorial site of the politi-
cal’ in order to synthesize this geographical concep-
tualization of political action. This notion emphasizes
that politica l action is not disso ciated from soc ial prac-
tices but that political practices are closely connected
to seemingly mundane practices of our everyday con-
duct. Also, it highlights their contextual interconnect-
edness. We therefore frame the ‘multi-territorial site
of the political’ as a far-reaching ‘large social phenom-
enon’ consisting of a collection of political practices
that hang together in a meaningful way, without be-
ing physically bounded to each other (Schatzki 2015;
Everts 2016; Schatzki 2016): The plenitude of political
practices enacted by the MST in Bolivia and Brazil is
thus being intertwined to a spatially discontiguous,
but symbolically continuous arena, in which the peas-
ant lifestyle, the campesino identity, is being staged
and where the ‘different model’ of agricultural pro-
duction and commercialization is made ‘worldly’. In
doing so, the MST carries the spatial metaphors and
perceptions of rurality, a traditionalist lifestyle and
local food into the urban environment in order to
position their claims on the political agenda. There-
by, they representationally ‘jump’ between scales
(Nicholls 2007), i.e. they strategically use ‘the urban’
as a topological nodal point and affective perceptions
and images of rurality in order to raise a far reaching,
            
account to conceive of the ‘multi-territorial site of the
political’ as a collection of place-based worlds, as if the
struggle for FS was constituted by actors in discrete
areas bearing homogeneous identities and separate
interests. Rather, it is by means of those sites that this
struggle materializes, constituted by a wide range of
heterogeneous and yet interlinked bundles of socially
embedded practices and material arrangements. Not
only does each site represent an actively constructed
(im)material territory of FS, the entirety of political
sites jointly forms a complex network-topology of po-
litical practices that in different ways and to different
extents are organized by the three constitutive prin-
ciples outlined above.
This multiplicity, though, is not only of spatial nature.
It also accentuates that transience, situatedness and
alternative temporalities are as well peculiarities of
thesite of the political’ – an aspect which is also il-
lustrated by Honig in her discussion of the Slow Food
Movement (Honig 2009: 57ff.). This multi-temporal
perspective helps to put allegations against the FS
movement of being a nostalgic anachronism that ro-
manticizes agricultural practices from pre-industrial
times into a new light: Even though they regularly em-
phasize seeking to protect traditional peasant forms
of life and agricultural production, it seems misguid-
ed to see these territorialities as being backward and
retrograde imaginations. In a certain way, the resur-
gence of a way of life in closer synchronization with
the slower, non-industrialized pace of local and re-
gional food production much rather represents a new
speed of modernity embodied by the ‘corporate food
regime’. Following Haesbaert’s (2013) suggestion, we
should then, instead of dichotomizing and counter-
posing tradition and modernity, recognize those ter-
ritorialities as a post-colonial amalgam in which mul-
tiple spatialities and temporalities merge together.
6. Conclusion
This paper has outlined a geographical conceptual-
ization of political action that we synthesize as the
‘multi-territorial site of the political’. In so doing, it
         -
ments as an entry point into the political and em-
phasizes the importance of material and immaterial
territorialities for social movements. The peculiarity
of this approach lies in its attentiveness to the multi-
plicity of spatial expressions in far reaching political
phenomena such as the struggle for FS. It thus allows
political geographers to make the transient mesh of
certain spatio-temporal ‘micro-politics’ tangible: FS
comes forth as a counter-act to the perpetual expan-
sion of capital shaping and dominating large parts of
food production and commercialization. But not only
does the globalized ‘corporate food regime’ construct
multi-territorial enclosures, e.g. land grabbing and
Engaging in the ‘multi-territorial site of the political’: Political practices of Latin American landless movements
in the struggle for food sovereignty
210 DIE ERDE · Vol. 150 · 4/2019
the construction of global value chains, its transna-
tional counterpart likewise manifests in a multitude
of territories of resistance that bear both a material
and an ideological dimension. Central to our concep-
tualization is the notion that political action is not
tied to pre-given, a priori extant political sites but
that it manifests in a large variety of situationally
emerging political practices that are characterized
by ‘publicness’, ‘affectedness’ and ‘self-referentiality’.
This praxeological way of thinking, furthermore, em-
phasizes an understanding of political action as being
closely connected to seemingly mundane social prac-
tices of our daily conduct. Such an approach opens a
new research perspective for scientists interested in
the spatial dynamics of social movements and their
transnational claims for justice.
The authors would like to thank Florian Dünckmann and
Jens Reda for their valuable comments on an earlier version
of this article.
1  -
breviation ‘MST’ (‘Movimiento Sin Tierra’ in Bolivia and
‘Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra’ in Bra-
zil) to denominate both the Brazilian and the Bolivian
Landless Movements. In section 4.3, we additionally use
the abbreviation ‘MST-B’ in order to differentiate the Bo-
livian from the Brazilian Landless Movement.
2 
philosophy. Gould (2004) understands affectedness as a
violation of human rights by certain practices or insti-
tutions. Bohman (20 07) rather interprets affectedness as
shared experiences of domination and heteronomy.
3 In her book “Scales of Justice”, Fraser (2008) prefers the
terminology subjection instead of affectedness, which
she used in her earlier publications (Fraser 2005). After
Fraser, the term subjection, in contrast to affectedness,
underlies a stronger notion of moralit y and the feeling for
injustice (Fraser 2008: 64f.).
4 This was especially evident in the case of the congress
“Global Peasants Rights” in March 2017 in Schwäbisch
Hall, Germany, which the authors of this contribution at-
tended. See:
5 Interview with Enilda Silva de Melo on 14th of January
2017 in São Lourenço da Mata, Brazil (Translated by J.G.).
6 See fn. 5.
7 Documented during a working meeting of the partici-
pants and organizers of the Farmers’ Market on 11th of
January 2017 in Recife, Brazil (translated by J.G.).
8 The guiding principle of the ‘good life’ (vivir bien or buen
vivir) was entrenched const itutionally in bot h Bolivia and
Ecuador as a fundamental normative directive and as an
alternative to the Western growth paradigm. Although
there are differences between the Bolivian and the Ecua-
dorian versions, it can be broadly described as an indig-
enous cosmovision, which is centered on the unity of hu-
man and non-human entities. (Escobar 2010; Kothari et al.
9 Interview with Silvestre Saisari, founder and former
leader of the MST-B on 06th of July 2013 in La Paz, Bolivia.
10 See fn. 9.
11 See fn. 9.
12 Interviews with several representat ives of Bolivian peas-
ant organizations and association of producers in 2013
and 2015 in St. Cruz and La Paz, Bolivia.
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Full-text available
This contribution discusses two different but interlinked fields of research: political theories of sovereignty and citizenship, as well as conceptualizations of emerging alternative food movements. In drawing on James Tully's practiced-based understanding of 'diverse citizenship', as well as on other selected theories of postmodern political thought, it focuses on the contested political nature of the food sovereignty movement, specifically with regard to the dynamics and actions that have brought it into being. In doing so, it conceives of citizenship as materializing on the basis of multi-faceted practices of 'acting otherwise', which stands in sharp contrast to a conceptualization of citizenship as an institutionalized status, as it is understood in the liberal tradition. In order to deepen and to sharpen this alternative approach, this contribution additionally draws on Theodore Schatzki's practice theory, which, despite its rather apolitical character, makes it possible to conceive of political practices as emergent and situational phenomena that are closely connected to the quotidian practices of everyday life. The combination of these perspectives bears great potential for theoretical discussions on alternative food movements as well as for their empirical investigation, since it puts emphasis on the way how practitioners and advocates for food sovereignty disclose themselves in multifaceted struggles over the imposition and the challenging of the rules of social living together.
This original and ambitious work looks anew at a series of intellectual debates about the meaning of democracy. Clive Barnett engages with key thinkers in various traditions of democratic theory and demonstrates the importance of a geographical imagination in interpreting contemporary political change. Debates about radical democracy, Barnett argues, have become trapped around a set of oppositions between deliberative and agonistic theories—contrasting thinkers who promote the possibility of rational agreement and those who seek to unmask the role of power or violence or difference in shaping human affairs. While these debates are often framed in terms of consensus versus contestation, Barnett unpacks the assumptions about space and time that underlie different understandings of the sources of political conflict and shows how these differences reflect deeper philosophical commitments to theories of creative action or revived ontologies of “the political.” Rather than developing ideal theories of democracy or models of proper politics, he argues that attention should turn toward the practices of claims-making through which political movements express experiences of injustice and make demands for recognition, redress, and re pair. By rethinking the spatial grammar of discussions of public space, democratic inclusion, and globalization, Barnett develops a conceptual framework for analyzing the crucial roles played by geographical processes in generating and processing contentious politics.
The political make-up of the contemporary world changes with such rapidity that few attempts have been made to consider with adequate care, the nature and value of the concept of sovereignty. What exactly is meant when one speaks about the acquisition, preservation, infringement or loss of sovereignty? This book revisits the assumptions underlying the applications of this fundamental category, as well as studying the political discourses in which it has been embedded. Bringing together historians, constitutional lawyers, political philosophers and experts in international relations, Sovereignty in Fragments seeks to dispel the illusion that there is a unitary concept of sovereignty of which one could offer a clear definition. This book will appeal to scholars and advanced students of international relations, international law and the history of political thought.
What does it mean to "do politics"? On the one hand, political practices have to be considered as part of the large mesh of interrelated everyday practices. On the other hand, they are reflective "practices of freedom" that aim at changing the rules of practice. We will make a case for agonistic theory that takes democracy to be a constant struggle over the setting up and the different interpretations of rules and use practice theory as our entrance point to empirically address the tension between the constituted power that rules exert on our practice and the constituent power, i. e. the power to set up or change the rules. Empirically, we will have a closer look at the paradoxes and the practice of food sovereignty, a political concept that emerged as a counterpart to the dominant neoliberal paradigm of globalist food production and was taken up by leftist Latin American governments and social movements alike. By analyzing two concrete situations that emerged during our field work in Bolivia we will show that actual "practices of freedom" can appear to be quite ordinary and mundane.
The ways citizen participation and democracy are changing are poorly understood due to the dominance of theories inherited from the eighteenth century. Democratic citizenship can be better understood if critical reflection is re-oriented around the games of concrete freedom here and now as recommended by Hannah Arendt, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Michael Foucault and Quentin Skinner. This orientation brings to light two distinctive types of citizen freedom in the present: diverse forms of citizen participation and diverse practices of governance in which citizens participate.
This book intervenes in contemporary debates about the threat posed to democratic life by political emergencies. Must emergency necessarily enhance and centralize top-down forms of sovereignty? Those who oppose executive branch enhancement often turn instead to law, insisting on the sovereignty of the rule of law or demanding that law rather than force be used to resolve conflicts with enemies. But are these the only options? Or are there more democratic ways to respond to invocations of emergency politics? Looking at how emergencies in the past and present have shaped the development of democracy, Bonnie Honig argues that democracies must resist emergency's pull to focus on life's necessities (food, security, and bare essentials) because these tend to privatize and isolate citizens rather than bring us together on behalf of hopeful futures. Emphasizing the connections between mere life and more life, emergence and emergency, Honig argues that emergencies call us to attend anew to a neglected paradox of democratic politics: that we need good citizens with aspirational ideals to make good politics while we need good politics to infuse citizens with idealism. Honig takes a broad approach to emergency, considering immigration politics, new rights claims, contemporary food politics and the infrastructure of consumption, and the limits of law during the Red Scare of the early twentieth century. Taking its bearings from Moses Mendelssohn, Franz Rosenzweig, and other Jewish thinkers, this is a major contribution to modern thought about the challenges and risks of democratic orientation and action in response to emergency.
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