Decolonial Autonomies: Fair Trade, Subsistence and the Everyday Practice of Food Sovereignty in the Highlands of Chiapas
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Recognition of the world food crisis has increased popular and scholarly work on alternatives to corporatized agriculture. Among many alternatives, fair trade and food sovereignty are two movements that have received a substantial amount of attention. Scholarly work on these topics, however, has focused on larger-scale issues of policy, access and benefits accrued to producers and consumers within such alternative food systems. Producer-focused studies of fair trade--a broader certification system designed to ameliorate inequalities in the marketplace--have examined access to markets, producer benefits and fairness. Analyses of struggles for food sovereignty in the developing world--which are directed at producer control over agricultural systems--are focused on creating radical alternatives to neoliberal food systems. However, very little is known about the everyday agricultural and food production practices which farmers deploy as part of their involvement with these broader politics. Attempts to create secure livelihoods and food resources do not exist in a vacuum; they take place alongside other strategies for survival. This is a situation that is well illustrated by indigenous farmers living in self-declared autonomous communities in Chenalhó, Chiapas, Mexico, where, cultivating subsistence crops and cash crops represents an effort to advance a political agenda for indigenous autonomy and create secure sources of food and income. Based on research and fieldwork from 2010-2013, in this dissertation I examine how farmers who are linked up with broader networks (such as fair trade certification) understand and practice autonomy. Drawing on a feminist geopolitical approach, this research presents a `scaled-down' analysis of autonomy, fair trade certification and practices of food sovereignty which is focused on the experience of farmers in self-declared autonomous communities. This approach provides critical insight into the daily negotiations of farmers as they interact with a range of networks.