Interface, a journal about social movements, has published a new review of Ingeborg Gaarde’s book Peasants negotiating a global policy space: La Vía Campesina in the Committee on World Food Security (Routledge 2017). The review was written by Maria Vasile.
I have copied a few paragraphs below, but encourage you to read the entire review, the book, and the rest of the Interface issue on Social movement thinking beyond the core: theories and research in post-colonial and post-socialist societies, available here.
Peasants negotiating a global policy space – La Via Campesina in the Committee on World Food Security by Ingeborg Gaarde is an important contribution to research exploring how social movements launch into different levels of activism, engaging in global politics, while continuing to partake in local and national struggles. By looking at the international peasant movement La Vía Campesina, the author challenges dominant theories of social movement institutionalisation, predicting that social movements’ access to institutions and internationalisation results in processes of centralisation, bureaucratisation, de-radicalisation and cooptation (e.g. Tarrow 1998; Tilly 2004).
More particularly, Gaarde analyses how La Vía Campesina creates a space for smallscale producers and other rural people to participate in UN global policy-making processes related to food and nutrition security, namely the 2009 reformed Committee on World Food Security (CFS). By analysing how the members of La Vía Campesina organise their participation in practice, she argues that the movement managed to develop complementary local-global strategies, and that internationalisation allowed for greater consolidation both in terms of cross-border alliances and internal linkages.
Overall, the book represents an important contribution to literature on global food security governance but also on grassroots movements’ engagement in policymaking processes more generally. By reporting on the ways in which La Vía Campesina links local struggles to a global policy space, Gaarde provides a
comprehensive analysis of challenges and synergies arising from peasant’s
engagement in multi-site governance. These synergies are important both for
internal reflexivity and strengthening of the movement, as well as for advocating for enhanced democratic control in governance arenas. Above all, such participation is beneficial for improving the general quality of discussions and achievements in the policy space.
Gaarde’s study is also a methodology lesson on how to analyse social movements, as she reports on innovative research methods, discusses the difficulty of getting close to rural activists and the importance of trust building. Based on her experience, the author invites us to further reflect on potential and challenges of scholar-activist relations for producing knowledge in favour of social movements’ struggles.