Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 183–198 | Cite as

Constructing food sovereignty in Catalonia: different narratives for transformative action

  • Marina Di MassoEmail author
  • Christos Zografos


Food sovereignty can be conceptualized as a political proposal for social change in the field of agri-food relations. However, specific strategies of how to achieve this transformative potential are diverse, and context-dependent. The paper explores this diversity by examining discourses on the food sovereignty construction process in Catalonia. Using Q methodology we have explored visions held by individuals participating in the social movement for food sovereignty, identifying five discourses: activism, anti-purism, self-management, pedagogy, and pragmatism. Key strategies of transformation include social mobilization, institutional negotiation, self-management, education to foster value change, and politics of the possible. The relevance assigned to ideological affinity explains different views on the subject of transformation, particularly regarding the involvement of the administration and the productive sector. As regards transformative strategies, discourses assign differing importance to the role of agency for effecting social transformation, which influences their assessment of individual actions as an effective means for social change. Forms of individualized and classic collective action currently coexist within the Catalan agri-food movement, but such diversity is not acknowledged as an effective alliance towards food sovereignty. Moreover, all discourses agree to a dual definition of food sovereignty, both as a process, that is, as democratization of the decision-making process in the agri-food sector, and as a result, that is, establishing an agri-food model alternative to the neo-liberal one. However, the discourses share an unclear view of democracy as decentralized collective decision-making that does not make explicit how this model should be implemented to achieve social control of the agri-food system.


Food sovereignty Social transformation Q methodology Catalonia 



Catalonia Peoples’ Food Sovereignty Alliance


Food sovereignty


La Vía Campesina



This research was conducted in collaboration with Josep-Lluís Espluga and Marta G. Rivera, whom we would also like to thank for comments on earlier drafts. This work contributes to the FP7 Marie Curie Initial Training Network ENTITLE Project (Number: 289374).


  1. Addams, H., and J.L.R. Proops. 2000. Social discourse and environmental policy: An application of Q methodology. Cheltenham: Elgar.Google Scholar
  2. Alkon, A.H., and T.M. Mares. 2012. Food sovereignty in US food movements: Radical visions and neoliberal constraints. Agriculture and Human Values 29(3): 347–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnett, C. 2005. The consolations of “neoliberalism”. Geoforum 36(1): 7–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barry, J., and J. Proops. 1999. Seeking sustainability discourses with Q methodology. Ecological Economics 28(3): 337–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blue, G. 2009. On the politics and possibilities of locavores: Situating food sovereignty in the turn from government to governance. Politics and Culture 2. Accessed 13 Dec 2011.
  6. Calle, A. 2005. Nuevos movimientos globales. Hacia la radicalidad democrática. Madrid: Editorial Popular.Google Scholar
  7. Calle, A., M. Soler, and M.G. Rivera-Ferre. 2011. Soberanía alimentaria y agroecología emergente: la democracia alimentaria. In Aproximaciones a la democracia radical, ed. A. Calle, 213–237. Barcelona: Icaria.Google Scholar
  8. Catalan Statistics Institute. n.d. Labor force survey. Accessed 19 April 2013.
  9. Clarke, N., C. Barnett, P. Cloke, and A. Malpass. 2007. Globalizing the consumer: Doing politics in an ethical register. Political Geography 26(3): 231–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. DeLind, L.B. 2011. Are local food and the local food movements taking us where we want to go? Or are we hitching our wagons to the wrong stars? Agriculture and Human Values 28(2): 273–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DeLind, L.B. 2003. Considerably more than vegetables, a lot less than community: The dilemma of community supported agriculture. In Fighting for the farm: Rural America transformed, ed. J. Adams, 192–206. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  12. Dryzek, J.S. 2005. Handle with care: The deadly hermeneutics of deliberative instrumentation. Acta Politica 40(2): 197–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dryzek, J.S., and J. Berejikian. 1993. Reconstructive democratic theory. American Political Science Review 87(1): 48–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eden, S., A. Donaldson, and G. Walker. 2005. Structuring subjectivities? Using Q methodology in human geography. Area 37(4): 413–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ellis, G., J. Barry, and C. Robinson. 2007. Many ways to say “no”, different ways to say “yes”: Applying Q-methodology to understanding public acceptance of wind farm proposals. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 50(4): 517–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fairbairn, M. 2012. Framing transformation: The counter-hegemonic potential of food sovereignty in the US context. Agriculture and Human Values 29(2): 217–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. FCCUC (La Federació de Cooperatives de Consumidors i Usuaris de Catalunya). 2010. Els grups i les cooperatives de consum ecològic a Catalunya. Diagnòstic de la situació i promoció del cooperativisme. Accessed 4 Feb 2011.
  18. Follett, J.R. 2009. Choosing a food future: Differentiating among alternative food options. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 22: 31–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Guthman, J. 2008. Neoliberalism and the making of food politics in California. Geoforum 39(3): 1171–1183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hassanein, N. 2003. Practicing food democracy: A pragmatic politics of transformation. Journal of Rural Studies 19(1): 77–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hollis, M. 1997. The philosophy of social science. An introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Holt Giménez, E., and A. Shattuck. 2011. Food crises, food regimes, and food movements: Rumblings of reform or tides of transformation? The Journal of Peasant Studies 38(1): 109–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Holzer, B. 2006. Political consumerism between individual choice and collective action: Social movements, role mobilization, and signaling. International Journal of Consumer Studies 30(5): 405–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kjærnes, U. 2012. Ethics and action: A relational perspective on consumer choice in the European politics of food. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 25(2): 145–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Korthals, M. 2001. Taking consumers seriously: Two concepts of consumer sovereignty. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 14(2): 201–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lang, T. 1998. Towards a food democracy. In Consuming passions: Food in the age of anxiety, ed. S. Griffiths, and J. Wallace, 13–23. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lipschutz, R.D., and J.K. Rowe. 2005. Globalization, governmentality, and global politics: Regulation for the rest of us?. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Lockie, S. 2009. Responsibility and agency within alternative food networks: Assembling the “citizen consumer”. Agriculture and Human Values 26(3): 193–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. López-i-Gelats, F., J.D. Tàbara, and J. Bartolomé. 2009. The rural in dispute: Discourses of rurality in the Pyrenees. Geoforum 40(4): 602–612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Martínez-Torres, M.E., and P. Rosset. 2010. The birth and evolution of a transnational social movement. The Journal of Peasant Studies 37(1): 149–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McMichael, P. 2008. Peasants make their own history, but not just as they please…. Journal of Agrarian Change 8(2–3): 205–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Micheletti, M. 2003. Political virtue and shopping: Individuals, consumerism, and collective action. New York: Palgrave, Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ortega-Cerdà, M., and M.G. Rivera-Ferre. 2010. Indicadores internacionales de Soberanía Alimentaria. Nuevas herramientas para una nueva agricultura. Revista de la Red Iberoamericana de Economía Ecológica 14: 53–77.Google Scholar
  34. Patel, R. 2009. Food sovereignty. The Journal of Peasant Studies 36(3): 663–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Patel, R. 2005. Global fascism, revolutionary humanism, and the ethics of food sovereignty. Development 48(2): 79–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Renard, M. 2003. Fair trade: Quality, market, and conventions. Journal of Rural Studies 19(1): 87–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rivera-Ferre, M.G. 2008. The future of agriculture: Agricultural knowledge for economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable development. EMBO Reports 9: 1061–1066.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Roff, R.J. 2007. Shopping for change? Neoliberalizing activism and the limits to eating non-GMO. Agriculture and Human Values 24(4): 511–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schmolck, P. 2002. PQMethod, version 2.11. Accessed 21 Nov 2011.
  40. Shaw, R. 2013. The activist’s handbook: Winning social change in the 21st century. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  41. Stephenson, W. 1953. The study of behavior: Q technique and its methodology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  42. Tongco, M.D.C. 2007. Purposive sampling as a tool for informant selection. Ethnobotany Research & Applications 5: 147–158.Google Scholar
  43. Webler, T., S. Danielson, and S. Tuler. 2009. Using Q method to reveal social perspectives in environmental research. Social and Environmental Research Institute. Accessed 13 Oct 2011.
  44. Windfuhr, M., and J. Jonsén. 2005. Food sovereignty. Towards democracy in localized food systems. FIAN-International, ITDG Publishing. Accessed 19 Nov 2011.
  45. Wolley, J.T., and M.V. McGinnis. 2000. The conflicting discourses of restoration. Society and Natural Resources 13(4): 339–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zografos, C. 2007. Rurality discourses and the role of the social enterprise in regenerating rural Scotland. Journal of Rural Studies 23(1): 38–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA), Research Group for Agriculture, Livestock and Food Under Globalization (ARAG)Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaCerdanyola del VallèsSpain

Personalised recommendations