Food Justice Scholar-Activism and Activist-Scholarship

Working Beyond Dichotomies to Deepen Social Justice Praxis


  • Kristin Reynolds The New School, New York, NY
  • Daniel Block Chicago State University
  • Katharine Bradley` Independent Scholar


food justice, scholar activism, activist scholarship, critical food geography, action research, agroecology


A broad diversity of people and groups engage in food justice work throughout the world, aiming to dismantle uneven power dynamics in the food system from community- to global scales. Many such individual actors, often referred to as activists, represent communities that bear the brunt of food system injustices. Meanwhile, many academics, often referred to as scholars, have been eager to support community-based food justice efforts. Although much existing academic writing suggests that one can only be either a community activist or a scholar, the lines between food justice scholarship and activism are often blurry. Working beyond dichotomies can help to strengthen these initiatives; publishing analyses about how academics put food justice theories into practice is a part of such an effort.

In this themed section, we juxtapose the terms “activist-scholar” and “scholar-activist” to underscore the intersecting and different positionalities of people engaged in food justice work. The papers in this section are outcomes of two sessions on food justice scholar-activism and activist scholarship that we organized at the 2016 American Association of Geographers conference in San Francisco, California. Each of the papers productively questions the scholar-activist ‘dichotomy’ and provides a unique example of work that bridges this divide. In curating this collection of papers, we have sought to enrich a growing dialogue within the critical geography and critical food systems literature about how academics and activists can contribute to community-based food justice initiatives—through, and in addition to, our scholarly work.


Alkon, A. H. (2016). Food Justice and Nutrition: A Conversation with Navina Khanna and Hank Herrera. In Hayes-Conroy, A. and Hayes-Conroy, J. (Eds.), Doing Nutrition Differently: Critical Approaches to Diet and Dietary Intervention (pp. 23-40). New York: Routledge.

Alkon, A. H., and Agyeman, J. (2011). (Eds.), Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Alkon, A. and Guthman, J. (Eds.) (2017), The New Food Activism: Opposition, Cooperation, and Collective Action. Oakland: University of California Press.

Autonomous Geographies Collective. (2010). Beyond scholar activism: Making strategic interventions inside and outside the neoliberal university. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies. 9 (2): 245-275.

Barcus, H.R., and Trudeau, D. (2018). Introduction to focus section: Out in the world: Geography's complex relationship with civic engagement, The Professional Geographer 70 (2): 270-276.

Block, D.R., Chávez, N., Allen, E., and Ramirez, D. (2012). Food sovereignty, urban food access, and food activism: Contemplating the connections through examples from Chicago. Agriculture and Human Values 29 (2): 203–15.

Block D.R., Hague E., Curran W. and Rosing, H. (2018) Measuring community and university impacts of critical civic geography: Insights from Chicago, The Professional Geographer 70 (2): 284-290.

Bradley, K., Gregory, M. M., Armstrong, J., Arthur, M. L., and Porter, C. M. (2018). Graduate students bringing emotional rigor to the heart of community-university relations in Food Dignity. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8: 221-236.

Bradley, K., and Herrera, H. (2015). Decolonizing food justice: Naming, resisting, and researching colonizing forces in the movement. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography: Online first content, 1–18, doi:10.1111/anti.12165.

Cadieux, K. V., and Slocum, R. (2015). What does it mean to do food justice? Journal of Political Ecology, 22, (1).

Chatterton, P. (2008). Demand the possible: Journeys in changing our world as a public activist scholar. Antipode 40, (3): 421-427.

Darly, S. and McClintock, N. (2017). Introduction to urban agriculture in the neoliberal city: Critical European perspectives. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 16 (2): 224-231.

Derickson, K. D., and Routledge, P. (2015). Resourcing scholar-activism: Collaboration, transformation, and the production of knowledge. The Professional Geographer, 67(1): 1-7.

Gottlieb, R., and Fisher, A. (1996). Community food security and environmental justice: Searching for a common discourse. Agriculture and Human Values, 13 (3): 23-32.

Gottlieb, R., and Joshi, A. (2010). Food Justice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Guthman, J. (2008). Bringing good food to others: Investigating the subjects of alternative food practice. Cultural Geographies, 15(4): 431-447.

Guthman, J. (2011) If they only knew: The unbearable whiteness of alternative food. In Alkon, A.H and Agyeman, J. (Eds.), Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class and Sustainability, (pp 263-281). Cambridge: MIT Press.

Heynen, N., and Rhodes, J. (2012). Organizing for survival: From the Civil Rights Movement to Black Anarchism through the life of Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 11 (3): 393-412.

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Hislop, R. (2015). Reaping Equity: A Survey of Food Justice Organizations in the U.S.A. M.S. Thesis, University of California, Davis.

Levkoe, C. Z., Andrée, P., Bhatt, V., Brynne, A., Davison, K. M., Kneen, C., and Nelson, E. (2016). Collaboration for transformation: Community-campus engagement for just and sustainable food systems. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 20 (3): 32-61.

Mabachi, N. M., and Kimminau, K. S. (2012). Leveraging community-academic partnerships to improve healthy food access in an urban, Kansas City, Kansas, community." Progress in Community Health Partnerships 6 (3): 279-288.

Mares, T. M., and Peña, D. G. (2011). Environmental and food justice: Toward local, slow, and deep food systems. In Alkon, A.H and Agyeman, J. (Eds.), Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class and Sustainability, (pp. 197-220). Cambridge: MIT Press.

McEwen, L. (2013). Geography, community engagement and citizenship: Introduction. Journal of Geography in Higher Education 37 (1): 5-10.

Newtown Florist Club Writing Collective. (2013). Peas and praxis: Organizing food justice through the direct action of the Newtown Florist Club. In Geographies of Race and Food: Fields, Bodies, Markets, (pp. 137–53), Slocum, R. and Saldanha, A. (Eds.). Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate.

Penniman, L. (2018). Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Piven, F. F. 2010. Reflections on scholarship and activism. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography 42 (4): 806–10.

Porter, C.M., Hargraves, M., and Woodsum, G.M. (Eds.). (2018). Food Dignity special issue. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8 (Supp. 1).

Porter, C. M., and Wechsler, A. (2018). Follow the money. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 8: 63-82.

Pulido, L. (2008). Frequently (un)Asked questions about being a scholar activist. In Charles R. Hale, (Ed.) Engaging Contradictions: Theory, Politics, and Methods of Activist Scholarship (pp. 341-365), Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Redmond, L. (2013). “Food+Justice=Democracy.” Presentation at TEDxManhattan. Accessed 9/15/18.

Reese, A. M. (2018). We will not perish; we’re going to keep flourishing: Race, food access, and geographies of self‐reliance. Antipode, 50(2), 407-424.

Reynolds, K. and Cohen, N. (2016). Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Robinson, J. A., Weissman, E., Adair, S., Potteiger, M., and Villanueva, J. (2016). An oasis in the desert? The benefits and constraints of mobile markets operating in Syracuse, New York food deserts. Agriculture and Human Values 33(4): 877-893.

Sbicca, J. (2018) Food Justice Now!: Deepening the Roots of Food Justice Struggle. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Slocum, R. (2006). Anti‐racist practice and the work of community food organizations. Antipode 38 (2): 327-349.

Smith, L. T. (2002). Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. New York, St. Martins Press.

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Torre, M. E., Fine, M., Stoudt, B., and Fox, M. (2012). Critical participatory action research as public science. In APA Handbook of Research Methods In Psychology. Cooper, H. (Ed.), (pp. 171–184). Durham, N.C.: American Psychological Association.

Wakefield, S. E. (2007). Reflective action in the academy: Exploring praxis in critical geography using a “food movement” case study. Antipode, 39(2): 331-354.

White, M. M. (2017). “A pig and a garden”: Fannie Lou Hamer and the Freedom Farms Cooperative. Food and Foodways, 25(1): 20-39.

Williams, J.M. and Holt-Giménez, E. (2017). Land Justice: Re-imagining Land, Food, and the Commons. Berkley, CA: Food First Books.

Wilson, S. (2008). Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.




How to Cite

Reynolds, K., Block, D., & Bradley`, K. (2018). Food Justice Scholar-Activism and Activist-Scholarship: Working Beyond Dichotomies to Deepen Social Justice Praxis. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 17(4), 988–998. Retrieved from



Themed Section - Food Justice Scholar-Activism and Activist-Scholarship (Guest Eds Reynolds, Block, & Bradley)