Research

I am trained as a scholar of international economic development and human geography.  In my research I use food and agricultural production as a lens to examine power relations and resistance as they relate to capitalist-driven economic development. My research is motivated by a desire to understand the geopolitics of food systems—from the local to the global—and to produce research relevant to improving the equity and sustainability of such systems. I conduct research in both peripheral and core economic areas.

Urban Food Forestry in Philadelphia

This collaborative project with Paul Jackson and Del Levia is an examination of urban food forests in Philadelphia as sites of intentioned, publically accessible, food production in the city. This mixed-methods project, drawing on urban political ecology, biophysics, and food justice examines how fruit- and nut-bearing perennials in urban food forests contribute to community-building and healthy food access in low-income and minority neighborhoods. Access, affordability, and healthfulness of food remain key subjects of interrogation as researchers seek to explain obstacles to healthy food access in low-income urban areas. Urban agriculture, mobile fresh food carts, urban food forests, and farmer’s market SNAP incentives make up an increasing cadre of possible responses to the structural inequities of access to healthy foods in urban areas. A key goal of this project is to identify the dynamics that emerge in urban food forests, which are often located in previously vacant city lots, and reconsider how we view sites of urban food access and community-based responses to structural inequality.

Related Media:
Hennesey, Greer (2017) – “Philadelphia Food Justice,” UDaily.

Food Sovereignty Knowledge Exchange

The allocation and distribution of food in global production-consumption systems is a constellation of social practices and unequal relationships. This project examines how participants in food sovereignty-based tourism understand the multi-dimensional nature of food sovereignty and assesses the potential radical and lasting impacts of education-based tourism. This research is an ongoing collaboration that investigates the practice of food sovereignty tourism and the actions undertaken by food systems actors following tour-based knowledge exchange. Put differently, this project is not targeted at only interpreting how differently situated actors in the food system understand and practice food sovereignty, but also at stimulating opportunities to transform the food system. This project serves as a critical avenue for tying together academic research, scholarship and teaching with grassroots movements and individual action on food systems change. The aims of the project are tied to contributing to food studies and critical geography literatures and also making more transparent the results of food sovereignty-based knowledge exchange, which will allow participants to see how their contributions are represented in change across space.

Select photos – Basque Country and Cuba

Decolonial Autonomies

In this project I examined agricultural practices enacted by subsistence and fair trade coffee farmers in self-declared autonomous indigenous communities in Chiapas, Mexico. In this work I used concepts from critical geopolitics and decolonial theory to contribute new insights into debates over food sovereignty, indigenous autonomy and fair trade in the context of neoliberal globalization and development. I highlight two important contributions here. First, my research provides an important corrective to existing scholarship on food sovereignty, and its emphasis on national-scale politics and anti-capitalist agendas by critically evaluating diverse household and community scale efforts to achieve food sovereignty. Second, self-determination and autonomy have been at the center of indigenous political agendas and anti-colonial struggles for decades, yet few scholars have examined how autonomy is understood in politically fractured communities or how it is enacted and contested in the context of agriculture and food production practices. These material practices represent important spaces where power/knowledge dynamics and community politics unfold, unsettling the ways that indigenous autonomy and economic development are currently framed in academic scholarship.

In this research I was particularly interested in what daily agricultural practices and negotiations can tell us about cultivating autonomy and also regarding the contentious politics of maintaining a primarily subsistence-based lifestyle while also interacting in the global marketplace through fair trade coffee sales.

Select Chiapas fieldwork photos

This research was funded by a range of grants and is the basis of a book manuscript in progress. It is also the subject of papers published with Political Geography and Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.
“Reframing Autonomy in Political Geography: A Feminist Geopolitics of Autonomous Resistance.” Political Geography 58 (May 2017): 24–35.

“Auditing the Subjects of Fair Trade: Coffee, Development, and Surveillance in Highland Chiapas.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, January 1, 2017. doi:10.1177/0263775817694031.

Other Related media:
Report for the Global Studies Institute: “Naylor on Farmers in Mexico”
Report for the Center for the Study of Women and Society: “Resistance and the Everyday” (2012, CSWS Newsletter p. 9)

Interviews:
Cherfas, Jeremy (2017) “Pushing good coffee: Beyond merely fair in search of ethical trade.” Eat This Podcast.

Casini, Artika Rangan (2017) “The Politics of Fair Trade.” UDaily.

Stoeve, Rachael (2015)How to Become a Citizen Eater: A Trip Behind the Labels of Your Ethical Cup of Coffee.” Yes Magazine.

Completed Work

Hired Gardens

In 2009, the New York Times ran an article profiling businesses that could be hired to install, maintain and harvest fresh vegetables from personal, residential, private property and declared the consumers of such businesses “lazy locavores.” This article was the basis for the hired gardens research project, funded by the Department of Geography at the University of Oregon, I conducted interviews and observation with ‘hired garden’ businesses on the west coast of the United States and their clients, and completed textual analysis of related websites, news stories and other documents. The research resulted in an academic article: “Hired Gardens and the Question of Transgression: Lawns, Food Gardens and the Business of ‘alternative’ Food Practice.” Cultural Geographies 19, no. 4 (October 1, 2012): 483–504. This article used the empirical work to examine the practice of lawn removal, participation in alternative food movements, and the procuring of hired garden services as a transgressive practice.

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