RSG Holistic and pragmatic approaches to sustainable agrifood systems


INRA-SAD Ecodéveloppement, Avignon, France


Transitions towards more sustainable and more ecological food systems deserve both analytical and action-oriented approaches that allow to assess the interdependencies between the different components and actors of these agrifood systems and to identify the conditions for these interdependencies to become more ecologically sustainable but also more socially fair. Most of the agrifood systems literature has focused either on the negative impacts of the dominant or corporate food systems or on alternative food systems, thus arguing for a strong relocalisation and a reconnection of producers and consumers or agricultural production and food consumption.

In this RSG we intend to explore and discuss diverse approaches that would allow to consider in a more encompassing way the diversity of stakeholders and initiatives involved in agrifood systems and the necessary reconnection not just between agriculture and food (as is mainly the case in re-localized food systems) or agriculture and the environment (like in organic farming or agri-environmental schemes) or food and the environment (like in organic consumption), but between these three terms. We claim that at the territorial scale it is possible to develop this ambition and to identify the social actors and analyse the dynamics that allow for an ecologization of what we then call “territorial agrifood systems” as well as the power relationships and the controversies that often impede such an ecologization process. Therefore the analytical and action-oriented approaches we want to develop would include a socio-historical study of past changes, an ethnographic analysis of on-going changes within given territorial agrifood systems, a holistic and systemic analysis of the different components of these agrifood systems and of their interdependencies, and a pragmatic analysis (in the sense of the French pragmatic sociology, but this could also be inspired by an ANT perspective or by other theoretical frameworks) of the alliances, the modes of coordination but also the power relationships and controversies that develop between the different stakeholders and social groups within these territorial agrifood systems. Different forms of ecologization processes will be tackled in this research and study group, depending on the contexts of the case studies that will be discussed: in some countries but also in some research communities or communities of practice, agroecology appears as an encompassing paradigm for such processes, while in others the ecologization paradigms are more heterogeneous and diverse.


The research and study group will have 3 main objectives: the first one is to discuss the different components and perspectives of such an approach (or of complementary approaches) to the ecologization of agrifood systems through seminars and writing workshops and to publish a co-authored paper in 2016-2017, the second one is to constitute a portfolio of case studies across Europe but also other countries (a few colleagues from Brazil and possibly USA will be invited to take part to the RSG) also based on a commonly convened working group at the 2017 ESRS congress , the third one is to work on joint applications to European, bilateral or national calls.

Activities for 2016

A first workshop will be organized in September 2016 (2 days).
ESRS members who are interested by this RSG are invited to send a letter explaining how they would like to contribute to the discussions and what kind of approach they develop so that the core group can set up a program for this first workshop.