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Global studies conference Duncan may 2012

Global Food Social Movements: Initial reflections on participant observation with the International Civil Society Mechanism

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Global studies conference Duncan may 2012

  1. 1. Standing in solidarity — maintaining distance? Exploring methodological and ethical dynamics of participatory research with food social movements DISCUSSION/ROUNDTABLE Josh Brem-Wilson, International Centre for Participation Studies, University of Bradford, UK Annette Desmarais, International Studies Program, University of Regina, Canada Jessica Duncan, Centre for Food Policy, City University, London, UKHannah Wittman, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University, Canada
  2. 2. Global Food Social Movements:Initial reflections on participant observation with the International Civil Society Mechanism Standing in solidarity — maintaining distance? Exploring methodological and ethical dynamics of participatory research with food social movements Jessica Duncan Centre for Food Policy, City University, London May, 2012
  3. 3. Structure of this Presentation• Context: Participatory turn and post-food crisis restructuring of global food security governance• New mechanism to facilitate participation of civil society organizations• Participant observation: review of process – Snowball and gatekeepers – Language – Blogging• Key challenges – Language – Relations of power – Researcher –SM dynamics – Gender politics – Protecting particpants – Self-censorship – Time
  4. 4. Context• Between 2005 and 2008, the world’s staple food pirces soared to their highest levels in 30 years: for the first time more than 1 billion people were chronically hungry• Prices peaked in June 2008, and prices fell back 33% in 6 months• Food riots broke out in more than 20 countries• Rising food costs in 2010-11 pushed nearly 70 million people into extreme poverty• Result was a call for enhanced coordination and cohesion across food security policies at the global level – Marked by two trends: Country-led plans and increased participation
  5. 5. Committee on World Food Security• Now: Emerging consensus that the CFS is the forum for discussion and debate on global food security governance• 1974: Established upon recommendation of the World Food Conference – Response to 1970s food crisis• 2009: Reform process initiated to address calls for greater coordination and cohesion of food security policies• 2010: First of the Renewed CFS• Vision: “constitute the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for a broad range of committed stakeholders to work together in a coordinated manner and in support of country-led processes towards the elimination of hunger and ensuring food security and nutrition for all human beings”
  6. 6. Civil Society Mechanism• CSM facilitates the participation of CSOs in the CFS, including input in negotiations and decision-making• Provides a space for dialogue between a wide- range of civil society actors• Open to all CSOs working on food security• Executive: Coordination Committee (CC) comprised of 41 focal points from 11 constituencies and 17 sub-regions
  7. 7. Sub-Regions (Total of 16, x1 focal point each)North America South East AsiaCentral America & Caribbean Central AsiaAndean Region OceaniaSouthern Cone Southern AfricaWestern Europe West AfricaEastern Europe East AfricaWest Asia Central AfricaSouth Asia North AfricaPacific Constituencies (Total of 24, x2 focal points each)Agricultural & food workers NGOsArtisanal fisherfolk Smallholder family farmers (4 focal points)Consumers Urban poorPastoralists WomenIndigenous Peoples YouthLandless
  8. 8. Site of Inquiry• Diversity of actors engaging in food security who do not necessarily share the same approaches, ideologies, understanding of the problem, solutions, culture, spirituality or language• How will these actors come together to effectively engage in the reformed CFS?• How will diversity be managed?• To start to answer these question I set off to undertake participant observation of the CSM
  9. 9. Key Points• Reform of a UN Committee to include CSOs as official participants• CSOs developed mechanism to coordinate their participation in the Committee• Policy approach: focus on how civil society actors participate in global policy making and the implications of this
  10. 10. Participant Observation
  11. 11. Accessing the Field: Snowball and Gatekeepers• Food Sovereignty Forum, Rome November 2009• UKFG• FoodSecure Canada• Civil Society Consultation (CFS36) Rome, October 2010 – Note taking, interpretation, general support, blog• Snowballed….
  12. 12. Language• CSM works in three languages:English, French, Spanish• English mother tongue is useful since much of the communication and negotiations happens in English• Fundamental role of interpreters: voice
  13. 13. Blog• Transparency• Public profile• Exposure• Remaining a-political• Networking tool• Motivation• Archive of thinking and process
  14. 14. Key Challenges
  15. 15. Speaking “Social Movements”• Modes of communication• Texture of communication• Important = how you communicate this• Note taking – What gets recorded, what gets left out? – What are the implications of this? – How does this translate to reports and documents?
  16. 16. Relations of Power• CSM seeks to give priority and voice to those most affected by food insecurity• As a researcher, a lot of attention needs to be given to relations of power• Multi-site ethnography shifts attention to multiple domains to cultural productoin challenging the priviledge position of the ethnographers perspective• Reflects the multi and interacting sites where CSOs engage in global food security governance• Power balance shifts: CSM meeting vs Gathering vs FAO meeting• Need for constant reflection on language, gender, class, health, mobility, religion, age across multiple sites
  17. 17. Researcher – CSO Dynamics• Social movements hold power in relationships with researchers (need to maintain trust): – Hand out a lot of work (note taking, facilitation, organizing, administration) = less time for research (trade off)• Researcher wears many hats: – CFS37- CSOs walked out of food price volatility policy roundtable: left me behind- respected role as researcher- left someone on the inside – GGWP- missing out on the election of the pastoralist focal points for Declaration Working Group- potential to challenge the process – “Go do your magic” – researcher as link between CSOs and negotiators
  18. 18. Gender Politics• Food is female: production, feeding, service• As a woman it can sometimes be easier to forge bonds with women activists (cultural, religious, historic, political, social reasons)• CSM strives for gender equality• Movements working with CSM have strong gender politics• CSOs are engaging in an arena that is not feminist• Being a young female researcher in (male- dominated) elite settings influences access: raises questions of what is appropriate• Tension with other generations of feminists
  19. 19. Protecting Participants• Despite the public and elite nature of their engagement at the UN, these are radical actors in their communities and they face serious challenges and threats – Death threats – Exile
  20. 20. Choosing what to share• Impetus for this panel• How to balance loyalty, solidarity and politics with academic analysis?• Working within a fragile and politically sensitive process• Too much critique could be used to de-legitimise the process and to break trust with social movements• There is a lot to learn from the process, especially from what goes wrong• What is appropriate to share and with whom?
  21. 21. Time• Time = Methodological tension with ethnography: how long do you need to be in the field?• Managing time in the field• With global-level research, there are usually multiple-sites to be explored and this spreads time out more thinly• Time to keep up to date on the issues
  22. 22. It’s what you do• Commitment to transparency and openness• Work hard• Respect actors, reflect on relations of power – shifting contexts• Remember your purpose• Reflect on the dynamic roles researchers play in these movements• Reflect on shifts between participant/observer/analyst/friend/expert• How to transition to “expert”- what are the implications of this?
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