In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Geography of Food

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Reference Texts
  • Journals
  • Science, Technology, and Food Futures
  • Cultural Histories/Anthropology

Geography Geography of Food
Catarina Passidomo, Jeffrey Miller
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 February 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 February 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0202


The geography of food is an emergent and growing subfield within human geography. Often distinguished from older literature in agricultural geography, writings in the geography of food tend to be critical (and in some cases, radical) in their political framing, focusing on the many ways in which food systems are connected to, and potentially disruptive of, entrenched systems of oppression and social and economic inequality. In part, this critical framing arose in response to a lack of critical food systems engagement in other disciplines, and to agricultural geography’s focus on spaces of production; geography’s persistent interest in spatial relationships and systems of power that cross spaces and scales made the discipline well-suited to critical interrogation of food and agricultural systems. Geographers who study and write about food demonstrate interest in scales ranging from the body to the global economy, and indeed the ways in which global processes become inscribed on and metabolized by individual bodies in disparate spaces. Literature in this subdiscipline is often theoretically robust, drawing on complex biopolitical formulations, state theory, and multi-scalar analyses of political economic change to link global processes with local places, and to situate alternative food systems within a dominant industrial agro-food system. The geography of food shares many theoretical and empirical interests with other food studies subdisciplines, including rural sociology and the anthropology of food. This article primarily features contributions by geographers, or by scholars who make use of geographic concepts (often emphasizing scale or place in their analysis). There is also a robust literature in agricultural geography (see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article “Agricultural Geography”); this article aims to focus instead on geographies of food “beyond the farm gate.” As such, the article is organized by sections according to scale (global/national/urban/rural/home and body), and then focuses on a variety of food movements and responses to corporate/industrial global food systems.

General Overviews and Reference Texts

Because it is a relatively recent subfield, foundational literature in the geography of food works to shape the boundaries of this emergent area of interest. The overviews cited here include older and more recent writings, articles, monographs, and edited volumes. The earliest of these is Bell and Valentine 1997, which is among the first geographic monographs to focus on food consumption rather than agricultural practices. Likewise, Atkins and Bowler 2001 is attentive to the spaces of food consumption, but the primary focus is on the political economy, political ecology, and globalization of food systems. The journal Progress in Human Geography has lent space to multivocal discussions of the scope and evolution of scholarship in the geography of food with two three-part articles. Winter 2003, Winter 2004, and Winter 2005 presented reports on the status of the field, while Cook 2006 and Cook 2008 did additional boundary-framing by topic, and Cook, et al. 2011 provided a space for other food geographers to share alternate perspectives. Mandelblatt 2012 is also included here as a useful reference. More recent edited volumes explicitly situate food in place and advocate for geographic approaches to food studies. Fitzpatrick and Willis 2015 and Joassart-Marcelli and Bosco 2017 both advocate for interdisciplinary approaches but emphasize geographic concepts of scale and sense of place for framing scholarly examinations of food systems.

  • Atkins, Peter, and Ian Bowler. Food in Society: Economy, Culture, Geography. 1st ed. London?and New York: Routledge, 2001.

    Provides a social science perspective on food systems and demonstrates the variety of disciplinary and theoretical contexts of food studies. Addresses different global understandings of food through thematic chapters and a wide range of material. Each chapter contains a guide to further reading and to websites of relevance to food studies.

  • Bell, David, and Gill Valentine. Consuming Geographies: We Are Where We Eat. London?and New York: Routledge, 1997.

    Draws on anthropological, sociological, and cultural readings of food consumption, as well as empirical material on shopping, cooking, food technology, and the food media. Demonstrates the importance of space and place in identity formation. Organized by scale (body, home, community, etc.).

  • Cook, Ian. “Geographies of Food: Following.” Progress in Human Geography 30.5 (October 2006): 655–666.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132506070183

    First of three-part series on the geographies of food. Attempts to bridge the divide between agricultural geography—dominated by political economy and quantitative methods—and cultural studies of food, a literature dominated by poststructuralism and qualitative research. Comments on resources about the geographies of production and consumption of food and discusses the need to do more ethnographic participant observation, the use of different approaches to theory and empirics, and the effects of connective knowledge.

  • Cook, Ian. “Geographies of Food: Mixing.” Progress in Human Geography 32.6 (December 2008): 821–833.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132508090979

    Discusses “ethnic” food trends and questions of authenticity. Explores possibility of eating foods in ways that are antiracist and anticolonial.

  • Cook, Ian, Kersty Hobson, Lucius Hallett, et al. “Geographies of Food: ‘Afters.’” Progress in Human Geography 35.1 (02/01/2011 2011): 104–120.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132510369035

    Third and final “geographies of food” review, based on an online blog conversation provoked by the first and second reviews in the series (Cook 2006, Cook 2008). A fragmentary, multi-authored text aiming to convey the rich and multi-stranded content, breadth, and character of ongoing food studies research within and beyond geography.

  • Fitzpatrick, Kevin M., and Don Willis, eds. A Place-Based Perspective of Food in Society. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

    Interdisciplinary and international essays examining the relationship between food and place. Explores the importance of place in the history of food and agriculture and the globalization and localization of food and food systems, and also the spatial manifestations of globalized food systems.

  • Joassart-Marcelli, Pascale, and Fernando J. Bosco, eds. Food and Place: A Critical Exploration. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

    Textbook with a clear discussion of key concepts and theoretical foundations in the geography of food. Sections focus on food regimes, foodscapes, and bodies.

  • Mandelblatt, Bertie. “Geography of Food.” In The Oxford Handbook of Food History. Edited by Jeffrey M. Pilcher, 154–171. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    Useful short overview of scholarship in the geography of food, organized according to scale: global and transnational, national and regional, urban, rural and agricultural, domestic and individual.

  • Winter, Michael. “Geographies of Food: Agro-Food Geographies—Making Reconnections.” Progress in Human Geography 27.4 (August 2003): 505–513.

    DOI: 10.1191/0309132503ph446pr

    The first of three “progress reports” on the state of food studies in geography. Identifies the emergence of an agro-food geography that seeks to examine issues along the food chain or within systems of food provision, owing in part to the strengthening of political economy approaches in the 1980s.

  • Winter, Michael. “Geographies of Food: Agro-Food Geographies—Farming, Food and Politics.” Progress in Human Geography 28.5 (October 2004): 664–670.

    DOI: 10.1191/0309132504ph512pr

    Discusses the role of politics in shaping the relationship between farming and food, highlighting the influence of trade liberalization and globalization, and also resistance to those trends.

  • Winter, Michael. “Geographies of Food: Agro-Food Geographies—Food, Nature, Farmers and Agency.” Progress in Human Geography 29.5 (October 2005): 609–617.

    DOI: 10.1191/0309132505ph571pr

    Examines the reconnections of “food and nature” and “farmers and agency” in rural geography. Notes that the reconnection of food and nature leads to current debates on the relationship between nature and society. Situates this phenomena within broader theoretical debates.

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