[Call for Papers] The Social Reproduction of Agrarian Change: Feminist Political Economy & Rural Transformations in the Global South

Call for Papers

For a Special Issue of the Journal of Agrarian Change

Edited by Elena Baglioni, Hannah Bargawi, Alessandra Mezzadri, Lyn Ossome and Sara Stevano

The Covid-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences have exposed the centrality of social reproduction for the functioning of global capitalism (Mezzadri 2020, Stevano et al, 2021). A set of new and thought-provoking theorisations and scholarly interventions have highlighted the ways in which neoliberalism has restructured the institutions and architecture of care, leading to a crisis of reproduction (Fraser, 2017; Bakker and Gill, 2019), and how social oppression is co-constitutive of, rather than epiphenomenal to, the process of class formation (Federici, 2004; Bannerji, 2005; Bhattacharya, 2017). Notwithstanding their differences in approach and objectives (Winders and Smith, 2019), these theorisations have re-energised earlier feminist debates on the role of the household and the features of gendered and racial oppression under capitalism (e.g. Davis, 1981; Mies, 1982). They are reframing and extending debates on exploitation and value (Mezzadri, 2019; Ferguson, 2019; Cammack, 2020), on processes of racialization (Bhattacharyya, 2018; Glenn, 2010)and on the linkages between social oppression and ecological appropriation (e.g. Moore, 2015), also in a context where social movements against patriarchy, colonialism, racism and environmental destruction have become widespread (e.g. Gago, 2018).

If the lens of social reproduction provides new exciting avenues to reclaim a more inclusive history of capitalism, it also offers an opportunity to review key debates in agrarian change and political economy of development. In particular, whilst a growing set of studies have started grappling with ‘decolonising’ and decentring social reproduction approaches by focusing on the Global South, informal work, or agrarian systems (e.g. Naidu and Ossome, 2016; Mezzadri, 2017, 2020; Fernandez, 2018; Cousins et al., 2018; Stevano, 2019; Hornby and Cousins, 2019; Baglioni, 2021), and others have highlighted the embeddedness of agrarian labour regimes in ‘reproduction zones’ (e.g. Pattenden, 2018), more work is needed to systematically place these approaches in conversation with studies analysing the development of capitalism within agrarian settings of the Global South.

In an attempt to contribute to this agenda, this Special Issue deploys a social reproduction lens to engage with theories, debates and empirical studies in the political economy of agrarian change. The political economy of agrarian change has incorporated gendered perspectives, and considered the differential impact of rural transformations on men and women for decades (e.g. Whitehead, 1981; Mackintosh, 1989; Carney and Watts, 1991; Agarwal, 2003; Razavi, 2003; Rao, 2006; Jacobs, 2014; Tsikata, 2016). Building upon these critical insights, the deployment of a social reproduction lens offers a complex theoretical and methodological toolkit that illuminates the ways in which different forms of inequality such as race, ethnicity, caste, class and gender articulate to shape agrarian outcomes. It places at its centre the inter-linkages and dynamics between processes of capitalist production and those involved in the regeneration of life (Katz, 2001; Winders and Smith, 2019). The latter include the reproduction of labour and the environment as they work for, and struggle against, capital. A social reproduction lens emphasises the inherent conflict between forces of production and ‘forces of reproduction’ (Barca, 2020) as labour in its racialised, gendered forms struggles to build autonomies from capital. In agrarian settings, this perspective may help overcome productivist biases and lead to a more systemic incorporation of feminist perspectives and methods in the study of agrarian change.

At the same time, building on a rich tradition of analyses of capitalist transitions, class differentiation, livelihood and subsistence dynamics within the global South, the political economy of agrarian change has the potential to further highlight global relations of social re/production and enrich the social reproduction gaze beyond its urban and industrial horizon. Critical agrarian political economy traditionally emphasises processes and projects of class making and rural differentiation in the countryside when these are often lost and blurred within essentialist notions of the peasantry, family farming or livelihoods (Bernstein and Byres 2001; O’Laughlin, 2002). It is rooted in a rich tradition of painstaking deconstruction of social relations of production in capitalism and the manifold ways they manifest in agrarian settings inhabited by ‘classes of capital’ and ‘classes of labour’ (Bernstein, 2010; Banaji, 2010; Harriss-White, 2014). Indeed, in pursuing this tradition and agenda, the special issue builds on the many contributions of scholars of agrarian change who have, directly and indirectly, spoken significantly about the centrality of reproduction to understanding accumulation and/or class formation (e.g. Benholdt-Thomsen, 1982; Sharma, 1985; Sender and Smith, 1990; Chari, 2004;      Moyo and Yeros, 2005; Moyo et al., 2013; Shivji, 2017; Cousins et al, 2018); access to land and processes of proletarianization in the Global South (Ossome and Naidu, 2021 forthcoming); the industrialisation myth and new agrarian questions (e.g. Moyo et al 2013); trans-local processes including labour circulation and the outcomes of rural industrialisation (e.g. Hart, 2002; Lerche and Shah 2020); and the relation between production, reproduction and health outcomes (e.g. O’Laughlin, 2013). Moreover, it also builds on the excellent work of agrarian political economists on the role and centrality of the household and care provisioning in processes of agrarian transformation (e.g. Razavi, 2009).

The special issue aims at analysing the spaces, temporalities and practices of social reproduction in agrarian contexts of the Global South, drawing broad reflections on how a social reproduction lens contributes to framing, understanding and analysis of contemporary agrarian questions. The issue calls for contributions able to:

  1. Illustrate the tight inter-linkages between productive and reproductive activities and realms in rural settings and/or in processes of rural-urban mobility and labour circulation. This might include analyses and reflections of the new challenges workers in the Global South may face, including in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g.  Agarwal, 2021; Stevano et al, 2021).
  2. Revisit the history, representation and evolution of the household within processes of agrarian change. This may include examining the household as a site of overlapping productive and reproductive activities as well as a key space that shapes (and/or may oppose or resist) processes of class formation.
  3. Investigate processes of gendered and racialised class formation within the peasantry and ‘peasant way of life’, their hidden insertions within processes of capital accumulation and its different struggles for reproduction.
  4. Explore novel forms of commodification, including how legal and regulatory aspects of the agro-food systems shape processes of racialised and gendered production and reproduction across the global economy.
  5. Scrutinise the centrality of land (including access, ownership and inheritance) to contemporary dynamics of social reproduction in the Global South, in both rural and urban settings (e.g. Ossome and Naidu, 2021).
  6. Examine the links between food, nutrition and health vulnerability through a  social reproduction lens, considering not only the gendered relations that underpin food, nutrition and health outcomes, but also how these intersect with multiple inequalities embedded in reproduction and production processes.       Analyse processes of environmental degradation and its implications in terms of social reproduction, the diversified effects of these ecological and social costs on classes of labour, and the struggles against the effects of climate change, resource extractivism and privatisation and/or environmental degradation.
  7. On the basis of new research, grounded in particular cases, periods and places develop and build on existing debates on the agrarian questions, reflecting how social reproduction perspectives could extend and change our understanding of these debates.

Given the Special Issue’s objective to decenter and decolonise debates on social reproduction and unveil its linkages with debates on agrarian change, the editors welcome a variety of contributions, ranging from original articles to shorter commentaries and position papers based on original research, in order to collect multiple voices and analytical perspectives on the relevance of social reproduction in the context of the political economy of agrarian change. We particularly welcome contributions from scholars from the Global South.

Those interested should submit a 200-word abstract for consideration to Dr Elena Baglioni (corresponding editor) at e.baglioni@qmul.ac.uk. The deadline for the submission of abstracts is 30th September 2021.

Decisions on inclusion in the Special Issue will be communicated by 31st October 2021, and the authors selected will be asked to submit full papers by 30th June 2022. Papers will be finalised based on editors’ initial reviews, and the Special Issue will be submitted in full to the Journal of Agrarian Change by 15th December 2022.