Introducing “Theoretical Musings”

Any student who has taken one of my classes knows that I love theory and think they should love it to. And what’s not to love? Theories — your own, disciplinary theories, knowledge paradigms —  are foundational for our research and praxis in this world.  Most students, though, don’t love theory. They often find it clunky and confusing. It’s hard to see why you need to have a theory when you just want to ensure your village has access to quality food. But, how you approach that problem depends on your theory. For example, food security theory and food sovereignty theory are two different approaches to understanding and resolving issues of food insecurity.[1] Food security theory emphasizes physical and economic access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food and looks primarily to market forces to provide that access. Food sovereignty theory arose from the activist group La ViaCampesina (The Way of Peasants), an international farming and peasant movement, and emphasizes the right to maintain and develop local capacity for a nation or area to produce its own basic food needs. Which one fits with your ideas about maintaining and enhancing community food supplies? And, theory doesn’t just help you articulate your perspective on your issue; it also allows you to enter into broader conversations in academia and elsewhere and see how local issues and concerns fit into global contexts.

Trying to encourage students to enjoy theory as I do has led me to think back on all of the times a theory has changed or enhanced my way of thinking about an issue. Certain quotes and perspectives come back to me again and again. Through a series of posts on “theoretical musings’ I am going to share these quotes and theories that have guided me in academia and in life and I hope other faculty will join me in sharing the quotes that have guided them as well. . First up from me will be a post on Kamala Viswesaran’s Fictions of Feminist Ethnography.[2] Look for it soon!

[1] For a brief discussion of food sovereignty theory check out this entry — https://globalsocialtheory.org/concepts/food-sovereignty/ —  at the site “Global Social Theory.’ The site is organized by Gurminder K. Bhambra, Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies in the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex. Professor Bhambra is co-editor with Dalia Gebrial and Kerem Nisancioglu of Decolonizing the University (Pluto Press, 2018).

[2] Kamala Visweswaran, Fictions of Feminist Ethnography (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994).

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