Political Histories of Food

Enrique C. Ochoa

in The Oxford Handbook of Food History

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199729937
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Political Histories of Food


Although policies are in place to eradicate hunger, basic access to food remains a formidable problem worldwide. Scholars and policy analysts disagree sharply on the extent of hunger and malnutrition as well as their causes and solutions. Recent evidence suggests that foodways offer an important means of creating alternative and more egalitarian systems of food production and distribution. This article reviews the assumptions and ideologies underlying the politics of food over the past few centuries. It examines power relations shaped by shifting capitalist developmental policies and by various state and international institutions. The article first looks at the link between food, capitalism, and colonialism before turning to food shortages, famines, and political legitimacy. It also discusses food policies and nation-states from 1930 to the 1970s, along with corporate globalization and food politics from the 1970s to the 2000s. The article concludes by focusing on struggles for food sovereignty and considering alternatives to corporate food politics.

Keywords: food; food politics; power relations; capitalism; colonialism; food shortages; famines; political legitimacy; globalization; nation-states

Article.  8240 words. 

Subjects: History ; World History

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