DOI: 10.1177/25148486231194835 ISSN:

A critical agrarian approach to food crises: Social distance as a specific food crisis arising from the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan

Benjamin Schrager, Chika Kondo
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Covid-19 precipitated a food crisis that reconfigured food systems in unprecedented directions. While much research on Covid-19 and food crises focuses on food insecurity, we argue for a critical agrarian approach to food crises that extends beyond food insecurity. We emphasize how food crises enact disruptions that can lead to the reconfiguration of food systems. Further, we distinguish between specific crises that disrupt food systems from the general Crisis of the corporate food regime. This article draws on interviews with key actors to explore how changes to social distance in response to Covid-19 rippled through Japanese food systems as segments of Japanese food economies expanded, adjusted, and contracted. Although Japan avoided the harshest consequences of food insecurity arising from Covid-19, the pandemic reconfigured Japanese food systems in novel directions. This reconfiguration does not neatly correspond to the general Crisis of the corporate food regime because of the prominence of the hybrid zone and scalar politics of local food within Japanese food systems. We urge critical agrarian scholarship to closely examine the situated dynamics enacted by specific food crises, because such crises introduce key inflection points for reshaping food system trajectories.

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