Human rights and collective emancipation: the politics of food sovereignty

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This article develops contextually grounded accounts of emancipation in general and notions of collective rights based emancipation in particular by identifying a form of emancipatory politics in which collectives demand rights for themselves. The article develops the idea of collective, rights based emancipation by focusing on the practices of two related social movements, the Landless Workers Movement (MST) and la Via Campesina. The MST and Via Campesina seek to replace existing rights to ‘food security’ with a human right to ‘food sovereignty’. While food security agendas emphasise the role of international governance agencies in providing food on behalf of others, food sovereignty is secured by peasant social movements themselves. Furthermore, practices of active citizenship and democratic organisational structures, built through the grassroots and transnational struggles through which peasants raise their demand for human rights, are vital in enacting rights to food sovereignty. In instances where victims are not entirely silenced and powerless, this combination of a demand for human rights and the development of practices of citizenship that enable people to demand and secure rights for themselves provides a contextually grounded emancipatory alternative to interventionist politics that, however well intentioned, risk reinforcing the dependence of purportedly powerless victims.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-261
Number of pages23
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2014


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