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Philip McMichael

Phil McMichael, gov


250A Warren Hall
(607) 255-5495

Trained as a historical sociologist, my research examines capitalist modernity through the lens of agrarian questions, food regimes, agrarian/food sovereignty movements, and most recently the implications for food systems of agrofuels and land grabbing. This work centers the role of agri-food systems in the making of the modern world, including an examination of the politics of globalization via the structuring of agri-food relations. My research includes consulting with the FAO, UNRISD, the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty, the international peasant coalition, La Vía Campesina, and FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN). Connected to this work was an eight-year project on contemporary social movements with over a dozen fellow investigators (current and former graduate students), culminating in Contesting Development: Critical Struggles for Social Change (Routledge, 2010).

Research Focus

Current research is on China's growing involvement in the global food regime.

Current research concerns examining the 'global land grab' as a harbinger of the new bioeconomy, and as a process of relocating agriculture to land in the global South as the basis of a new food regime. My hypothesis is that such developments express a large-scale transition in the global food economy driven by the combination of crises (energy, food, climate and financial), resulting in a reconfiguration of the content (biomass emphasis) and location of world agriculture. At the same time this development is contested, and I am also examining the rise of alternative, multi-functional conceptions of agriculture, championed by local food movements and food sovereignty coalitions across the world.

Outreach and Extension Focus

Outreach involves working with the international food sovereignty movement. I am a current member of the Civil Society Mechanism, attached to the UN's Committee on World Food Security, FAO.

Research on the impact social and ecological impacts of agrofuels and land grabbing; consulting with the FAO's Committee on Food Security High Level Panel of Experts on land investments; 6th edition of best-selling college text, Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective (Pine Forge/Sage, 2016).

Teaching Focus

I teach the Political sociology of development. World-historical methods. Food, ecology, and agrarian change. (Graduate), and International Development (Undergraduate). Trained in world-historical sociology I introduce students to literatures concerning the rise and transformation of the international state system within a deepening global marketplace, refocusing sociological perspectives from nation-centered analysis to world systemic processes and how they shape, and are shaped by, inter-state dynamics. Within in this broader perspective, the rise and transformation of a global food regime provides substantive focus on agricultural changes across world regions associated with food trading and food dependency relationships. This allows for a political ecology perspective to complement a political economy analysis. My pedagogy consists of lectures complemented with various discussion strategies stimulated by Blackboard instructions (including weekly written exercises for graduate students), and assisted with TA's in undergraduate course.

Awards and Honors

  • Selection of 2009 article on Food Regime Genealogy as one of “40 Classics in Peasant Studies (2013) Journal of Peasant Studies’ 40th Anniversary

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

Presentations and Activities

  • Rethinking the Agarian Question through the Lens of the Food Regime. Critical Issues in Agarian and Development Studies (CIADS). June 2013. Agricultural University (CAU). Beijing, China.
  • The global 'land grab': continuities and discontinuities in the development project writ large. Annual Development Practice Lecture. November 2012. University of Queensland. Brisbane, Australia.
  • Land grabs as food regime restructuring. Land Grab Colloquium. June 2012. Institute for Social Sciences. The Hague.
  • Food sovereignty versus food security? A global conundrum. The World Beyond the Headlines. May 2012. Center for International Studies. University of Chicago.
  • Keynote: Food regime analysis of the land grab. Australian & New Zealand Agri-Food Network annual conference. December 2011. Australian & New Zealand Agri-Food Network. Canberra, Australia.
  • Distinguished visiting speaker. Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition. September 2011. Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition. McMaster University, Ontario, CANADA.
  • Ending Hunger in Africa. What Strategies? What Governance? Hauser Center Seminar, Kennedy Center, Harvard University. November 2010. Hauser Center, Kennedy School, Harvard University. Cambridge, MA.
  • Food regime and land grabs. Committee on Food Security, FAO, Rome. October 2010. Food & Agricultural Organization. Rome, Italy.