Reconnecting the City and the Countryside with Food and Agriculture in the Era of Globalization and Neoliberalism: Nopal, Mexico City, and Milpa Alta
Hernandez Cervantes, Tania
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My dissertation explores how geographically proximate sites of food production (largely semi-rural) and food consumption (largely urban), connect, and what makes the connections persist, disappear, and/or re-emerge. It specifically examines the food linkages between Mexico City and a nearby agricultural region, Milpa Alta, through a commodity supply chain analysis of nopal, a native food, from the 1990s to the present. My study makes the following key contributions: Theoretically, I propose an integration of the metabolic rift theory and agroecology that facilitates analysis of complex rural-urban relationships framed in neoliberal capitalism and in a context of intense interaction of peasants with globalized citys dynamics. Methodologically, I suggest a refinement in the commodity chain methodology so as to include analysis of space and place from the use-value perspective. This approach facilitates analysis of on-farm practices that build upon an ecological indigenous and peasant farming legacy to produce a food that carries strong cultural and historical meaning locally but that was barely known and commercialized outside Mexico until recently. Empirically, my results reveal that because of exposure to the neoliberal and globalized mega-city, nopal producers increasingly rely upon the human health benefits, and ecological and cultural values embedded in nopal, to both reconstitute their relationship with the local market and create global market connections. This empirical analysis expands on knowledge of the emergence of native foods in the world market as a result of global consumption trends based on health and ecological values and how that may compromise or foster the reproduction of the wealth of local agroecosystems of native foods. This research is at the intersection of the study of the city and the country and expands debates in scholarship at the intersection of agroecology, peasant studies, and food regimes.