Food Sovereignty and Conceptualization of Agency: A Methodological Discussion


  • Judith Ehlert Department of Development Studies, University of Vienna
  • Christiane Voßemer Department of Development Studies, University of Vienna



Actor-oriented Research, Agency, Development Paradigms, Food Security, Food Sovereignty


The latest food crisis hit food producers and consumers – mainly in the Global South – hard and refocused attention to the question of global food security. The food sovereignty movement contributes to the growing re-politicization of the debate on ‘how to feed the world’. From an actor-oriented perspective, the article presents a methodological reflection of the concept of food sovereignty in opposition to the concept of food security, both agendas highly relevant in terms of food policies in Southeast Asia. After framing the two concepts against the development politics and emergence of global agriculture following World War II, this paper elaborates on how actors and agency are conceptualized under the food security regime as well as by the food sovereignty movement itself. With reference to these two concepts, we discuss in which ways an actor-oriented methodological approach is useful to overcome the observed essentialization of the peasantry as well as the neglect of individual peasants and consumers as food-sovereign actors.

Author Biographies

Judith Ehlert, Department of Development Studies, University of Vienna

Judith Ehlert is a sociologist by training and holds a postdoctoral position at the Department of Development Studies, University of Vienna. In her PhD thesis, she worked on environmental knowledge and agrarian change in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Her current research project deals with the body politics of food and eating in Vietnam. Contact:

Christiane Voßemer, Department of Development Studies, University of Vienna

Christiane Voßemer works as a university assistant and lecturer at the Department of Development Studies, University of Vienna. She is a graduate of Development Studies and currently working on her PhD thesis, applying an actor-oriented research approach to the transformation of health care in a Myanmar borderland. Contact:






Current Research on Southeast Asia