Conference background

Update (February 2015):

Read the framing paper

Knowledge politics in development-oriented agronomy (PDF)
Jens Andersson and James Sumberg, November 2015

Background to the conference

We use the term ‘political agronomy’ to refer to the study of relationships and processes which link political, economic and social forces and factors to the creation and use of agronomic knowledge and technology. Political agronomy studies differ from other (apolitical) studies of scientific and technical change within agriculture by problematising the production and use of agronomic knowledge and technology in terms of asymmetric power relations, contestation and struggle.

In our call for contributions for the conference, we particularly invited case studies of historical or present day significance to the developing world. These cases might focus on the history or nature of contestation; actors and coalitions; political and institutional drivers and dynamics; or the implications of contestation (e.g. for the field of agronomy, for researchers and research institutions, for journals, for policy or for farmers). The cases should address questions related to the main agronomic issue being addressed including:

  • How is the problem / solution ‘framed’, at what scale and by whom?
  • How high a priority is it, for whom and in what situations?
  • How effective it is, by what criteria, at what cost, for whom and in what situations?
  • What benefits does it generate, for whom and in what situations?
  • How are risk, uncertainty and ambiguity understood and addressed, and by whom?

These questions situate political agronomy studies firmly in particular ecological, institutional, social, technological contexts, all of which are pre-requisites for meaningful analysis of the relationships and processes linking political, economic and social forces and factors to the creation and use of agronomic knowledge and science and technology.

Contestation can coalesce around a number of economic, environmental social and political concerns, many beyond the traditional disciplinary bounds of agronomy, including:


  • Biodiversity
  • Carbon emissions
  • Seeds
  • Soil fertility / soil health
  • Water use / management


  • Equity
  • Gender
  • Labour
  • Poverty
  • Productivity


  • Agrarian structure
  • Governance
  • Power / control
  • Scale


  • Integration
  • Resilience
  • Robustness
  • Stability
  • Sustainability

Further reading

For more theory, analysis and case studies, see the book Contested Agronomy: Agricultural Research in a Changing World.


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