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Pursuing Alternatives: Justice, Race, and Food


Antiracist mid-twentieth century civil rights movements drastically diminished broad-based support for racist ideologies (and corresponding racial domination), yet the US is still plagued by massive racial inequalities. How do we explain this? This dissertation provides us some answers to the question of why racial inequalities persist despite widespread repudiation of racism and white supremacy. Understanding factors accounting for the existence of these inequalities and their severe consequences, which the racially disparate impact of COVID-19 has laid fully bare, is crucial for addressing the problem of racial injustice and inequality; it could also help us grasp the potential positions we might take in response to this grave problem. This dissertation furthers our understanding of racial injustice and inequality by exploring, analyzing, and discussing the politics of justice and racial politics, focusing particularly on the political-economic impact(s) of racist ideologies and responses to them, with an aim of illuminating possible paths forward in pursuit of justice and equality. This undertaking ultimately demonstrates that (in)justice and (in)equality are heavily grounded in and shaped by predominant overlapping epistemic and discursive formations in the politics of justice and racial politics (or what I refer to as the politics race and justice) throughout US history.

I argue that understanding predominant ideas in what I identify as power-knowledge-discourse nexuses in the politics of race and justice is crucial to grasping (and responding to) the ways epistemic and discursive formations historically and contemporarily inform and shape structures, systems, institutions, policies, practices, socio-political arrangements, and material conditions in the US. I examine these predominant ideas through discourse and textual analysis that engages justice theorists’ articulations of justice, critical race scholarship, and ideas and praxis aiming to alter the food system. In doing so, this study also explores varied sites, tactics, and power relations in the politics of race and justice. Utilizing these methods to explore and examine discourse, knowledge production, and praxis engaging race and justice, I illustrate how temporally contingent power-knowledge-discourse nexuses in the politics of race and justice produce hegemonic episteme(s) that shape ideas about and imaginative possibilities for justice and equality.

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