Julie Guthman

Julie Guthman

Fellow: Awarded 2017
Field of Study: Geography and Environmental Studies

Competition: US & Canada

My research has broadly been about how neoliberal-inflected capitalism shapes the conditions of possibility for food system transformation. In conversation with my students in the Community Studies major at UC Santa Cruz, I have taken particular interest in the evolving character of the alternative food movement as it confronts race, class and bodily difference. More recently, I have explored the intersection of knowledge practices and political economy in the construction of healthy food and bodies, especially in light of emergent science on non-nutritional pathways to metabolic illness. I retain an abiding interest in the history and geography of California agriculture. These themes have converged in my latest research on the California strawberry industry, first inspired by a contentious fight over the soil fumigant, methyl iodide, a replacement for ozone-depleting methyl bromide, with possible epigenetic effects. This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation.

My publications include three books and over forty articles in peer-reviewed professional journals. My first book, Agrarian Dreams: the Paradox of Organic Farming in California (University of California 2004, 2014) was awarded the Donald Q. Innis Award from the Rural Geography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers and the Frederick H. Buttel Award for Outstanding Scholarly Achievement from the Rural Sociological Society. Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism (University of California 2011) earned the James E. Blaut Award for Innovative Publication from the Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers and the Association for the Study of Food and Society Book Award. My third book, co-edited with Alison Alkon, The New Food Activism: Opposition, Cooperation, and Collective Action will be published by University of California Press in late 2017. I am a recipient of the Excellence in Research Award from the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society. I also serve on the editorial board of seven peer-reviewed journals and am co-editor of a new book series with University of California Press: Critical Environments: Nature, Science, and Politics.

As a Guggenheim fellow, I will work on a book project called Wilted: Verticillium dahliae in the making and unmaking of California’s strawberry industry. Wilted will trace how the soil pathogen, Verticillium dahliae, gave rise to the technologies, institutions, and geographies that brought the industry success yet at the same time locked-in a system of strawberry production that makes less intensive methods unviable. In tracing the co-evolution of industry and ecosystem, the book will reveal the oft-overlooked obstacles to moving beyond the use of highly toxic agro-chemicals.

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