International political economy and ecology summer school looks at food and hunger

Every year since 1991, York University has been hosting the International Political Economy and Ecology (IPEE) Summer School organized by the Department of Geography, the Department of Political Science and the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES).

Each IPEE Summer School presents a unique interdisciplinary opportunity for graduate students at York – but also students and activists across and beyond Canada – to investigate a salient issue within the field of political economy and ecology.  The particularity of the IPEE Summer School is also that it invites an internationally-Nikrecognized scholar/activist as guest instructor therefore providing access to the most vanguard scholarship on the topic but also offering students a rare opportunity to engage with such leading scholarship and scholar.

Nik Heynen. Photo by Niveen Saleh

This year’s IPEE Summer School on Radical Food and Hunger Politics in the City was led by Nik Heynen, a radical geographer based at University of Georgia in Athens who is following the steps of other IPEE guest instructors with international reputation such as Saskia Sassen, Vandana Shiva, Alain Lipietz, Mike Davis, Peter Marcuse, Patrick Bond, among many others.

Heynen is well-known for his work in urban political ecology, social movements, and food and hunger politics. His main research foci relate to the analysis of how social power relations, including class, race and gender are inscribed in the transformation of urban nature/space, and how in turn these processes contribute to interrelated and interdependent connections between nature, space and social reproduction. He is also a prolific author and editor at Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography.

The IPEE Summer School course stands apart as an interdisciplinary learning experience in many ways. A prime objective of the course is to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and between ecology and democracy. This year’s course is organized around two complementary poles: problematizing hunger and organizing around hunger. In the intensive two-week course, graduate students and NikIPEEeactivists learned about food justice, food security, hunger and the politics of charity, social reproduction and food activism.

The two-week course attracted a full crowd. Photo by Niveen Saleh

To support its commitment to merge theory and practice, the IPEE Summer School also includes a public event. This year, the event was organized on Thursday, June 13 with the theme of Radical Food and Hunger Politics in Toronto. Held at FoodShare Toronto, the event was a forum attended by more than 100 persons to discuss issues of food justice and security. Panellists included Utcha Sawyers from FoodShare, Damion Adjodha, (a FES student) from the Black Creek Community Farm Project, Anan Lololi, (a FES alumnus) from AfriCan FoodBasket, Melissa Addison Webster from Put Food in the Budget, Lauren Baker (a FES alumna) of Toronto Food Policy Council and Heynen.