Joshua Muldavin

BS, MA, PhD, University of California-Berkeley. Special interests in China, Japan, and Asia policy, rural development, international aid, agriculture and food, climate change, environment, political economy, and political ecology. Current research projects analyze international environmental policy and impacts on local resource use and vulnerability in the Himalayan region; climate change policy; socialist transition’s environmental and social impacts in China; sustainable agriculture and food systems; global resource and development conflicts via capital flows to Africa, Latin America, and South/Southeast Asia; and aid to China since 1978. Twenty-eight years of field research, primarily in rural China. Recipient of grants from National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and Fulbright. Invited lecturer at Princeton, Yale, Oxford, Johns Hopkins, US Congressional Commission, European Parliament. Executive director of the Action 2030 Institute. Contributor to The Political Geography Handbook, Economic Geography, Geopolitics, Environment and Planning A, Geoforum, and Annals of the Association of American Geographers, International Herald Tribune, BBC World News, and other media outlets. SLC, 2002–

Previous courses

First-Year Studies: Introduction to International Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

FYS

In this yearlong seminar, we will begin by examining competing paradigms and approaches to understanding “development” and the “Third World.” We will set the stage by answering the question: What did the world look like 500 years ago? The purpose of this part of the course is to acquaint us with and to analyze the historical origins and evolution of a world political economy of which the “Third World” is an intrinsic component. We will thus study the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the rise of merchant and finance capital, and the colonization of the world by European powers. We will analyze case studies of colonial “development” to understand the evolving meaning of this term. These case studies will help us assess the varied legacies of colonialism apparent in the emergence of new nations through the fitful and uneven process of decolonization that followed. The next part of the course will look at the United Nations and the role that some of its associated institutions have played in the post-World War II global political economy, one marked by persistent and intensifying socioeconomic inequalities, as well as frequent outbreaks of political violence across the globe. By examining the development institutions that have emerged and evolved since 1945, we will attempt to unravel the paradoxes of development in different eras. We will deconstruct the measures of development through a thematic exploration of population, resource use, poverty, access to food, the environment, agricultural productivity, and different development strategies adopted by Third World nation-states. We will then examine globalization and its relation to emergent international institutions and their policies; for example, the IMF, World Bank, and WTO. We will then turn to contemporary development debates and controversies that increasingly find space in the headlines—widespread land grabbing by sovereign wealth funds, China, and hedge funds; the “global food crisis”; and the perils of climate change. Throughout the course, our investigations of international institutions, transnational corporations, the role of the state, and civil society will provide the backdrop for the final focus of the class: the emergence of regional coalitions for self-reliance, environmental and social justice, and sustainable development. Our analysis of development in practice will draw upon case studies primarily from Africa but also from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United States. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage substantive research project beginning in the fall semester and completed in the spring. Project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions. Where possible and feasible, you will be encouraged to do primary research during fall study days and winter and spring breaks.

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Food, Agriculture, Environment, and Development

Year

Where does the food we eat come from? Why do some people have enough food to eat and others do not? Are there too many people for the world to feed? Who controls the world’s food? Will global food prices continue their recent rapid rise? And if so, what will be the consequences? What are the environmental impacts of our food production systems? How do answers to these questions differ by place or the person asking the question? How have they changed over time? The questions above often hinge on the contentious debate concerning population, natural resources, and the environment. Thus, we will begin this course by critically assessing the fundamental ideological positions and philosophical paradigms of “modernization,” as well as the critical counterpoints that lie at the heart of this debate. Within this context of competing sets of philosophical assumptions concerning the population/resource debate, we will investigate the concept of “poverty” and the making of the “Third World,” access to food, hunger, grain production and food aid, agricultural productivity (The Green and Gene revolutions), biofuels, the role of transnational corporations (TNCs), the international division of labor, migration, globalization and global commodity chains, and the different strategies adopted by nation states to “develop” natural resources and agricultural production. Through a historical investigation of environmental change and the biogeography of plant domestication and dispersal, we will look at the creation of indigenous, subsistence, peasant, plantation, collective, and commercial forms of agriculture. We will analyze the physical environment and ecology that help shape, but rarely determine, the organization of resource use and agriculture. Rather, through the dialectical rise of various political economic systems such as feudalism, slavery, mercantilism, colonialism, capitalism, and socialism, we will study how humans have transformed the world’s environments. We will follow with studies of specific issues: technological change in food production; commercialization and industrialization of agriculture and the decline of the family farm; food and public health, culture, and family; land grabbing and food security; the role of markets and transnational corporations in transforming the environment; and the global environmental changes stemming from modern agriculture, dams, deforestation, grassland destruction, desertification, biodiversity loss, and the interrelationship with climate change. Case studies of particular regions and issues will be drawn from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the United States. The final part of the course examines the restructuring of the global economy and its relation to emergent international laws and institutions regulating trade, the environment, agriculture, resource extraction treaties, the changing role of the state, and competing conceptualizations of territoriality and control. We will end with discussions of emergent local, regional, and transnational coalitions for food self-reliance, alternative and community-supported agriculture, urban agriculture, community-based resource management systems, sustainable development, and grassroots movements for social and environmental justice. Films, multimedia materials, and distinguished guest lectures will be interspersed throughout the course. One farm fieldtrip is possible, if funding permits. The seminar participants may also take a leading role in a campus-wide event on “food and agriculture,” tentatively planned for the spring. Please mark your calendars when the dates are announced, as attendance for all of the above is required. Attendance and participation is also required at special guest lectures and film viewings in the Geography Lecture Series, which are held approximately twice per month in the evening from 5-7 pm. The Web board is an important part of the course. Regular postings of assignments will be made there, along with follow-up commentaries and group discussion. There will be in-class essays, a midterm quiz, and a final exam each semester. Group conferences will focus on in-depth analyses of certain course topics and will include debates and small group discussions. You will be required to prepare a poster project each semester on a topic of your choice, related to the course, which will be presented at the end of each semester in group conference, as well as in a potential public session.

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Policy in Theory and Practice: Environment and Development

Year

This yearlong seminar is about environmental policy. As such, it asks a number of questions. How and why does policy get made? Which information is heard and used, and which is not? What role does science play in environmental policy making? How are certain styles of development and development paradigms deployed? How is the policy process politicized? What happens to it after it is adopted as “policy”? We start with a historical review of development paradigms and how these shape environment-development discourses, revealing competing approaches to key contemporary issues such as climate change, biodiversity conservation, population, food security, land grabs, poverty alleviation, energy, community-based natural resource management, environmental violence, and environmental justice. While largely focusing on the Global South, with reference to Asia, Latin America, and Africa, and policies driven by international institutions such as the World Bank, as well as dominant nation states, the seminar will also draw on examples from the Global North. We then move to epistemology and theory building in the social and environmental sciences that influence environmental policy, examining diverse approaches from social theory and political ecology to policy studies, environmental economics, ecological modernization, and ecology. We will discuss power and the construction of environmental knowledge. This will be followed by an examination of environmental policy in formation and implementation at international (e.g., international environmental agreements), national (e.g., ministries and state agencies), and local levels (e.g., environmentally-themed programs and projects). We will then explore varied approaches to policy analysis; i.e., the methodological means to assess and improve policies in practice. Finally, we will examine the contested potential for policy improvement and associated movements for increased participation and democratization of policy processes. There will be a number of sessions involving group presentations, debate, and role-play on specific environment and development issues. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage, substantive research project focusing on an analysis and critique of an instance of policy of the student’s choice (usually grounded in texts but also involving fieldwork, if feasible). The intent will be to provide input for chosen policy actors—from social movements to NGOs to formal policy makers. As such, project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions. Where possible, students will be encouraged to do primary research during fall study days and winter and spring breaks.

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The Geography of Contemporary China: A Political Ecology of Reform, Global Integration, and Rise to Superpower

Spring

Despite widespread daily reporting on China’s rise to superpower status, and both its challenge to and necessary partnership with the United States, what do we really know about the country? In this seminar, we will explore China’s evolving place in the world through political-economic integration and globalization processes. We will begin with an overview of contemporary China, discussing the unique aspects of China’s modern history and the changes and continuities from one era to the next. We will explore Revolutionary China and the subsequent socialist period to ground the seminar’s focus: post-1978 reform and transformation to the present day. Rooted in the questions of agrarian change and rural development, we will also study seismic shifts in urban and industrial form and China’s emergence as a global superpower on its way to becoming the world’s largest economy. We will analyze the complex intertwining of the environmental, political economic, and sociocultural aspects of these processes as we interpret the geography of contemporary China. Using a variety of theoretical perspectives, we will analyze a series of debates: Is there a fundamental conflict between the environment and rapid development? What is the role of the peasantry in the modern world? What is the impact of different forms of state power and practice? How does globalization shape China’s regional transformation? And, on the other hand, how does China’s integration impact development in every other country and region of the world? Modern China provides immense opportunities for exploring key theoretical and substantive questions of our time. A product first and foremost of its own complex history, other nation-states, and international actors and institutions such as the World Bank, transnational corporations and civil society have also heavily influenced China. The “China model” of rapid growth is widely debated in terms of its efficacy as a development pathway and yet defies simple understandings and labels. Termed everything from neoliberalism to market socialism to authoritarian Keynesian capitalism, it is a model full of paradoxes and contradictions. Not least of these is its impact on global climate change. Other challenges include changing gender relations, rapid urbanization, and massive internal migration. In China today, contentious debates continue on land reform, the pros and cons of global market integration, the role of popular culture and the arts in society, how to define ethical behavior, the roots of China’s social movements— from Tian’anmen to current widespread social unrest and discontent among workers, peasants, students, and intellectuals—and the meaning and potential resolution of minority conflicts in China’s hinterlands. Land and resource grabs in China and abroad are central to China’s rapid growth and role as an industrial platform for the world, but resulting social inequality and environmental degradation challenge the legitimacy of China’s leadership like never before. As China borders many of the most volatile places in the contemporary world and increasingly projects its power to the far corners of the planet, we will conclude our seminar with a discussion of security issues, geopolitics, and potential scenarios for China’s future. Throughout the seminar, there will be comparisons with other areas of the world within the context of the broader theoretical and thematic questions mentioned above. Weekly selected readings, films, mass media, and books will be used to inform debate and discussion. A structured conference project will integrate closely with one of the diverse topics of the seminar. Some experience in the social sciences is desired but not required.

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The Political Ecology of Global Land Grabs: Food, Resources, Environment, and Development

Fall

Global land grabbing is in the news daily, but what is behind the headlines? Why are land and resource grabs important? How can we understand the role that they play in the rapid transformation of environments and peoples’ livelihoods around the planet? How might the many destructive aspects be challenged or changed? What is the relationship between land grabbing and hunger, climate change, growing inequality, poverty, and cultural and environmental destruction? And, of course, who benefits and loses most from the current waves of dispossession underway? This seminar is about land grabs and, in particular, its rapid increase around the world in the last decade. As such, we ask a number of additional questions: How and why do land grabs happen? Which information about them is heard and attended to, and which is not? What role does science play in predicting and assessing the impacts? How are certain styles of development and development paradigms deployed to either promote or counter land grabs? Who are the major actors and institutions actively involved—from nation-states to hedge funds to international environmental NGOS to sovereign wealth funds to transnational corporations? How do they justify the various forms of dispossession and loss of control over land and resources that communities around the world face daily? What are the historical antecedents that might inform our understanding of these processes from enclosures of commons to decollectivization to privatization of public spaces? How are government policies promoting or regulating land grabs? What is the role of social movements in challenging them? We start with a historical review of the struggle over land, and how this has shaped environment-development discourses, revealing competing approaches to key contemporary issues related to land grabs such as climate change, biodiversity conservation, sustainability of agriculture, population, food security, poverty alleviation, energy, community-based natural-resource management, environmental violence, and environmental and social justice. While largely focusing on the Global South—with reference to Asia, Latin America, and Africa—and policies driven by international institutions such as the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization, as well as dominant nation-states—such as the United States, China, Japan, and members of the European Union—the seminar will also draw upon examples from the Global North. We then move to epistemology and theory building in the social and environmental sciences. We examine diverse and contested approaches—from social theory to political ecology to political economy—that are being used to analyze land grabs. We discuss power and the construction of our knowledge of these processes of dispossession at international, national, and local levels. We will then explore these varied approaches to analysis with an eye toward identifying appropriate methodological means to assess land grabbing in practice. In our final weeks, we will examine the controversial efforts for reform and accountability—and associated movements for increased participation and democratization in decisions affecting control of land and resources of all kinds—as we creatively approach the essential question of what is to be done. There will be a number of sessions involving group presentations, debate, and role-play on specific case studies and issues. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage substantive research project focusing on an analysis and critique of an instance of land grabbing of the student’s choice (usually grounded in texts but also involving fieldwork, where feasible, over October Study Days). The intent will be to provide inputs for chosen actors—from social movements to NGOs to market actors and formal policy makers. As such, project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions.

Faculty