Noah Zerbe photo

My research is broadly unified around the material and ideational relations that surround the production and consumption of food. I have previously examined the political economy of agricultural biotechnology in Africa, Europe, and the United States—a thematic area of research which informs broader questions regarding privatization, enclosure, the nature of value, and theories of property, property rights and ownership. More recently, my research has centered on three key areas of inquiry.

First, I am interested in the financialization of food. Our food system has undergone several key periods of transformation, the most recent of which began in the 1980s but intensified dramatically in the early 2000s, as billions of dollars in speculative investment flowed into global food commodity markets. This process, which can broadly be understood as the financialization of food, is at the heart of recent global food crises.

Second, I am exploring processes of local resistance that have emerged in the context of food. These emergent alternative food systems, based in the moral economy of provision, have taken a variety of forms, ranging from fair trade and community supported agriculture to guerrilla and community gardens that seek to reclaim public space.

Third, I am currently developing a reader on the global politics of everyday life. Our students often have difficulty making sense of international relations and international political economy because it seems so removed from their own experiences. By focusing on how global politics is implicated in their daily activities, I provide a powerful mechanism for them to both place themselves, their choices, and their daily activities is a global context while simultaneously offering an avenue through which they can make sense of international politics.

My publications include:


Agricultural Biotechnology Reconsidered: Western Narratives and African Alternatives. (Trenton, NJ:Africa World Press, 2005).

Review of Agricultural Biotechnology Reconsidered by Toyin Falola. Journal of African and Asian Studies, Vol. 42, No. 351 (2007).

Peer-Reviewed Publications:

Food as Commodity. In Jose Luis Vivero Pol, Tomaso Ferrando, Olivier de Schutter, and Ugo Mattei, eds.Routledge Handbook on Food as Commons. (London: Routledge, forthcoming 2018).

Plant Genetic Resources in an Age of Global CapitalismCanadian Food Studies / La Revue canadienne des études sur l’alimentation. Vol. 2, No. 2 (2015), pp. 194-200.

Exploring the Limits of Fair Trade: Towards a Critical Political Economy of the Local Food Movement. In Michael Bosnia, et al., eds. Globalization and Food Sovereignty: Global and Local Change in the New Politics of Food. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), 99. 84-110.

Introduction: Reclaiming Food Sovereignty in Africa (with Brian Dowd-Uribe). Bulletin of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars. Issue 88 (Fall 2012).

The Global Politics of Local Food: Community Resistance and Resilience in eThekwini, South Africa.  Bulletin of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars. Issue 88 (Fall 2012).

Moving from Bread and Water to Milk and Honey: Emergent Alternative Food Systems. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations. Spring 2011.

Setting the Global Dinner Table: Exploring the Limits of the Marketization of Food Security. In Jennifer Clapp and Marc J. Cohen, eds., The Global Food Crisis: Governance Challenges and Opportunities. (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009), pp. 161-175.

Sowing the Seeds of Progress: The Agricultural Biotechnology Debate in Africa. History Compass. Vol. 6 (February, 2008).

Risking Regulation, Regulating Risk: Lessons from the Trans-Atlantic Biotech Dispute. Review of Policy Research. Vol. 24, No. 4 (September, 2007), pp. 407-424.

Contesting Privatization: NGOs and Farmers’ Rights in the African Model Law. Global Environmental Politics. Vol. 7, No. 1 (February, 2007), pp. 97-119.

Biodiversity, Ownership, and Indigenous Knowledge: Exploring Legal Frameworks for Community, Farmers and Intellectual Property Rights in Africa. Ecological Economics. Vol. 53, No. 4 (June, 2005), pp. 493-506.

Feeding the Famine? American Food Aid and the GMO Debate in Southern Africa. Food Policy. 29 (6) (December, 2004), pp. 593-608.

Contested Ownership: TRIPs, CBD and Implications for African Biodiversity. Perspectives on Global Development and Technology. Vol. 1 No. 3-4 (December 2002), pp. 294-321.

Seeds of Hope, Seeds of Despair: Towards a Political Economy of the Seed Industry in Southern Africa.Third World Quarterly. Vol. 22, No. 4 (Fall, 2001), pp. 657-673.

Book Reviews:

Review of Margaret Gray’s Labor and the Locavore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic. Labour / Le Travail. Vol. 76 (Spring 2015), pp. 300-302.

Review of Jennifer Clapp’s FoodAgriculture and Human Values. Vol. 31, No. 1 (March 2014), pp. 161-162.

Review of Peter Oosterveer and David A. Sonnenfeld’s Food, Globalization, and Sustainability. Agriculture and Human Values. Vol. 30, No. 2 (June 2013), pp. 315-316.

Local Governance in Post-Apartheid South Africa. (Review Essay). African Studies Review. Vol. 49, No. 3 (December 2006), pp. 142-145.

From Impasse to Renaissance? Review of Historical Materialism’s Symposium on Marxism and African Realities. ACAS Bulletin. No. 71 (Fall 2005), pp. 25-29.

Non-Peer Reviewed Publications:

Biodiversity Conservation and Protection of Indigenous Knowledge: Analyzing the Emergence of a Legal Framework for Access to Biodiversity, Benefit Sharing and Intellectual Property in Africa. Center for Philosophy of Law, Université catholique deLouvain. Working Paper. 2003.

Update on the OAU Model Legislation. Report prepared for the Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network. (March 2003).

Sustainability Impact Assessment: Policy Paper. Trade, Societies and Sustainable Development (SUSTRA) Network Working Paper. (Co-authored with Tom Dedeurwaerdere). 2003.

Biotechnology and Rural Development: Promise and Peril for Southern Africa. Rural and Community Development Working Group, Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean,York University. Working Paper. 2002.

The International Political Economy of Agricultural Biotechnology: The Case of Zimbabwe. Ph.D. Dissertation. Department of Political Science, York University.