Version 3.2

From local staple food to superfood

The rise of quinoa in a colonial global economy

The sudden rise in global demand for so-called ‘superfoods’ has led to a boom in quinoa production, turning the former subsistence crop for local populations into an international commodity. International organisations fuel demand by idealising “neglected and underutilised species” as climate-resilient supercrops that play a “crucial role in the fight against hunger and are a key resource for agriculture and rural development” (FAO, 2012). We conduct a critical policy discourse analysis to explore how superfood narratives of international organisations reproduce neocolonial structures. In addressing the question, “How does the way international organisations frame the narratives around quinoa as a superfood represent and reproduce climate coloniality?”, this paper fills a research gap in highlighting implicit mechanisms of racial capitalism that create global dependencies shaped by unequal exchange (Hickel et al., 2022; Robinson, 2000). The discourse analysis allows linking superfood narratives to the structures of ‘colonial global economy’ that perpetuate under the capitalist doctrine (Bhambra, 2021).

We find four neocolonial narratives in quinoa promotion: (1) as an orphan crop, (2) as a cultural heritage rooted in ancestry, (3) as a cash crop by genetic modification, (4) as a tool to adapt to the climate crisis and to target global malnutrition. The paper finds that the spread of these Eurocentric narratives is akin to Sultana’s (2022) concept of “climate coloniality” representing a form of hegemonic knowledge creation. This reproduces an uncritical and authoritative colonial white gaze on the climate crisis, on affected groups, and on adaptation and mitigation measures.


Day: 2023-08-31
Start time: 12:15
Duration: 00:15
Room: ZV-KC-2
Type: Paper Presentation
Theme: Hegemonic worldviews and degrowth horizon


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