Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies

The Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS) is a community of like-minded scholars, development practitioners and activists from different parts of the world who are working on agrarian issues.

It responds to the need for an initiative that builds and focuses on linkages, and advocates a mutually reinforcing co-production and mutually beneficial sharing of knowledge. ICAS also promotes critical thinking and engaged research and scholarship.

ICAS aims to:


  1. Produce and disseminate cutting-edge knowledge in agrarian change studies.
  2. global knowledge networks for 'pro-poor agrarian change'.
  3. Facilitate mutually reinforcing interactions around the issue of pro-poor agrarian change.

It is based at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague, Netherlands. Learn more about ICAS.

ICAS Colloquia & Conferences

A core activity for developing and disseminating cutting edge knowledge around agrarian change has been regular colloquia and conferences. You can find an overview of the different colloquia and conferences below:

The future of food and challenges for agriculture in the 21st century (April 2017, Basque Country)

Debates about who, how and with what social, economic and ecological implications we will feed the world. This event addressed various dimensions of food and delve into the realities and challenges to provide insights into the future.

Global governance/politics, climate justice & agrarian/social justice (February 2016, the Hague)

The convergence of multiple crises – food, energy, environmental, climate change and finance – in combination with the rise of important global political economic players – BRICS and middle-income countries (MICs) – has triggered profound agrarian and environmental transformations worldwide. There is a global rush to control natural resources (land, water, and forests) in order to produce food, fuel, and energy for climate change mitigation and adaptation purposes; partly as a result of financialization of agriculture, nature, food systems and farmland. A related phenomenon is the rise of flex crops – those with multiple and flexible uses that straddle interlocking value chains, or a ‘value web’. How does one govern such complex and fluid ‘value webs’? The character of nation-states and popular claim making from below, by ordinary villagers and grassroots organizations, have in some way both been transformed.

Videos interventions from the conference

Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue (Yale University, September 2013; ISS January 2014)
A fundamentally contested concept, food sovereignty has — as a political project and campaign, an alternative, a social movement, and an analytical framework — barged into global agrarian discourse over the last two decades. Since then, it has inspired and mobilized diverse publics: workers, scholars and public intellectuals, farmers and peasant movements, NGOs and human rights activists in the North and global South. The term has become a challenging subject for social science research, and has been interpreted and reinterpreted in a variety of ways by various groups and individuals. Indeed, it is a concept that is broadly defined as the right of peoples to democratically control or determine the shape of their food system, and to produce sufficient and healthy food in culturally appropriate and ecologically sustainable ways in and near their territory. As such it spans issues such as food politics, agroecology, land reform, biofuels, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), urban gardening, the patenting of life forms, labor migration, the feeding of volatile cities, ecological sustainability, and subsistence rights.

Academics, activists, farmers, and NGO representatives gathered at Yale University on September 14-15, 2013 for the conference “Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue”. The international conference brought together some of the world’s leading scholars and activists who are both sympathetic and supportive of the idea of food sovereignty, as well as those who are highly skeptical of the concept. The idea was to foster a critical dialogue on the issue to examine its various meanings, interpretations, and political implications.

“Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue” was sponsored by Yale Agrarian Studies, The Journal of Peasant Studies, Initiatives for Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS), International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Transnational Institute (TNI), and Food First.

 All papers are to be found under the title 'Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue Conference Papers'

You can find a summary of the conference here.

Global Land Grabbing (June 2012 at ISS)
Read more about the Conference on Global Land Grabbing
Download the conference programme.

Hunger, Food & (Agroecological) Alternatives (December 2011 at ISS)
How do we understand and tackle the interlinked agrarian and environmental crises? What types of policies create sustainable development that guarantees justice, equality and autonomy for poor and marginalized communities? What types of food movements have emerged and why, and with what challenges?

These were some of the questions addressed in the Critical Agrarian Studies (CAS) Colloquium No. 3 at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague on 12 December 2011. Co-organized by the Transnational Institute (TNI), the Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS) and the Land Deal Politics Initiatives (LDPI).

You can find more info here

Conference Video's

Agrarian Transformation and Surplus Population in the Global South: Revisiting Agrarian Questions of Labour (May 2011 at ISS)

You can find the conference progamme here.