Open Access

Ethno-racialisation at the intersection of food and migration regimes: Reading processes of farm-labour substitution against the grain of migration policies in Italy (1980-present)

   | Mar 01, 2021
Social Change Review's Cover Image
Social Change Review
Special issue: Migration, food and agriculture: Insights into what we eat and how our food is produced at the beginning of the third millennium


The paper puts the food regime model, as elaborated by scholars such as Harriet Friedmann and Philip McMichael, into articulation with the analysis of migration/border regimes, as proposed by critical migration scholars. If by now it is well established that the policies that regulate the mobility of migrant labour play a crucial role in enabling capitalist accumulation in contemporary global agriculture, few analyses have delved into the actual mechanisms which make this possible, and into their histories. The argument is developed by reference to the Italian case, showing how subsequent waves of substitution of Italian labourers with migrants, that began in the 1980s, have followed different patterns. It argues that these can be understood by reading them against the grain of the changes accruing in the transnational migration regime. Thus, precarisation and segmentation of the labour force in the farming sector are shown to have been actively fostered by policies which have made of undocumented or differentially included labour one of the pillars upon which globally integrated food production has relied for the past three decades. Whilst based on national-scale statistics and secondary literature, the analysis also builds upon a sustained presence and engaged participant research in some of the Italian agroindustrial enclaves that record the highest presence of migrant labour.

Publication timeframe:
2 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Social Sciences, Sociology, other