[ISBN: 978-1-935982-14-2; 250pp; $10] The wave of anti-government protests that swept through the Arab world from December 2010 on is transforming politics and society in the Middle East. The protests came as a surprise to many observers-- but not to Rami Zurayk, an experienced Lebanese agronomist and social activist who had been charting the collapse of traditional agricultural livelihoods in the Middle East since the late 1980s.
In 2007, Zurayk started writing the Land and People blog, which charts food-policy and agricultural policy issues throughout the Middle East. Now, Food, Farming, and Freedom: Sowing the Arab Spring presents his choice of the best of the posts in the blog from 2007 through April 2011. The book was almost ready to publish when the uprisings of the "Arab Spring" broke out in late 2010. Just World Books then delayed publication so Zurayk could add in an additional chapter tracking and assessing the Arab Spring's early months.
In his Foreword, Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi wrote:
In "Food, Farming, and Freedom: Sowing the Arab Spring, Rami Zurayk has made a major contribution to our understanding of the roots of this unprecedented upsurge of Arab youth, Arab energy, and Arab political maturity."
The book's five main chapters address:
1. Issues of food sovereignty and politics,
2. The food-price crisis of 2007–2008 and how it affected Arab countries,
3. Issues at the nexus of environment, resources, and people, including phenomena such as the “Slow Food” movement with which Zurayk has long been affiliated,
4. A critique of many Western-dominated development efforts, and
5. The story of the Arab Spring, from December 2010 through mid-April, 2011.
Interleaved between these chapters is a series of informal travel reports, illustrated with Zurayk's own photos, from trips he took in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Morocco. In these reports he shares some of what he learned (and enjoyed) about these countries' land and people-- and their food!
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