Johanna Herrigel

Johanna Herrigel, Dr.

Senior scientist

Economic Geography

Tel.: 044 63 55144

Room number: Y25 L 52

My research

I am interested in alternative respectively transformative economies, and how these relate to the capitalist world-economy. My research focuses on food economies, especially on diverse ‘alternative’ food initiatives and how economic practices of production, exchange, and consumption are re-organized therein. From this grounding in food economies, I engage with debates about how concretely we conceptualize and perform – and could perform differently, that is change in progressive ways – food provisioning and the economies in and through which we live.

Conceptually and methodologically, I subscribe to an intersectional feminist perspective and seek to combine feminist political economy and performativity approaches. Both of these feminist approaches conceptualize the economy as an iceberg, with the formal exploitation of wage labour by capital forming only the tip of the iceberg. These approaches thus de-center and provincialize the economy inter alia from formal wage-work, the capitalist firm, market exchange and ‘normal’ capital accumulation. For combining both of these feminist approaches, I draw on Stuart Hall’s meso-concept of ‘articulation’ and its recent reworking into ‘dis/articulation’ by critical commodity chain scholars.

In line with activist scholarship, that is research engaging with and contributing to specific political struggles, I am involved in multiple ‘alternative’ food initiatives in the city of Zurich and see this as part and parcel of my scholarly work.





Ph.D. research project

Shifting global market frontiers. Performing global fresh vegetable commodity chains in Tanzania.

The capitalist world economy is constituted by webs of deeply enmeshed commodity chains, and in recent decades, both global commodity chains and research on them have proliferated. Concomitantly, since the turn of the millennium, bi- and multilateral donor agencies have promoted development and poverty alleviation through ‘pro-poor’ growth, ‘inclusive’ markets, and especially commodity chains that provide more coordinated market interactions. One crucial aspect of all this is the increasing integration of new places, people, and products into tightly coordinated nontraditional high-value agro-food commodity chains. In my PhD thesis, I queried the practical making of such chain connections through the example of how the frontiers of global fresh vegetables commodity chains have shifted to Tanzania. I discussed how these global market connections are practically achieved and maintained, and why this new global commodity chain frontier is constituted as it is. Moreover, I also considered how and why Making Markets (work better) for the Poor (M4P) and value chain development (VCD) have become the new silver bullets of market development policies, and what role such development programmes play in performing global market connections.

Through a multi-sited ethnography of global market connections, I demonstrated that this new fresh vegetable export sector in Tanzania is constituted through everyday practices of dis/articulation. In line with the dis/articulation perspective on global commodity chains, my empirical enquiry showed that connections to these chains are highly fragile and full of frictions, that they are maintained through diverse mundane practices, and that they can and frequently do break and undergo dis/re/articulation. Moreover, I demonstrated that the fresh vegetable export sector in Tanzania also dis/articulates its ‘outsides’; it is co-constituted by the shifting frontiers of other agro-export commodities and development schemes and their respective colonialities. Accordingly, through their dis/articulation dynamics, global commodity chains transpire and reproduce geographical and social differences and inequalities. Crucially, I showed that there is a third aspect to how dis/articulation is constitutive of global commodity chains: for the small-scale farming households on whom fresh export vegetables production predominantly relies in Tanzania, export crop cultivation is deeply enmeshed with their plural provisioning practices, and they access their means of production by combining diverse exchange practices. In line with the performativity perspective, my study focused on the mundane ‘doing’ of global commodity chains and the performativity of economic knowledge therein through VCD and M4P development programmes. In that regard, I also identified how the performativity perspective serves to explain policy mobility by excavating their market dispositifs and immutable mobile cores.


Research Grants

CanDoc Research grant from the University of Zurich, 2012 – 2014. “Making markets for the poor? Shifting the frontier of global agro-export markets in Tanzania’s horticulture industry” (67’000 CHF)



Herrigel, Johanna and Werner, Marion (2015). Review of "Gendered Commodity Chains: Seeing Women Work and Households in Global Production", edited by Wilma Dunaway. Journal of World-Systems Research, 21 (1): 221-223. 




Since 2011

GEO 433 «Global Economic Geographies of Agriculture and Food Systems» (MA-level, 6 ECTS, co-teaching)

This course is one out of two specialization courses of the Economic Geography unit for students at MA-level. Combining a seminar format with a two-day field trip, it provides students with an overview of contemporary academic literature on issues in the globalizing agro-food system and existing alternatives. The seminar also familiarizes students with concepts and approaches from heterodox Economic Geography.


GEO 410 «Geography Matters» (MA-level, 5 ECTS, co-teaching)

This course is the only compulsory course for Geography Master students at UZH, and it brings together the entire first year Master cohort. It is an interdisciplinary course aiming for students to think about intersections between geography sub-disciplines.

2018 – 2019

GEO 723.1 «Human Geography Field Course 2» (mixed levels, 6 ECTS)

This course consists of the field trip that is organized by the Economic Geography unit once a year with changing themes and places. In that year, the course focused on the diverse economies framework and existing economic alternatives around Geneva.


GEO 299 «Small Group Teaching» (BA-level, 1 ECTS)

This course aims to bring first year undergraduate students, whose active oral

engagement is often constrained by the simple fact of large student groups, to talk and think around key texts from geography sub-disciplines.


Supervision of MSc-Thesis

Lucas Schuemperlin (ongoing). Solidarity agriculture in Switzerland – developments and potentials.

Lara Zedi (ongoing). Foodwaste in Switzerland.

Manuela Brauchli (ongoing). Effects of a food-cooperative on members’ consumption habits. The example of Speichär.

Christine Wiederkehr (2017). Palmoil – Where is Switzerland standing? (co-supervision with Silva Lieberherr, Brot für Alle)

Nora Beck (2016). Chocolate country Switzerland – A look at the cacao sector. Changes, challenges and potentials.

Jan Heusser (2015). Local and regional food in supermarkets. A case study of the regional product label «Aus der Region. Für die Region».


Conferences and summer schools



Troubles and progressive possibilities in new configurations of consumption: translating insights from global agro-commodity chains to local ‘solidary’ agriculture. Presentation, Annual International Conference of the RGS-IBG, London, United Kingdom.

Dis/articulating economic practices: Studying and re-theorizing (from) economies in the Global South. Presentation, German Conference on Geography (DKG), Kiel, Germany.

Re-conceptualizing ‘alternative food networks’: dis/articulating diverse food economies and practices. Presentation, German Conference on Geography (DKG), Kiel, Germany.

Practice Theories and research in the Global South. Workshop co-organizer, Humangeography Summer School ‘practices and space’, Halle, Germany.


Global market performations: Dis/articulating diverse economic practices. Presentation, Global Conference on Economic Geography (GCEG), Cologne, Germany.

Global commodity chains, marketisation and uneven development. Session co-organizer, Global Conference on Economic Geography (GCEG), Cologne, Germany.

Summerschool and workshop co-organizer, Humangeography Summer School ‘gender and space’, Herzberg, Switzerland


Developing markets. Session chair, geographies of markets workshop, Montreal, Canada.


Small-holder out-growers combining market and non-market economic practices at the global market frontier of fresh vegetables in Northern Tanzania. Presentation, German Conference on Geography (DKG), Berlin, Germany


« Emerging Africa » beyond « big business » and « big finance »: The making of global agro-export markets by SMEs and donors in Northern Tanzania. Vortrag an der Vereinigung für Afrikawissenschaften in Deutschland (VAD) Tagung, Bayreuth.

From conventional to developmental food networks, and back again? Fragile articulations of global fresh produce chains in Northern Tanzania. Presentation, Conference on Science, Technology and Society (STS), Graz, Austria.

Participant at the Summer Institute in Economic Geography, Frankfurt, Germany.

Participant at the International Graduate School North-South Summer School, Kenya.


Reconfiguring (global) market articulations through “market development approaches” in development cooperation – a case of neoliberal fast policies? Presentation, Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), Los Angeles, USA.

Making agro-export markets and new market subjectivities for the poor: An opportunity for the majority? Presentation, Annual International Conference of the RGS-IBG, London, United Kingdom.


Mobilizing and reworking labouring subjects through social difference at the bottom-end of global production networks. Presentation, «P/political Geographies Tagung» (political geographies conference), Bern, Switzerland.

Performing global production: integrating smale-scale producers into global value chains and making markets work better for the poor (M4P). Presentation, Annual International Conference of the RGS-IBG, London, United Kingdom.

Mobilizing and reworking labouring subjects through social difference at the bottom-end of global production networks. Presentation, International Conference of Critical Geography (ICCG), Frankfurt, Germany.



PhD in Economic Geography, Geography Department, University of Zurich, Switzerland (2010 – 2019)

Student of the Graduate School in Geography at the University of Zurich, and of the International Graduate School North-South (collaboration by different Swiss universities)

MA International Political Economy, University of Manchester, United Kingdom (2008 – 2009)

Thesis title: “On the importance of class analysis and bottom up assumptions for the empowerment of sweatshop laborers through voluntary Codes of Conduct”.

BA Political Science, University of Lausanne, Switzerland (2004 – 2007)