Johanna Herrigel

Johanna Herrigel

Senior scientist

Economic Geography

Tel.: 044 63 55144

Room number: Y25 L 52

Research interests

I am generally interested in the functionning of globalizing agro-markets as a concrete example of the interplay of globalizing capitalism and other, diverse economies, and the way scientific models shape these realities and hence are performaive.

Beyond the scholarship on Global Commodity/Value Chains/Circuits and especially feminist approaches therein, I am particularly inspired by Marxist debates on agrarian change, feminist theories on diverse economies, the performativity perspective on markets (i.e. marketization), and the post-colonial untertaking of provincializing "Europe" (i.e. the phenomena and theories on the globalizing capitalist economy from the Global North).

Geographically I am working on Africa in general and East Africa (Tanzania) in particular, and have been focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables as part of the globalizing horticultural market. Methodologically I pursue an ethnography of circulations (of agro-commodities and ideas/policies) and thus an extended/distended case method. 

Ph.D. research project

Globalizing agro-markets, making fragile articulations. Reworking the global market frontier for the poor in Tanzania's horticulture sector. 

In my Ph.D. project, I focus on the concrete enacting and reworking of global commodity circuits and the development policies deployed for this end. Global food circuits have especially sparked my interest, as they are a very politicized issue, as debates about land grabbing, food commodity speculations, and a focus on agriculture and food security in development cooperation illustrate. Simultaneously food is an intimate, visceral commodity which we all consume daily.

The research community on globalizing production can look back to nearly two decades of intense research under the banner of “Global Commodity Chain” (GCC), “Global Value Chain” (GVC) and “Global Production Networks” (GPN). Yet, the developmental effect particularly of global market integration on a region and its inhabitants in the Global South is lately increasingly questioned from within this research community. Accordingly, there is a need for examining how articulations of goods, people and places to global commodity circuits are achieved, maintained, refashioned and broken, and what the consequences are for sustainable local development.


Meanwhile, donor agencies play an increasingly important role in the expansion of the market frontiers in countries of the Global South through the recent shift in development policy towards market development approaches. While this does represent a continuation in market-led development, the market is recognized to be largely imperfect and failing the poor, necessitating corrective interventions so as to make markets more accessible for and work in favour of the poor. Importantly, the nexus of globally mobile development policy models for market integration has a two-fold and strongly intertwined dimension of agricultural commodities and micro-finance commodities, but in my research I focus only on the former. Prominent mobile policy models for such pro-poor (agricultural) market development include Value Chain Development (VCD) and Making Markets work (better) For the Poor (M4P). Members of the policy community are eager to highlight that these policies have not yet been exhaustively condensed into a silver bullet, indeed that they are still searching for it. Meanwhile, these policy “models” are traveling rapidly and extensively throughout the Global South, transforming “on the go” both the markets and communities where they “touch down” as well as the globalizing policy landscape. Clearly, these policy models provide a perfect ground for studying what Jamie Peck has recently called a globalizing and fast policy regime. Beyond that, especially VCD is also exemplary of the performativity of academic concepts (i.e. the GVC concept).

The aim of my research is therefore two-fold. On the one hand, I study how the market development policies have emerged as a new fast and globalizing policy regime, how these policies travel, and the effects they co-produce on the ground. On the other hand, I study the concrete everyday practices of how a new global market connection is articulated, stabilized and reworked in a specific place, and how inter alia pro-poor market development interventions interact with these (re-)articulations. For this, I focus on the case of the emerging export sector of non-traditional export vegetables in Northern Tanzania, where efforts of articulating to the global commodity circuits have started over a decade ago and have considerably intensified since market development programs have also entered the scene. Empirically, I work with an ethnographic approach, following the policy through policy workshop participation and narrative interviews and following the market network. For the latter I conducted narrative interviews with export companies’ managers, employees and their current and past smallholder out-growers, and did participant observation in these companies in Northern Tanzania.


Research Grants

  • CanDoc Research Grant from the Unviersity of Zurich, August 2012 - July 2014. "Making markets for hte poor. Shifting the frontier of global agroexport markets in Tanzania's horticulture industry"

Supervision of MSc-Thesis


  • Christine Wiederkehr (2017). Palmöl - Wo steht die Schweiz? Co-supervision with Silva Lieberherr (Brot für Alle / Pain pour le prochain)
  • Nora Beck (2016). Schokoladenland Schweiz - Ein Blick auf den Kakaosektor. Veränderungen, Herausforderung und Perspektiven. 
  • Jan Heusser (2015). Lokale und regionale Lebensmittel in Supermärkten. Eine Fallstudie zu Strukturen und Funktionsweisen zum Produkte-System des regional Produkte Labels "Aus der Region. Für die Region" (AdR) - mit Fokus einer Produzierenden-Perspektive in der AdR-Region Luzern


MA International Politics, International Political Economy pathway. University of Manchester, 2008 - 2009

BA Political Sciences, International Studies pathway. University of Lausanne, 2004 - 2007


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, p. 221 - 223.