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

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 Unviersity of Zurich, 2012-2014. "Making markets for the poor. Shifting the frontier of global agroexport markets in Tanzania's horticulture industry"

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».


2010 – 2019

PhD in Economic Geography, Geography Department, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Thesis title: “Shifting global market frontiers. Performing global fresh vegetable commodity chains in Tanzania”.

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)

2008 – 2009

MA International Political Economy, University of Manchester, United Kingdom

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

2004 – 2007

BA Political Science, University of Lausanne, Switzerland


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. 


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.