Selected academic publications

Financing food system transformation: insights from global climate projects (2022) Abrar Chaudhury and Saher Hasnain, Journal of the British Academy.

The paper comprehensively reviews projects funded through the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and demonstrates that interventions can benefit from a food systems approach by moving beyond ‘silo-ed’ approaches.

Food systems and rural wellbeing: challenges and opportunities (2022) Jim Woodhill, Avinash Kishore, Jemimah Njuki, Kristal Jones and Saher Hasnain, Food Security

This paper provides a framework for assessing the dynamics of rural wellbeing and food systems change and examines the viability of small scale farming and the diversification of livelihood options.

Developing a functional food systems literacy for interdisciplinary dynamic learning networks (2021) Harley Pope, Annabel De Frece, Rebecca Wells, Rosina Borrelli, Raquel Ajates, Alex Arnall, Lauren J Blake, Nikolaos Dadios, Saher Hasnain, John Ingram, Kelly Reed, Roger Sykes, Louise Whatford, Rebecca White, Rosemary Collier, Barbara Häsler

The paper reflects on learnings from the Interdisciplinary Food Systems Teaching and Learning (IFSTAL) programme around a food systems pedagogy with a range of international and multi-sectoral partners.

Mapping the UK Food System (2020) Saher Hasnain, John Ingram, and Monika Zurek. A report for the UKRI Transforming UK Food Systems Programme. Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford. ISBN 978-1-874370-81-9

The report quantifies the distribution of economic value, the number of enterprises, and levels of employment across the UK food system. It has ‘mapped’ UK food system activities as described by their economic value, employee and enterprise numbers. This provides a first assessment of the overall shape of the UK food system
and a foundation to build on for further analyses.

Exploring the transformative potential of urban food: a future research agenda (2020) Aniek Hebinck, Odirilwe Selomane, Esther Veen, Anke de Vrieze, Saher Hasnain, My Sellberg, Lucie Sovová, Kyle Thompson, Joost Vervoort, Amanda Wood. SocArXiv.

Urban food systems are a key lever for transformative change towards sustainability, and research reporting on the role of urban food initiatives in supporting sustainability is increasing. However, an overview of such initiatives and their transformative potential is lacking, as contextual and disciplinary-fragmented research complicates what insights can be drawn to support larger-scale sustainability transformations. We provide such an overview by synthesizing multidisciplinary research on urban food initiatives and by exploring their transformative potential. We developed a typology for urban food initiatives and present a framework of processes and outcomes that are steppingstones to sustainable food system transformation. We show that different types of urban food initiatives perform distinct roles that support sustainability. Unpacking three areas of concern, we conclude with a future research agenda. This is a first step towards integration of urban food research and of providing urban food governance with the tools to shape more sustainable systems.

Disrupted food environments in Pakistan: connections and disruptions in the consumer experience (2020) Saher Hasnain, Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 102:1, 118-133.

Food security has been a critical aspect of Pakistan’s development, with multiple projects and policies focused on improving food production, availability, and affordability. However, there is comparatively less work on the inter-relations of the food and energy systems, particularly in the country’s current resource-constrained times. In the past few years, Pakistan has been severely influenced by fuel crises and chronic power cuts, which disrupt every sector and area of the country. Based on fieldwork conducted in Pakistan, this paper examines the impact of the availability of natural gas, fuel, and electricity on the food environments of residents in urban Pakistan. This paper explores these issues by presenting the lived experiences of food and energy disruption by residents in Islamabad, Pakistan, and then conceptualizing food environments to highlight the points of intersection. This approach benefits from the analytical lens of the food systems approach by identifying and understanding the (1) connections and embeddedness of system activities and their outcomes, (2) understanding issues of scale in food environments, and (3) presenting the consequences of systemic disruption on residents within food systems.

Reconnection and reflexivity in Islamabad, Pakistan (2020) Saher Hasnain,  Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability, 13:1, 53-67.

This article explores the role of informal food spaces and flows in Islamabad, Pakistan. This paper aims to address two key questions in the areas of food and urbanism in Islamabad: How do the city’s residents perceive and experience the so-called “non-urban” food spaces and flows in their everyday lives? How do these spaces contribute to a nuanced understanding of global food systems? This paper considers that these spaces are critical in engendering nostalgia for past food habits and behaviours, a trigger for reflexive consumerism, and sites for reconnecting with different aspects of the country’s food system. The paper also explores how such spaces can be conceptualised within urbanism and geography, in the context of Islamabad’s unique spatial and socio-cultural identity. Informed by urbanism and food geography, this paper considers analytical and theoretical strategies for advancing the study of the urban in the global south, and specifically in Pakistan.

Disruptions and food consumption in Islamabad (2020) Saher Hasnain, Geoforum, 108, 49-58.

This paper investigates the disruptions in everyday routine and the stresses of food sourcing in the urban food environment among middle class residents of Islamabad, Pakistan. It explores the dynamism of urban food environments in developing countries under the influence of various stressors and highlights adaptations taken by urban consumers. It presents a middle class view of urban food security and explores the potential constraints on food acquisition for a section of the population that has normally considered itself food secure. The paper examines how seasonal scarcities of gas and water, artificial cost inflations during the month of fasting, and regional and local disasters such as floods and militant violence influence food decisions within this group. It pays particular attention to the temporal nature of these disruptions, how they impact perceptions and experiences of food sourcing and the subsequent temporal and spatial adaptations adopted. Specifically, it contributes to the literature on food environments and food security by demonstrating how such disruptions contribute to dynamism within food environments, how the middle class responds to these changes in their everyday lives, and how their perceptions on personal food security are threatened. The paper adds to the literature on the role of time, personal routines, and anticipatory logic in the context of food consumption within a developing country using household-level perspectives of urban food environments.

“Everyone just ate good food”: ‘Good food’ in Islamabad, Pakistan (2018) Saher Hasnain, Appetite, 127, 1-9.

In recent years, consumption of alternatively produced foods has increased in popularity in response to the deleterious effects of rapidly globalising and industrialised food systems. Concerns over food safety in relation to these changes may result from elevated levels of risk and changing perceptions associated with food production practices. This paper explores how the middle class residents of Islamabad, Pakistan, use the concept of ‘good food’ to reconnect themselves with nature, changing food systems, and traditional values. The paper also demonstrates how these ideas relate to those of organic, local, and traditional food consumption as currently used in more economically developed states in the Global North. Through research based on participant observation and semi-structured interviews, this paper illustrates that besides price and convenience, purity, freshness, association with specific places, and ‘Pakistani-ness’ were considered as the basis for making decisions about ‘good food’. The results show that while individuals are aware of and have some access to imported organic and local food, they prefer using holistic and culturally informed concepts of ‘good food’ instead that reconnect them with food systems. I argue that through conceptualisations of ‘good food’, the urban middle class in Islamabad is reducing their disconnection and dis-embeddedness from nature, the food systems, and their social identities. The paper contributes to literature on food anxieties, reconnections in food geography, and ‘good food’ perceptions, with a focus on Pakistan.

Food Environments in Islamabad, Pakistan (2016) Saher Hasnain, PhD Thesis. University of Oxford.

This dissertation examines how concerns about food system transformations affect how middle class consumers in Islamabad, Pakistan, perceive and approach food consumption in their everyday lives. The dissertation is situated in the context of risky food environments and food fears resulting from intensified, industrialised, and increasingly lengthened global food systems. Working within food geography and food environments paradigms, this dissertation explores how the transformation of food systems is associated with increasing anxiety about food security and safety for middle class urban consumers in Islamabad. Qualitative data gathered from semi-structured interviews and participant observation is used to illustrate the effects external influences, such as energy scarcity and violent events, have on everyday food environments. The dissertation examines the ways in which conceptualisations of ‘good food’, and trust relationships are negotiated in these dynamic food environments. The intensely geographical nature of these food environments and food systems, and the role of place-specific contexts on perceptions and adaptations related to food anxieties are emphasised. Situated in literatures on food anxiety and food consumption emerging from geography, food studies, and anthropology, this dissertation challenges dominant discourses on alternative and ethical consumption in a globalising food system. The results of this research not only contribute to literature on South Asia, but also contribute to consumption practices of a burgeoning middle class in developing countries.