Topic: Reframing responsibility and accountability through assemblage
Accountability generally implies an individualised understanding of actions that are organised in a linear chain. Specific actors are then responsible for their direct actions in the system, which is clearly bounded to a given time and space. Those actions are documented and registered, in order to build traceability and, in case of failure, to find back the guilty element of the system. This system is well exemplified by certification schemes, and has often proven efficient, if not to avoid all failures, at least to distribute blame and sanctions through value chains.
However, in this paper, I want to question this way of constructing responsibility in food systems by reframing responsibility and accountability as core elements of the governance of food systems. The literature on governance often emphasised the unescapable complexity of systems and the need of innovative and adjusted theoretical framing to get a grasp on this complexity. In this paper I apply an assemblage approach to agri-food systems governance in order to discuss how accountability is produced and enacted, and how these usual enactments shape our understanding of responsibility in food systems. Such an approach opens to less linear understanding of responsibility, notably defining agency as produced by and distributed through the assemblage and not restrain to individual actors.
My paper will build on concrete examples of accountability making (certification, agri-environmental policies, etc.) in the food systems and I will argue that a reframing in terms of assemblage would lead to fairer and more accurate applications of accountability in food systems, where responsibilities are understood as distributed in a complex set of connections and shaped by power relations.