Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Professor Keith Aoki's Last Call

My beloved colleague, Professor Keith Aoki, died last year.  Keith's final law review article -- Pastures of Peonage:  Tracing the Feedback Loop of Food Through IP, GMOS, Trade, Immigration, and U.S. Agro-Maquilas -- has been published in a symposium issue of the Northeastern University Law Journal  The law review editors dedicated the symposium issue to Keith. 

Always proud to collaborate, Keith's last article was co-authored with his friend Professor John Shuford and two of his wonderful research assistants, Esmeralda Soria and Emilio Camacho.

Here is an abstract of the article:

In this, the final article authored by the late Keith Aoki, we look at interactions among global agribusiness, economic globalization, and labor migration in North America, with specific focus on the United States and Mexico. We highlight the following phenomena: (1) the development of genetically engineered (GE) food crops as genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and global intellectual property (IP) protection for these crops and other plant genetic resources (PGR); (2) the increasing horizontal and vertical concentration of the agricultural seed-and-chemical, food processing, and food sale industries; and (3) the lack of fit between U.S. immigration law and policy, international trade regimes (such as NAFTA), and the realities of labor migration as related to U.S. agromaquilas in the food picking, processing, and packing industries.

We also work to identify and to outline how these seemingly disparate and disconnected phenomena work together in a feedback loop of food production-and-consumption related activities. Intellectual property rights in the realm of global agribusiness and international trade agreements support the oligopolies and oligopsonies in the global food supply chain, which in turn drive the preeminent immigration patterns and demographic changes of North America. This feedback loop of global agribusiness, IP law, international treaties and trade agreements, and immigration law and policy shifts the focus of food supply and the means of its production (including labor and the utilization of farmland) out of or away from Mexico and into or toward the United States.

Finally, we consider possibilities for progressive intervention and interruption, in order to reimagine the feedback loop. It is intended that this imagination serve to “push back” against the redundant cycle this article describes and its troubling impacts on the genetic diversity of food crops, the global food supply, small and independent farmers outside the United States, U.S. agromaquila labor migrants, and global labor rights and human rights.

In a UC Davis Law Review symposium in Professor Aoki's memory, his co-author John Shuford wrote "In the Key of Aoki: Immigration Regionalism (eco)" .  Here is an abstract:

In 2010, Keith Aoki and I coined the phrase "immigration regionalism" to describe a proposed innovation in immigration law and policy reform. Our intention was that immigration regionalism would become Immigration Regionalism — a book-length articulation, argument, and analysis of the provocative idea — in hopes that others would take up, critique, expand, revise, and operationalize this notion, in other words: help to answer our query as to whether 'immigration regionalism is an idea whose time has come.' Thus, without Immigration Regionalism, and without Keith, immigration regionalism necessarily remains incomplete. Given Keith’s love of music, his talent and background as a musician, his distinctive collaborative style of riffing-and-jamming, and his prolific career forged by crossing genres and media, I regard the status of our work on immigration regionalism like the first song of an unfinished album: Immigration Regionalism. Perhaps just as important as what we discussed is what we did not discuss before Keith passed away on April 26, 2011. Specifically, we had not written about these basic topics: what is a region; how and why are regions defined and who defines them; what is regionalism; what is the connection between regions and regionalism; what meaning or influence might regionalism have in the context of immigration law and policy; and what might count as an immigration region. I want to begin to address those topics here. In paying my respects to the influence of Keith’s work and thought, it feels right to continue with the focus of our collaboration and to reflect upon and share with others the distinctiveness of how Keith worked. How Keith thought through and worked out ideas with others was utterly refreshing, both professionally and personally speaking, and it is part of what so many of us dearly miss. With this Article, I mean to help bring our unfinished album nearer to completion. I do so here both by sharing the genesis and formation of immigration regionalism and by discussing and employing the methods by which we worked. I use a song structure framework as the organizational framework for this piece, both in homage to Keith and in keeping with our style of collaboration, and I utilize eco — the recalling of previously played notes, though softly and in a different octave — as I work to advance this half-written song toward a coda (repeat) and fade. My hope is that Keith’s voice, as well as his thought, vision, and inspiration, remains resonant here and in any future work on immigration regionalism.



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