Changing landscapes of social reproduction in South Dakota: Restructuring the cattle beef industry

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Don Mitchell


South Dakota, Cattle beef industry, Social reproduction

Subject Categories

Agricultural and Resource Economics | Geography


Concurrent with shifts in global capitalism, the world's food systems are being remade. Processes of transformation in the cattle and beef industry, particularly over the last several decades, have led to a geographically and corporately concentrated sector. These changes have been accompanied by conflict and contestation among a variety of interest groups over the costs and benefits of the newly concentrated industry. This dissertation examines the historical geography of restructuring in the cattle and beef industry as a process of changing landscapes of social reproduction. Explicating landscapes of social reproduction is a means to connect the material transformations of nature and the economy with the lived experiences of particular people. As a concept, landscape invokes the dialectical relations between built forms, social relations and representations; this framework is particularly suited to understanding social reproduction as a process at the intersection of geographically specific social power struggles. The people that I focus on in the dissertation are a small group involved in various sectors of the cattle and beef industry in South Dakota. Using extensive excerpts from semi-structured interviews, I situate the experiences of this small group of people within a more historical and structural account of development and change in the cattle and beef industry. This industry has long been a primary component of South Dakota's economy, and the restructuring of the last few decades, as a part of a more general transformation of global agriculture, has been accompanied by decline in the small towns and farms that once supported the social economy of the area. Working historically, I describe the establishment of the cattle and beef industry in South Dakota and trace the stages of its development and articulation within the national and global industry. Key to this history are shifts in the production and retailing of beef, as well as in corporate configurations and trade linkages. I argue in the dissertation that industrial restructuring must be understood as a process involving the remaking of both production and social reproduction, for it is within the grounds of both sets of processes that its affects are felt.


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