Category Archives: film

CFP: Anthropology of Child Feeding

CFP for Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association

December 3-7, 2014, Washington, D.C.

Panel Organizers: Chelsea Wentworth (University of Pittsburgh) and Lisa Garibaldi (UC Riverside)

Employing Visual and Digital Methods to Produce an Enhanced Anthropology of Child Feeding

This panel investigates the use of visual methods in researching childhood dietary practices. Drawing on the recent resurgence of interest in the experience of childhood and the expansion of visual methodologies, these papers will contribute to our understanding of the practice of child feeding. The intersect of visual methods as instruments of data collection and the study of child feeding provides greater insight into our understandings of how children access food, children’s food preferences, and the decision-making processes of caregivers as they feed children. We operationalize child feeding as any interaction that a caregiver or the child has in making food choices, and consuming food. Much research on child feeding practice has relied on heavily quantitative measures that examine nutritional value of foods and child growth (see Birch et al. 2003, Pelto et al. 2010). However, we argue that our understandings of the practice of child feeding are greatly advanced through the use of visual methods.

Filmic, photographic, and artistic representations of food production, distribution and consumption enable anthropologists to analyze the role food plays in the enculturation and the nutrition of children, particularly when these materials are gathered in conjunction with other methods such as participant observation, focus groups and interviews that allow for the contextualization of these data. We seek papers that discuss innovative visual methods including, but not limited to photo-elicitation, photovoice, visual voices, ethnomimesis, and drawing exercises, which create an opportunity for anthropologists to see participants’ perspectives of child feeding, leading to more nuanced understandings of human behavior. Visual methods, then, provide a way for researchers to gather data potentially inaccessible via other methods; for example, photographing food can help researchers work with illiterate caregivers who could not keep dietary journals, and illustrations can help young children, who have a hard time verbalizing, communicate.

Visual methods are not new to anthropology, indeed Mead and Bateson’s pioneering research using ethnographic film and photos dates to the 1930s and 40s. With the rapid advancement in digital technologies and increasing affordability of these products, however, ethnographers and research participants have more tools available than ever before through the use of products like camera phones and online media sharing websites. Acknowledging previous research on the use of visual methods in anthropology, this panel will examine how visual methods are applied in the study of child feeding. These methods help researchers gather data from both the children’s perspectives, as well as their caregivers.

We seek papers from all geographic regions that address methods in which the participants themselves create the images, helping anthropologists achieve a variety of objectives including, but not limited to: engaging in participatory and community-based research; helping participants use their film, photography, and artwork as forms of community activism; viewing activities and behaviors that occur when the anthropologist is not present. Additionally, we seek papers where the ethnographer creates the visual record capturing the process, movement, and fluidity of activities and events, as well as interactions, behaviors and food preferences. Keeping in mind the ways that we produce anthropology today, we argue that this mix of participant-driven and ethnographer-driven data collection using visual methodologies will foster new conversations and collaborations amongst those researchers engaging in food studies and visual methods. We encourage submissions that include innovative presentations of data in an effort to support the AAA’s work to “Reimagine the Typical AAA Presentation Format.”

Those interested in presenting a paper for this panel, please submit a 250 word abstract to Chelsea Wentworth cwm23@pitt.edu and Lisa Garibaldi lisagaribaldi@gmail.com on or before Friday, March 28, 2014. We will notify you by April 4th if your abstract has been selected to be a part of the panel.

Leave a comment

Filed under AAA 2014 Washington DC, anthropology, CFP, film, motherhood and feeding, nutrition

Anarchist Table Manners

The East Poster

David Sutton
Department of Anthropology
Southern Illinois University

So you’re seated at a table with a dozen strangers. Hungry, you’ve got a bowl of some sort of stew in front of you, and a large-handled, wooden spoon. The only problem—like everyone else at the table, you’re wearing a straightjacket. What do you do?

This was the problem posed to the main character of the 2013 movie The East. And spoiler alert, this is a good scene that I don’t want to ruin for the reader, so I urge you to see the movie before you read on. The East, by the way, might have flown under your radar screen. Released in the spring of 2013, it is a tense thriller focused on an eco-anarchist group and a private security firm’s attempt to infiltrate it, from the pen of Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij (Marling also stars in the film, along with Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard). While the film got mixed reviews (some complaining about the idealistic ending), I found it to be a compelling story and a meditation on different kinds of political action in the present.  

The scene comes fairly early in the movie when the main character Sarah (Brit Marling) has been taken to the hideout of The East by faking a serious injury as part of her plan to infiltrate the group. She is treated for her injury and while recovering she is invited to dinner, but not before she has donned the straightjacket. The putative leader of the group, Benji (Skarsgard), suggests that as their guest, Sarah should begin. This is the part of the scene where the viewer is put into Sarah’s perspective, trying to figure out how to proceed. After lifting the spoon with her teeth and seeing the seeming futility of this, Sarah drops the spoon. Then she puzzles for a bit longer before finally grabbing the side of the bowl in her teeth and lifting it up so that she is able to slurp a little bit of the stew into her mouth. Sarah looks up at the others, chewing in a seemingly self-satisfied manner. They all nod at her politely, then they pick up their spoons in their teeth, and, turning their heads to the side, proceed to feed each other. Sarah storms off feeling humiliated by this “lesson” in her own selfishness.

Some readers may recognize the basis for this scene in the allegory of the long spoons, a parable that can be found in a number of different cultures and religious traditions. Kirin Narayan discusses her discovery of this story in multiple religious/cultural traditions, and analyses a Hindu version of the story in detail, in her book Storytellers, Saints, and Scoundrels: Folk Narrative in Hindu Religious Teaching (1989, University of Pennsylvania Press). In this allegory, retold here by Bishop Desmond Tutu, it is Heaven and Hell that are being distinguished, i.e., Heaven is where people feed each other, Hell is where people are surrounded by sumptuous meals but unable to eat because they have failed to realize their interdependence. This allegory clearly encapsulates the moral significance of reciprocity and interdependence, and suggests that the radical individualism associated with untrammeled capitalism is, in fact, a hell on earth.

Similar techniques are also used in some anarchist groups (David Graeber, personal communication, December 12, 2013). However I think the scene is strikingly effective in the context of a U.S. culture where eating has become a key practice of individual choice and identity. My hypothesis is that the “solution” to this conundrum simply doesn’t occur to most Americans, steeped in a culture in which the recognition that eating involves the labor of other people has been deeply attenuated. Thus all 10 students who watched the movie in my class expressed surprise at this scene. By contrast when I described this scene to a table of Greek anthropologists they immediately guessed the direction of the scene. This perhaps shouldn’t have surprised me as I have been working on a project looking at the food-based responses to neoliberal policies in Greece, all of which center around the symbolic value of food in expressing ideas about social solidarity (see the previous FoodAnthropology posts on food used in Greek politics herehere and here).

Western Middle-Class common sense has often been skewered through challenging table manners, most famously in Bunuel’s film The Phantom of Liberty in which using the toilet is done publicly and is a site of sociability, while eating is seen as a disgusting act only to be done in private. While Bunuel’s point is the cultural arbitrariness of table manners and the scene from The East suggests a potentially universal message of interconnectedness, both scenes are reminders of how central food is to our human sociability, and perhaps together could form a good starting point for courses on food and culture.

4 Comments

Filed under anthropology, film, food politics, Food Studies

Smokin’ Fish, Smokin’ Culture

by David Beriss

Is it possible to be an authentic Indian in a society overrun with tourists who want to buy bits and pieces of Indian culture? Are those bits and pieces authentic if they are manufactured in Asia? How can people maintain their traditional foodways if the government forbids them from catching enough fish? Can a balance be found between the needs of native fishers and public policies designed to preserve fisheries? Is there room for any kind of distinctive cultural identity in a globalized, touristic, heavily regulated society like that of the contemporary United States? Also, are salmon some sort of deity?

Cory Mann. Photo from Native American Public Communications.

These are the kinds of questions raised by the fascinating film “Smokin’ Fish.” The documentary is the result of a collaboration between Luke Griswold-Tergis and Cory Mann. Having finished an undergraduate degree in anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, Griswold-Tergis set off to Alaska, where he met Mann. Mann is just the kind of person who makes it hard to define culture. He is Tlingit and an entrepreneur with a business designing tchotchkes based on native Alaskan designs. His products are manufactured in Asia for resale in Alaska. Yet even as he pursues his global efforts at mass marketing native culture, he is also deeply engaged in exploring his own cultural identity. The collaboration between Griswold-Tergis and Mann has produced “Smokin’ Fish,” a documentary that explores the connections between native culture, global capitalism, colonialist exploitation of indigenous people, the environment, sustainable fishing and entrepreneurialism. Oh, and smoked salmon. And bears.

Smoking Fish. Photo from Native American Public Communications.

Mann seems to be quite a dynamic entrepreneur, pursuing several different business ventures at any given time, most with some sort of tie-in to Tlingit culture. But for a few months each summer, he closes things down in Juneau and heads back to Klukwan, where his extended family lives. There he works with members of his clan to catch and smoke salmon. The fish, both alive and smoked, are central to the film’s story. Mann asserts at various points that Tlingit worship the fish. The smokehouses they build seem central to their foodways. But this is not all about subsistence fishing. Some Tlingit engage in what appears to be commercial fishing. The smoked fish are also used in trade with other native Alaskans.

The film subtly weaves in the kind of ethnographic details that highlight what is distinctive—and unexpected—about contemporary Tlingit life. Mann explains that his mother took him to San Diego as a small child, where they lived what seems like a counter-cultural kind of life, more hippy than Indian. He never knew his father, who was white. At some point an aunt retrieved him and brought him back to Alaska, where he was raised by a large group of female relatives. This makes sense since, as Mann points out, the Tlingit are matrilineal. It is that kind of detail, along with discussions of clans and houses (Mann is a member of the Eagle Thunderbird Clan) and about the ways in which people build and maintain relationships (by helping build and maintain smokehouses, for instance), that remind us that even in a society heavily dominated by Euro-American values, groups like the Tlingit retain at least some aspects of cultural distinctiveness.

At the same time, the Tlingit continue to struggle with their relationship with non-native authorities. They must deal with the limits on fishing imposed by the state of Alaska, including both licenses and limits that would make it impossible for them to catch enough fish to meet their needs (these are very much ongoing debates, if recent news out of Alaska is any indication). The conflict here surpasses any kind of stereotypes about native relationships with the environment vs. rapacious outsiders. The Tlingit are presented as complex people with interests in salmon that are both traditional and commercial, not as natural environmentalists. Mann also must struggle with federal tax authorities, who do not seem to understand the unusual way in which he runs his business. He has to deal with border officials, as he goes to visit and trade with other natives in nearby Canada. I should note that he does all this while displaying a wry sense of humor and while using an astonishing array of vehicles, all of which appear to be in dire need of repair.

Filmed mostly in Alaska, much of the movie is quite breathtaking. Mann does his fishing from a canoe, in areas of stunning natural beauty. There is an amazing number of eagles flying around the region, as well as both brown and grizzly bears competing with the people for the fish. In addition, members of Mann’s extended family provide a wide range of additional voices, commenting on the history of native/nonnative relations, the exploitation of Tlingit lands, and the challenges they face in maintaining any kind of attachment to their heritage.

The movie is currently traveling around the U.S. Details on where it may go next can be found here. The filmmakers have a Facebook page as well. “Smokin’ Fish” would make a very useful addition to a variety of anthropology courses, including any food and culture course, as well as introductory cultural anthropology classes, courses on indigenous cultures or even on globalization. It can be used to start discussions on food, kinship, identity and, of course, culture. I recommend, however, making sure you have some smoked fish on hand when you show it. The audience will be hungry.

1 Comment

Filed under Alaska, anthropology, culture, economics, film, fish, food security, hunting, indigenous people, media, seafood, sustainability

Hungry in the South Symposium

Science and Technology:  Past, Present, and Future

September 13 -16

Save the Date!

Join the Southern Food and Beverage Museum this September 13-16 for the Hungry in the South 2012 weekend!

Bringing together everyone from scholars, students, collectors, chefs, filmmakers, and community members, to senior Federal government policy-makers, senior nonprofit and NGO executives, and senior corporate executives, this packed weekend in one of the world’s culinary capitals will be a celebration and exploration of food you don’t want to miss! Please send any questions or comments to info@southernfood.org or call 504-569-0405.

To purchase tickets to any of the following events, please use the Brown Paper Tickets link below. The events are sorted by date, so please check the date of the event you would like to purchase a ticket to. If you are a SoFAB Member, contact Kelsey Parris for your member discount code. Please follow each event link below to see a full description and pricing breakdown.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

  • Film Feast Opening Night: SoFAB adds Film Feast to its Hungry in the South weekend-long events menu.  The food-focused film festival launches with a reception and inaugural screening, at the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center (1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd).
  • Opening of SoFAB’s first international exhibit: Four Centuries of Coffee: Brazil to New Orleans and Beyond. The exhibit will explore the symbiotic/interdependent relationship that began in the 1700’s, developed, and grew as Brazil became the world’s # 1 source of coffee beans and the Port of New Orleans became “the coffee port” of the United States which is the # 1 coffee-consuming country in the world.

Friday, September 14, 2012

  • The Continuing Legal Education Seminar:  Food, Drink and the Law: SoFAB’s Continuing Legal Education Seminar is presented in partnership with Tulane University Law School and the Louisiana Restaurant Association. The seminar presentations will range in topic from issues of interest to restaurants, such as the rise of food trucks to recent developments in the Farm Bill.
  • Film Feast: Film Feast screenings continue throughout the day.
  • SoFAB’s Hard Hat Gala at 1504 O.C. Haley Boulevard: Friday evening features the Hungry in the South SoFAB Gala, to be held in the new and under-renovation home of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. The “hard-hat soirée” will afford revelers a preview of SoFAB’s new museum facility.
  • Opening of Dr. Bob’s States of Taste: This year the featured exhibit that opens the Hungry in the South celebration is one that like the gala looks forward to SoFAB’s new facility.  These signs, works of art in themselves, offer their own artistic vision and are a clue to the level of fun, culture and surprise that the new facility will represent.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

  • The Symposium at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum: The annual symposium is themed Science and Technology:  Past, Present, and Future.  This topic will allow the participants, whether scholars or journalists or the interested public, to explore the role of science and technology in food, foodways, and beverages.
  • The Nexus of Food And Social Media: Contemporary Issues in Southern Food and Beverages Lecture presented by Steve Bryant, Managing Director of MSL Seattle and the Director of Food & Beverage for MSLGROUP Americas. The Contemporary Issues in Southern Food and Beverages Lecture Series is presented by Domino Foods, Inc. 2012 marks  the third year of this popular event that closes-out the Symposium.
  • Symposium Reception
  • Film Feast: Film Feast screenings continue throughout the day.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

  • Board of Directors’ Brunch and Meeting
  • Film Feast: Film Feast screenings continue throughout the day and conclude with an awards ceremony.
  • French Market Cookbook Fair: The French Market Cookbook Fair will take place during the day on Sunday at the French Market.  This event includes a cookbook swap, book signings,  rare and used cookbooks, and demonstrations.

To purchase tickets to any of the following events, please use the Brown Paper Tickets link below. Please follow each event link to see a full description and pricing breakdown.

If you’re interested in volunteering your time at the Symposium, please email Lucy Rosenbloom at lucy@southernfood.org for more information.

Leave a comment

Filed under Announcements, anthropology, film, food policy, food security, Food Studies

Food Stamped, The Documentary

by Janet Chrzan

A few days ago I provided a shout-out about Food Stamped to several listserves (including SAFN). In that email I wrote:

“I’d like to provide a big shout-out for the recent documentary “Food Stamped.”

It’s a movie made by a couple in Berkeley about trying to live on a food stamp budget. She teaches food education and healthy eating in elementary schools. In the movie they interview quite a lot of folks about food stamp use, from people reliant upon them to members of congress. It’s 1 hour long, which makes it do-able for many classrooms.

I particularly liked their relatively non-judgmental attitude about food choice, especially since they live in Berkeley (epicenter of foodie-ism) and were shopping at the Berkeley Bowl and Adronico’s, my old stomping grounds. In other words, they come from an area that in my experience is very, very judgmental about food choice, yet much of that is left out or reflected upon in a meaningful manner by the filmmakers. They discussed the issues of ‘healthy choice’ within the context of budget constraints in a way that was very accessible and allows for a great deal of classroom discussion, especially since they lay out their own biases verbally so that the viewer can understand how they are thinking through the issues.

A particularly strong scene involved trying to feed a Shabbat guest on a budget, since they made the comment that all people like to have guests and be social, and so it’s important to think about how food poverty affects social opportunities.”

The responses to my post have been interesting, from emails from people who have seen the film (and like it) to a spirited discussion initiated by a fellow who, having seen the short trailer (and only the short trailer), wrote a couple of long emails about how the filmmakers had essentially gotten it all wrong, although bully for the effort. This prompted a civil response from the filmmakers (delivered by an intermediary) to which our fellow responded yet again, with the same basic message. He did mean well, but his response demonstrated just how contentious food issues can be, even for people who more-or-less agree with each other.

The bottom line? This film uses the idea of a low budget (in this case, one derived from food stamp benefits) to explore eating healthy on a small and fixed income. The filmmakers use themselves as guinea pigs and rely on realistic cinema techniques to demonstrate to the viewer how they think through and act upon trying to eat on a restricted budget. They discuss the process with people from the community, lawmakers, and those reliant on food stamps.  Of particular interest to them is how people can eat a healthy diet and remain healthy on such a restricted budget, and they focus on the ugly fact that cheap food is often unhealthy, yet within the budgets of the poor. With this frame they examine school food and the decisions made by school administrators about how to feed children. They are refreshingly free of anger, judgmental attitudes, and smugness throughout the film which is yet another reason that I think it’s an effective teaching tool.

A few of the discussion points that I intend to raise in class after showing this film include:

  • What is a healthy diet? Is their ‘healthy diet’ your ‘healthy diet’?
  • How much do we each spend on food weekly/monthly?
  • How and why is healthy food more expensive than unhealthy food, according to the movie?
  • Do you find that to be the case when you shop?
  • What are the aims of the Food Stamp program?
  • Are families meant to survive on a Food Stamp budget, or are there assumptions built into the calculations that posit other food income as well?
  • Do we as a society, acting through our government, have an ethical responsibility to make sure people can eat? Why or why not?
  • If you were a nutritionist and were advising a diabetic client on Food Stamps what would you suggest he/she eat and why? How would you work out a budget with that client?
  • Do you have the skills to shop and cook as wisely and carefully as Shira and Yoav did?
  • Do you know enough about food and cooking to live on a diet of beans and rice?
  • What kind of knowledge do you need to acquire in order to feel comfortable about planning meals on a small budget?

Obviously, these are just my first thoughts and jottings about how to use the film in teaching. But part of the reason that I think it’s such a valuable film is that I realized that I have NO IDEA what I spend on a weekly or monthly basis for food for my husband and myself. I have a big freezer and tend to plan and buy so that my larder (protein and grains/beans) can feed us for several weeks without shopping; only vegetables and dairy are purchased on a weekly basis (and at a pretty reasonable farmers’ market). My meat is all pastured, as are eggs and dairy, so I know I spend more per pound than most Americans. However, we also eat less meat/dairy than most carnivores so I figure it evens out. And I like rice and beans, and eat that way by preference, while I know that most Americans prefer meat to beans and prepared carbs to simple grains. I do know how to budget, I do know how to cook and I never waste food (because I am really, really cheap), but I am quite sure that eating on a food stamp budget would be difficult indeed.

The other discussion point – and I’m not yet sure how to frame these questions – is tied to the assumptions and contentions about food choice, knowledge and capacities. I am often gobsmacked by the tendency of food people to insist that their way – and only their way – is the good way to eat. Obviously, I like this movie because the filmmakers don’t do that… but the Listserve response has had a wee tinge of that sentiment. Food is so personal and intimate, and choice so tied to identity (especially in our capitalistic society) that people are naturally heavily invested in justifying their choices as ‘good better BEST!’ to themselves and others. But seriously, the vehemence that many bring to this issue baffles me. Somehow, I suspect that this film – and the student response to it – will allow us to discuss this difficult issue in the classroom. And I hope by doing so the students are able to begin to glimpse how their biases channel their beliefs about food and nutriture.

2 Comments

Filed under anthropology, economics, film, food policy, food security, Food Studies, nutrition, reviews

How Americans Think: About Horsemeat, For Example

by David Beriss

Photo by David Beriss

Should the slaughter of horses for food be permitted in the United States?  This question was raised recently when the U.S. Congress passed legislation that would permit horse slaughter in the U.S. for the first time since 2007. Back in 2006, Congress passed a bill that prohibited the USDA from inspecting horse slaughterhouses, which effectively stopped all horse slaughter in the country. This November legislators passed a measure to allow inspections to restart.  President Obama signed the bill and inspections (and thus slaughter) are again legal.  So far, no horse slaughterhouses have opened.  But it could happen and if it does, it will be controversial.

The first thing Americans often ask when they hear about horse slaughter is whether or not horse is actually good to eat. At the risk of being called horrid names, let me confess that I have eaten horse—in France, where they serve horse and have specialized “boucheries chevalines”—and I don’t remember anything special about it.  It was much like beef.  Horse is consumed in many countries in both Europe and Asia.  Anthropologists who visited Montreal in November might have tried the steak tartare at the “Frites Alors!” Belgian-style French fry chain there, which is offered in both beef and horse versions. According to the 1988 edition of the Larousse Gastronomique, steak tartare is prepared with horse “according to the purists” and in Belgium is known as “filet américain.”

This seems quite ironic since Americans generally do not eat horse. In fact, horse meat has not been consumed in the U.S. in any regular way for a very long time.  At the end of the Second World War, when beef was scarce, Americans resorted to horsemeat and Republicans ran against “Horsemeat Harry” Truman.  Again in the early 1970s, when beef prices skyrocketed under the Nixon administration, people tried horsemeat, a trend illustrated on an episode of “All in the Family.”

Today eating horsemeat  is very controversial, to the point that activists object to any law that would allow slaughter, even for consumption in other countries.  But with plenty of affordable meat in the U.S., the debate now is not really about food.  It is about a series of other issues, ranging from how Americans classify and treat animals, to how they evaluate the social and political organization of society.

There have been many controversies regarding the humane treatment of animals in the past several years.  Foie gras is one such item, condemned because of the manner in which ducks and geese are raised to produce very fat livers.  Similarly, veal is often reviled because of the treatment of calves prior to slaughter.  I suspect, however, that most opponents of these foods do not object in principle to the consumption of these animals.  If it were possible to obtain foie gras or veal without inhumane treatment, they would probably cease to object to consumption (read here about humane veal and here about humane foie gras).  Ducks, geese, sheep, and cows are all seen as livestock, raised to become food.

People have, of course, long raised objections to animal slaughter in general.  Watch, if you dare, this short 1949 documentary by French filmmaker Georges Franju, “Le Sang des Bêtes.”

It starts out like a surreal film of life on the edges of Paris, but quickly becomes a meditation on the slaughter of animals, including a horse. It is graphic, bloody and full of death.  It is worth considering, along with the conditions in which cows, sheep and poultry are raised for mass consumption in the U.S. today.  Why do horses stand out amidst the larger problems of our industrialized meat production system?

Horses are not seen as livestock.  At least not by anti-slaughter activists.  One might invoke the history of horses in the American imagination, associated as they are with everything from Paul Revere’s ride to the Wild West.  The terrible fate that awaited unwanted, lame or old horses was always the glue factory, not the slaughterhouse.  That was bad enough.  Click here to view an early Popeye cartoon about a rescued glue factory reject. Eating horses has not been central to the American equine imagination in quite a while.

Yet horses are not exactly pets either, at least not like cats and dogs.  They are still working animals, racing, pulling tourists, herding cattle, etc.  We name our horses, cats and dogs and tend to see them as having a closer relationship to us than livestock.  Horses seem to fit somewhere in between pets and livestock, neither edible nor entirely part of the family.

American horses become food when something else breaks down in their relationship to humans. They are unable to continue their other roles, due to age or infirmity. Or their humans are unable to continue to support them.  One of the motivations behind lifting the ban on horse slaughter inspections was a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office arguing that the same number of horses that had been slaughtered prior to the ban were now being shipped, often in difficult conditions, to Canada and Mexico for slaughter there.  In addition, with the recession, the number of cases of neglect or even abuse of horses has increased significantly in the U.S.  Horse rescue organizations are overwhelmed and unable to meet the need.

The GAO report recommended, among other things, re-establishing slaughter inspections as a way of addressing this problem.  This suggests that we think differently about horses, even if we do name them.  When people abandon dogs and cats, we do not slaughter them for human consumption.

It is worth noting that the debate around horse slaughter has taken on some of the same terms and concepts used in other political debates in the U.S.  For example, a video on the United Horsemen web site, a pro-slaughter group, asserts that “saying that the slaughter of horses for human consumption is wrong because we do not eat it ourselves…shows how far this country has fallen.”  They go on to claim that suppressing slaughter is the same thing as suppressing freedom.  This is, if I am not mistaken, Tea Party language.

Similarly, opponents of horse slaughter draw on the language of the left to make their points.  The Humane Society recently issued a call to action that could have come from those denouncing the banking industry, arguing that “the predatory horse slaughter industry has cash signs in its eyes, and it’s unrestrained by any compassion for these creatures. Its profiteers treat the horses like commodities on the hoof.”

Freedom horses. Horses as commodities. Somewhere between livestock and companions, horses may not be food for the American table, but they certainly show us a thing or two about how Americans think.

6 Comments

Filed under anthropology, culture, film, food policy, horsemeat, humane slaughter, Montreal

Mothering as Everyday Practice

Dr. Bambi Chapin, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, UMBC

“What makes a good mother? Bambi Chapin has co-edited (with Kathleen Barlow) a new special issue of the journal Ethos on “Mothering as Everyday Practice.” The articles explore not just what mothers say about parenting, but what they actually do, and how they understand what defines a good mother. These ideas are far from natural or universal. Instead, they are informed by a diversity of value systems, social structures, traditions, habits and life circumstances.

Chapin undertook the research that inspired this publication while parenting her own child in the field, and she describes how others’ reactions to her mothering shaped her field relationships in unexpected ways. Likewise, her personal reactions to others’ mother-child interactions—feeling surprise or dismay—often prompted her most notable insights.” From Talking Heads @UMBC

Posted by Rachel Black

Leave a comment

Filed under film, motherhood and feeding

The Oyster Economy

photo by Rachel Black

FoodAnthropology has been on a bit of a summer holiday, but the world of food and culture continues to turn. David Beriss’ post from May on the oil spill and its impact on food in south Louisiana seems more relevant than ever as this environmental tragedy continues to unfold.

Recently posted on the New York Times site , “The Oyster Economy” is a short video that looks at some of the repercussions of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on the oyster industry in Louisiana.

Posted by Rachel Black

Leave a comment

Filed under disaster, economic, economics, film

Food Fight

This is a very partial history of 20th century wars (starting with WWII) through food.  Quite astonishing, really, to see what you can do with animated food.  Or, rather, what Stefan Nadelman can do with animated food.  This is his film.  He is not an anthropologist and, honestly, this is not an ethnographic film.  We are posting it here because we think it is cool and we feel we have a license (as food anthropologists) to determine when food-related things on the web are cool.  This is also a public service.  You could use this in a class to provoke students into discussion.  Many of us are even now thinking of ways of working it in to whatever we are teaching.  If food can illustrate wars, what else can it do?  More on that soon.

Just in case you have trouble identifying some of the countries involved, there is a cheat sheet here.

Posted by David Beriss

Leave a comment

Filed under film, media, war