5th Annual Yale Food Systems Symposium

Were you planning to participate in the Yale Food Systems Symposium this year? Depending on your plans, you may be happy to learn that they have changed the date (due to a conflict with a religious holiday) and extended the deadline for submitting proposals.

The new dates are February 23-24, 2018. The website with everything you would want to know is here.

From the request for proposals:

Invitation

Challenges facing food systems have long been referred to as “wicked,” because they resist simple, linear solutions. Stakeholders are diverse, with complex environmental, political, and social interconnections; solutions therefore necessitate information-sharing and community-building between actors working across disciplines. The Fifth Annual Yale Food Systems Symposium will bring together a mix of scholars and practitioners in panels, workshops, roundtables, and breakout sessions over two days to explore the complex dynamics of agri-food systems. This year’s theme “Resilience Across Scales” focuses on our capacity to absorb stress while maintaining integrity, which is crucial to the continued functioning of our food systems. We seek to engage questions of food production, consumption, urbanization, and climate change, and ability to adapt, reorganize, and evolve in the face of today’s challenges.

The symposium seeks to:

  • Create a platform for sharing cutting-edge research and applied learning from food systems scholarship and practice
  • Serve as a venue for the creation of fruitful working relationships across disciplines
  • Create a welcoming space for all who are engaged in the work of supporting sustainable food systems

Types of Programming

The symposium will consist of a diversity of proposed formats: speakers and panelists, presenting original research, as well as workshops, demonstrations, and roundtable discussion groups.

Submissions topic areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Nutrition, diet shifts, and sustainable diets
  • Food, ethics, and religion
  • Market-based solutions and private governance
  • Supply chain management, certification, and multi-stakeholder engagement
  • Food justice and activist movements
  • Plant biotechnology and cellular agriculture
  • Urbanization, land use change, and food systems planning
  • Sustainable agriculture and land use
  • Plant biotechnology and cellular agriculture
  • Global geo-political structure and food security
  • Systems science, industrial ecology, and circular economy
  • Food waste
  • Food policy, farm bill, and government
  • Indigenous food sovereignty

We also welcome ideas that span across categories or do not correspond directly to those outlined. The symposium draws over 250 students, educators, researchers, farmers, chefs, activists, and business professionals each year.

Submission Instructions

Deadline for submission is Monday, December 18, 2017. Abstracts & workshop proposals should be 300 words and include a title and keywords. Please submit online using our submission form. Accepted proposals will be notified on a rolling basis. Please refer to the conference website, yalefoodsymposium.org, for more information. Questions about proposals, workshops, submission, or registration may also be directed to yfss@yale.edu.

* The symposium was originally scheduled for September 29-30, 2017. It has since been rescheduled. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

 

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New Associate Editor

Dr. Katharina Graf (kg38@soas.ac.uk), who recently received her DPhil in the Anthropology of Food from SOAS-University of London, will be joining SAFN as Associate Book Review Editor for the Blog. Katharina’s immediate project is to begin soliciting reviews of recent dissertations in the Anthropology of Food. So if you have written a recent thesis or would like to review one, you can contact her directly.

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Review: Bitter and Sweet

Bitter and Sweet: Food, Meaning and Modernity in Rural China. Ellen Oxfeld. University of California Press, 2017.

David E. Sutton
Southern Illinois University

The residents of Moonshadow Pond, a village in the Guandong province of southeastern China, care deeply about their food. Food procurement, preparation, sharing and eating is a constant topic of everyday conversation, both for its pleasures and its stresses and strains. Indeed, bitter and sweet are not just important flavors balanced in the local cuisine, they represent embodied metaphors of proper and improper ways of engaging with food. In this book, Ellen Oxfeld, who has conducted research in the predominantly Hakka village of Moonshadow Pond since the early 1990s, sets out to describe the food based worldview of this community in order to understand the interlocking ways that rural villagers enact social relations, experience migration, generational change and the changing aspects of life in contemporary China. Bitter and Sweet consists of an introduction, five substantive chapters and a brief conclusion. In each chapter, Oxfeld lays out a key theme in understanding the foodways of Moonshadow Pond: Labor, Memory, Exchange, Morality and Conviviality. Food, here, as in other recent works such as Jon Holtzman’s Uncertain Tastes or Anita von Poser’s Foodways and Empathy, provides a way in to exploring contemporary social life in a small community. Indeed, it is not just because it is so highly valued in Moonshadow Pond, but also because food seems to demand an understanding of questions of labor and economics, gifts and exchange, consumption and morality, history and memory, that it makes an ideal vehicle for giving new life to classic anthropological concerns with continuity and change at the local level.

“Labor” describes villagers’ changing relationship to the production of food and how that production is conceptualized as younger generations potentially leave agricultural labor behind or migrate to cities for jobs. Traditionally labor is thought of as gengtian, or “tilling the soil.” Moonshadow Pond has seen changes over time from periods of polycropping and animal husbandry to periods (especially in the collective era) of almost exclusive focus on rice (prepared plain or as congee, a porridge dish). The collective era (from the Revolution till around 1980) was also unusual in that agricultural labor was shared between men and women. Typically, women are primarily responsible for agriculture, while men’s labor is more oriented toward wages or other market activity. Since the reform era, the younger generation has increasingly moved away from agriculture, as “peasant” identity can be a stigma. While a primarily female older generation does much of the agricultural labor now, older women often make demands for aid during harvest or at other times on the younger generation, and such agricultural work and family provisioning is seen as providing security against the uncertainties of work in cities. While the distribution of agricultural labor in families can be a source of tension, gengtian is also a powerful symbol of “work for the family.” As Oxfeld notes, “’Eating one’s own rice’ is still highly valued, even if the reality of the younger generation’s work lives is making this goal more and more difficult” (53).

Oxfeld’s discussion of food labor does not end, as it so often does, with tilling the soil. The labor of food production equally demands shaohuo, or “tending the kitchen fires.” The labor of cooking in Moonshadow Pond is less divided by gender and generation. Although older women take the primary role, men and the younger generation are also comfortable in the kitchen, both in terms of everyday cooking and the extra labor involved in preparing celebratory banquets or special holiday treats (nianban). This is strikingly illustrated in Oxfeld’s description of being the only adult on a trip to a local mountaintop with a group of 20 6th graders:

After arriving [at the mountaintop], the students unpacked their knapsacks. They had pots and pans, cooking oil, cooking implements, and basic ingredients—cut up pieces of meat and vegetables, a bit of soy sauce, and fish sauce. At the top of the mountain these sixth graders, boys and girls tougher, started a fire and with a rice pot and wok proceeded to work together to cook lunch for the entire group. Imagining a similar situation in the United States, I was quite certain that the children would have taken sandwiches and bags of potato chips out of their backpacks instead (61).

This last comparison is telling because it underlines Oxfeld’s larger argument in this book that despite some inroads, food has not been commodified and subject to the forgetting of its sources that we see elsewhere, or even in more urban environments in China. As she sums up: “…the labor of food production within the village is still mainly incorporated into ongoing relationships based on social obligations, memories, and notions of moral debt” (71). It is to these topics that the subsequent chapters are addressed.

In her chapter on memory, Oxfeld explores the way food is made to stand for different periods of time. For example, in the “recall bitterness meal” during the Cultural Revolution, people were enjoined by the government to eat a paste made of bitter vegetables and rice chaff to remember their suffering during the pre-liberation era, and the sweetness of their current lives. Such memory practices could turn anti-hegemonic, as older villagers told Oxfeld that the meal brought to mind the recent experience of the Great Leap Forward rather than pre-revolutionary times (79-80). One of the intriguing things about Oxfeld’s approach to food memory is that she organizes it around different key foods and what they stand for. Thus, congee vs. rice can stand for the difference between times of poverty and relative plenty (when you didn’t need to stretch out rice by adding water), but also can be associated with the food of your childhood. Whereas eggs, which lend themselves to distribution within families, evoke memories of family diplomacy and conflict, as well as being associated for some with bribery in simpler times—times in which a party cadre might pay off his mistress with a simple egg! (89). Food memories also lend themselves to comparisons between tradition and modern times in terms of sociability—even periods of dearth and famine might be recalled nostalgically for their sense of solidarity, as opposed to the more plentiful, but atomized experiences of the present day.

The theme of sociability is explored in subsequent chapters as well. In analyzing food as “exchange,” Oxfeld explores both market and gift exchange. Within market exchange local markets remain preferable to larger, anonymous markets, precisely because they retain a certain transparency about the origins of their products that is lost in more advanced commodification. Local foods taste better and are healthier, as residents of Moonshadow Pond seem to resist the allure of the foreign and the “modern.” “’ You just shop in the market if you have no alternative,’” one woman underlines (102). While food is the subject of much informal, everyday exchange, Oxfeld pays more attention to the formal exchange that happens at banquets, describing in detail some of the key types of banquets held in the village, as well as typical recipients of banquet hospitality, which include not only family and neighbors, but other village presences, including gods, ghosts, ancestors and beggars. Indeed, an extended description shows how the role of beggars in contemporary feasts parallels that of ghosts in some traditional religious feasts: as a force that must be placated or dispatched in some way to insure ongoing health and harmony. Overall, Oxfeld takes a “circulatory perspective” (126) on exchange, echoing the classic insights as to the changing biographies of things as they pass through different social roles and undergo various value transformations.

Oxfeld’s chapter on “morality” gives considerable attention to proper “moral” exchange relationships within families, and how they have been impacted both by changing politics and economics. If sharing food and caring for children and elders defines family morality, these values have been tested during different time periods both by the dearth of famine and by the greater self-sufficiency of the contemporary period. During the Great Leap Forward, for example, attempts to collectivize cooking led to the destruction of family kitchens—key symbols of family unity, while at the same time the state attempted to encourage collectivization by using metaphors of “large families” to which people should transfer loyalties. In the reform era care for elders is still an ideal, but not unquestioned, as younger people juggle multiple considerations in their relationships with parents and parents-in-law. Oxfeld traces the nuanced moral discourses people use to negotiate particular circumstances in which exchange is used to create as much as to reinforce moral expectations, and  “elderly women are trying to engender a new sense of obligation that was not assumed in the past” by cooking for married daughters.a Oxfeld also looks at the ways that food discourses are used as moral discourses, in which “eating” is always a morally-charged expression with the potential to suggest taking more than one’s share or “gobbl[ing] up” public resources (146). I found this similar overlaying of social practices of food sharing and metaphorical uses of eating in Greek people’s conceptualization of their current economic crisis in which the ubiquitous concept of solidarity is often instantiated in food sharing, and in which the question of who “ate” during the good times and who did not make tangible and visceral discussions of blame and responsibility for current predicaments (Sutton 2016).

The final chapter, on “conviviality,” brings these themes together again through examining the pleasures of eating together and the sense of sociability that so often accompanies shared food. Here Oxfeld introduces two key concepts: rarity (nande) and “red hot sociality” (renao). Rarity is the appreciation and celebration of circumstance that allows for the bringing together of people for a far-flung family reunion, or even simply everyday opportunity for socializing that is extended through food (“You came just in time for my eggplant fritters!” (162)). Renao is a concept that combines emotions, social relations and sensory stimulation, a kind of Chinese version of collective effervescence, which allows for a celebration of social connection. Renao can be extended through food, but also through substances such as alcohol and tea—when deployed and managed properly. Banquets and family celebrations are typical settings for the production of renao, which can encompass both hierarchical banquets and more intimate and egalitarian gatherings. Similarly, gatherings need not be sumptuous nor expensive to achieve renao, simply socially convivial, which “’is constitutive of living in a socially meaningful way’” (161). Oxfeld’s stress on memorable meals as at the heart of proper conviviality and sociality put me in mind of my own research in Greece. During the past six years of the Greek economic crisis, the question of living with “dignity” has centered around issues of reproducing a life where meaningful social relations involving food sociability are under threat. Spending time in a coffee shop with friends, or finding alternate ways of enjoying scaled-back food celebrations which still can produce the Greek version of “red hot sociality,” have been ongoing themes in contemporary life under crisis conditions.

Bitter and Sweet is a rich and detailed ethnography that makes a convincing case for following food through its transformations as it is created, exchanged and consumed to reveal myriad themes of contemporary social life, what I would call a “gustemological” approach to culture. Though Oxfeld doesn’t discuss this explicitly, I think that her book is an excellent reminder of the ongoing importance of a holistic approach based in deep knowledge of a particular place that incorporates both historical and ethnographic perspectives. This book would make for an excellent choice in courses on food and culture, as well as for any scholars interested in a window onto contemporary China and its recent historical transformations as seen through the lens of food discourses and practices.

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CFP: “Food and …” Texas Tech, March 29-31, 2018

Upcoming conference of possible interest to SAFN members.

Call for Papers
“Food and . . . ” Conference
March 29-31, 2018
Humanities Center at Texas Tech

The Humanities Center at Texas Tech University (Lubbock, Texas) is happy to announce a call for papers for our first Annual Conference in the Humanities.  The conference topic each year aligns with the Center’s annual theme, which for 2017-2018 is “Food and …”.  Ways into the “what” following the ellipsis in “Food and…” may fall into myriad categories: culture, literature, politics, environment, technology, health, malnutrition, access, education, inequities, media representations, depictions in fine art, sustainability, ecology(s), local food, translation, small scale agriculture, agribusiness, taboo, packaging, eating disorders, marketing, terroir, and gastronomy. This list is not exhaustive.

The explosion of food studies at the end of the twentieth century was an institutional response to the myriad ways in which food might be approached by scholars, and the field has only expanded in the intervening years. Humanistic ways of looking at food run the gamut from primary source in material culture to semiotic tool; from literary trope to exchangeable commodity; from colonial weapon to method of cultural resistance; from obsession either due to absence or to fetish; from comfort, reassurance, and sustenance to oddity or source of disgust; from sin to salvation; from welcoming gesture to coercive faux hospitality; and from political bribe to political rallying point.  “Food and . . . ” crosses disciplines and invites many kinds of thinkers and critical conversations. We all eat, yet what counts as appealing, nourishing, traditional food in one culture is repulsive in another. As the introduction to a recent anthology of essays on food and theatre notes, food carries “symbolic and material unwieldiness,” showing “comestibles and their consumption to be both bedrock and flashpoints of cultural identity.” The myriad conceptualizations and human experiences of food offer the critic, the thinker, and the eater a prime node of analysis—a “place at the table” of intellectual and public discourse.

The conference aims to bring together an international group of scholars in order to interrogate the polyvalent uses of food in human life.  Prominent food critic and memoirist Ruth Reichl will offer the conference keynote lecture and performance artists Spatula and Barcode will present an interactive seder as the all-conference dinner on Friday, March 30th—the first night of Passover.

The TTU Humanities Center welcomes abstracts for individual papers as well as proposals for fully formed panels that address these or other related issues.  Potential speakers should send an abstract of 300 words and a brief CV (no more than 2 pages) highlighting work relevant to the topic at hand.  Scholars proposing a panel should provide an abstract of no more than 500 words and include a list of contributors (with the titles of their papers) as well as brief CVs (no more than 2 pages) for each.  Abstracts and panel proposals should be submitted to humanitiescenter@ttu.edu by October 15, 2017 with all documents contained in a single PDF.  In the subject line of your submission, please use the format “Food Conference/YOUR NAME/YOUR PROPOSAL or ABSTRACT TITLE” (e.g., Food Conference/Smith/Eating Rules) as the subject line in your email. We will make decisions as soon as possible after that in order to ensure sufficient time for participants to make travel arrangements.

Contact Info:
Dorothy Chansky, Director of the Humanities Center at Texas Tech University

Contact Email:
humanitiescenter@ttu.edu
URL:
http://www.depts.ttu.edu/provost/humanities-center/annual-theme.php

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What Foodanthro is Reading Now, August 3, 2017

A brief digest of food and nutrition-related items that caught our attention recently. Got items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to dberiss@gmail.com or hunterjo@gmail.com.

In South Africa, efforts to resist the mining agenda continue, in part through using the land for agriculture:

Living on the northern-most portion of the Wild Coast of South Africa, the coastal Amadiba villages have been resisting the proposed Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project for over ten years through directly confronting attempts to mine, and have also used the very land that is under threat of destruction as a weapon in creative ways. These tactics show us powerful forms of resistance to the state’s political project from above.

If you don’t have space but want to farm animals, would you consider dormice?

There’s dormouse stuffed with pork and its own trimmings, then pounded out with pepper, laser (the juice of a giant fennel plant), broth, and nuts; after, this concoction is put in a casserole dish, roasted, or boiled. Not a bad way to chow down—especially considering the mice were extra-succulent after hanging out in their own special jar.

Here’s an article about really old potatoes. Apparently North Americans were eating potatoes 10,000 years ago! On the subject of potatoes, there was this recent celebration of Eva Akblad:

Today Google’s Doodle – which is visible all around the world – is celebrating the relatively unknown Eva Ekblad, the Swedish scientist who rescued the spud from being the rarefied preserve of the aristocracy and made it into the useful and common stuff we know today.

On the subject of UK farms, there is the challenges of surviving brexit and supplying more of it’s own food, combined with the imperative to supply food with a low carbon footprint:

So carbon footprinting is a blunt tool, but it still has much to recommend it (when combined with environmental subsidy based on outcome, as per above). Anecdotally, producers have told me that the process of engaging with it, and therefore of trying to enable a smaller carbon footprint, has led to greater efficiencies across the food chain. Examining one element of environmental cost leads to an engagement with all of it.

Also in the context of Brexit, this article in the Guardian talks about the rise of mega farms:

Leaving the EU provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to shape our farming industry so it works for the UK and helps our farmers grow more world-class food. We are determined to make a success of it, but we will not compromise on our high animal welfare or environmental standards, and we will always protect our proud and varied farming traditions.”

This article about Princeton’s “farminary” was beautiful and reminiscent of Wendell Berry:

The physical labor of farming provided respite from all that talking and feeling—and offered new lenses through which to process it.

Although the writer’s qualify their results quite a bit this article about the Mediterranean diet, it’s super interesting that experiences of the diet differ by socio-economic status:

The researchers tracked participants in the Moli-sani Project for an average of four years, and found that adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with an approximate 60 percent reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease – but only for those who had education beyond high school or a household income greater €40,000 (approximately US$47,300) annually.

Over on NPR’s The Salt, a chef presents a compelling picture of the glaring blind spot in the farm-to-table vision:

Farm-to-table’s sincere glow distracts from how the production and processing of even the most pristine ingredients — from field or dock or slaughterhouse to restaurant or school cafeteria — is nearly always configured to rely on cheap labor. Work very often performed by people who are themselves poor and hungry.

Lastly, over at vice, one of my favourite articles this week was about clean eating and the ways it reinforces diet culture. There’s a lot of great lines, but here is just one:

And yet throughout these books – the very same ones that tell us to locate our self-worth not in how we look but in who we are and how we feel – there is a consistent, entrenched fear of fatness. When Deliciously Ella allays our fears that “things like avocados and almonds will make you fat,” she leaves that foundational anxiety around fatness intact as a valid concern.

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New Zealand Symposium of Gastronomy Deadline Extension

A quick update! The deadline for submissions to the 11th New Zealand Symposium of Gastronomy has been extended to August 15, 2017.

 

Everyday: New Zealand Symposium of Gastronomy

Christchurch, November 25th & 26th, 2017

Symposium Theme: Everyday

 

Organizers:

Sam Hassibi (University of Canterbury)

Amir Sayadabdi (University of Canterbury)

Everyday food and food-related activities are important, yet often taken-for-granted parts of our everyday lives. The biological imperative that makes eating a necessity often makes us look at it as a mundane practice. Cooking, too, especially in its ‘domestic’ context, may seem insignificant and uninteresting. Shopping for food, chopping and washing ingredients, and cleaning up after a meal rarely seem poetic or even important. However, the very everydayness of these activities reproduces meaningful cultural symbols and social practices, depicting individuals’ or societies’ relationship with different issues ranging from nutrition, health and hygiene to gender norms, intimate socialities, national identity and memory. By looking at the everydayness of food-related activities, we come to understand how societies routinely feed and reproduce themselves, and therefore, we get a better understanding of their cultures, their past, present, and future. By observing and studying everyday food-related practices, habits, and values that are constantly being passed in ordinary kitchens from one generation to the next, we can open a window to also understanding non-everyday foodways such as those practiced in sacred rituals, mourning, and celebrations.

We welcome scholars, cooks, armchair gastronomers and food enthusiasts to present their research, discuss their viewpoints, and be a part of the 11th New Zealand Symposium of Gastronomy with the main theme of ‘Everyday’, to be held inChristchurch (25 & 26 November, 2017).

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Everyday cooking/eating practices
  • Food and identity (gendered, national, etc.) in everyday life
  • Everyday food choices
  • Historical, cultural and economic aspects of everyday food
  • Fast food and slow food
  • Routinization of everyday life
  • Everyday food and ethics
  • Everyday food and memory
  • Everydayness and Non-everydayness
  • The production, cultivation and distribution of everyday food
  • Politics of everyday food

The deadline for submitting an abstract (max 150 words) and a short biographical statement (max 100 words) has now been extended to Tuesday, August 15th, 2017. You can submit your abstract to either Sam or Amir (or both) at:

saman.hassibi@pg.canterbury.ac.nz

amir.sayadabdi@pg.canterbury.ac.nz

We will also be happy to answer any questions regarding the symposium.

Notification of acceptance will be sent out by Thursday, August 31st, 2017.

There will also be a ‘historic cooking’ workshop on the afternoon of the 24th of November, during which Sam and Amir will lead you through cooking some historic Middle Eastern dishes based on centuries-old recipes. Attendance in the workshop isfree of charge for registered symposiasts. More information about the workshop will follow in September.

Please feel free to spread the word!

More information about the symposium.

If you have a CFP you would like to feature on the blog, please contact Ruth Dike.

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Robert M. Netting Best Student Paper Prize

Check out this opportunity for money and publication from our friends at the C&A section of the AAA’s for their student paper competitions. Feel free to apply or pass onto to your students!

The Culture and Agriculture section of the American Anthropological Association invites anthropology graduate and undergraduate students to submit papers for the 2017 Robert M. Netting Award. The graduate and undergraduate winners will receive cash awards of $750 and $250, respectively, and have the opportunity for a direct consultation with the editors of our section’s journal, CAFÉ (Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment), toward the goal of revising the winning papers for publication. Submissions should draw on relevant literature from any subfield of Anthropology and present data from original research related to livelihoods based on crop, livestock, or fishery production, forestry, and/or management of agricultural and environmental resources. Papers should be single-authored, limited to a maximum of 7,000 words, including endnotes, appendices, and references, and should follow Chicago format style.

Papers already published or accepted for publication are not eligible. Only one submission per student is allowed. Submitters need not be members of the American Anthropological Association but they must be enrolled students (Note: students graduating in the Spring or Summer of 2017 will also be eligible). The submission deadline is September 1st, 2017 and all submissions should be sent to Nicholas C. Kawa via email at nckawa@gmail.com

 

If you would like to post a CFP on the blog, please contact Ruth Dike.

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