AFHVS / ASFS 2018: The Agroecological Prospect

Call for abstracts for the best annual interdisciplinary Food Studies conference. SAFN members, it would be great to organize whole SAFN panels for this event. Start a discussion on the listserv!

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AFHVS / ASFS 2018: The Agroecological Prospect:

The Politics of Integrating Values, Food, and Farming

June 13 to 16, 2018.
Madison, Wisconsin.

The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) is pleased to host the Joint Annual Meeting of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS) and the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS), June 13 to 16, 2018.

The conference theme, The Agroecological Prospect: The Politics of Integrating Values, Food, and Farming, is an invitation to engage with the political and governance issues that arise in agricultural and food systems. Agroecology links scientific inquiry, practical arts, and transformative social action to develop food systems that are fair and resilient. The conference program will highlight necessary changes to the design and management of our food systems so that we may adjust human systems to better function within the limits of natural systems, ensuring economic viability, food security, and the sovereignty of all people. The conference planning committee invites presentations and posters addressing this topic, as well as broader issues facing agriculture, food, values, human-environment interaction, and more.

Learn more about the conference at https://afhv2018.wiscweb.wisc.edu/.  Giving voice to these issues is fundamental to resolving them, so that we may better function in harmony with natural systems – while ensuring economic viability, food security, and the sovereignty of all people.

Abstract deadline has been extended to February 15, 2018. Submit abstracts for presentations and posters at https://easychair.org/cfp/AFHV-ASFS_2018.

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Filed under AFHVS, anthropology, ASFS, Food Studies

Thesis Review and Interview: Tacos, Gumbo, and Work

Edited Copy FalconPhotograph: Fernando Lopez

Please note: As Associate Editor, I am 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 me directly: Katharina Graf (kg38@soas.ac.uk).

Tacos, Gumbo, and Work: The Politics of Food and the Valorization of Labor. Sarah Fouts. Ph.D. Thesis in Latin American Studies, Tulane University, New Orleans. 2017.

Emma-Jayne Abbots (University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter)

Tacos, Gumbos and Work interrogates the economic and social interplays between migrant food vendors and construction workers – both commonly undocumented – in post-Katrina New Orleans, and situates this synergism within a broader political framework of regulation, law and migration policy. Fouts argues that taco trucks and loncheras provide migrant workers with ‘familiar and sustaining foods’ (p.4) and, as such, she examines the cultural work food vendors perform in the creation of their own economic and political spaces. The cultural work of food is a prevailing theme, but the key contribution of this rich ethnographic discussion lies in Fouts’s illumination of the ways that vendors look to navigate an intrinsically unhelpful and constraining bureaucratic system laden with structural inequities. The thesis highlights the multiple barriers food vendors face in terms of language, their status as undocumented, their access to social networks, and a licensing system entrenched in semantics that does not reflect the needs of the community. It thereby demonstrates how vendors’ economic and cultural capital, in association with their legal status, shapes their capacity for both social and physical mobility: this occurs not only in the sense that those who are documented can be more visible, but is also shaped by the extent vendors have access to knowledge and actors that can facilitate their navigation of ‘the system’. The theme of (in)visibility thus emerges in myriad ways and Fouts teases out the tensions that stem from vendors working in public spaces, whilst remaining in the shadows.

In capturing and comparing the voices and personal biographies of vendors with a range of economic and cultural capital, Tacos, Gumbo and Work successfully shifts its gaze between individual motivations and practices and the broader political and economic dynamics informing vendor actions and decisions. Many of Fouts’s participants are clearly vulnerable and structurally marginalized, yet they are not devoid of agency and Fouts’s sensitive representation stresses vendors’ creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, and their capacity to affect change within the constraints of living and working. This is particularly well illustrated by the manner that some vendors have rejected work in the formal economy in favor of the informal sector – an observation that also offers, as the thesis does more broadly, a seething critique of neoliberal policies and its resultant conditions.

Tacos, Gumbo and Work also raises questions regarding applied research, gender dynamics and social divisions within migrant communities. Below, I put these questions directly to the author, Sarah Fouts, currently a post-doctoral fellow at Lehigh University.

Emma-Jayne Abbots (EJA): Your ethical sensitivity and integrity are clearly evident throughout your discussion, not least in your methodology and in the volunteer work you undertook for your participants and the Congress of Day Laborers. How did you go about balancing your engagement with the community and applied practice with the academic analysis required when writing a PhD? What value does an activist approach bring?

Sarah Fouts (SF): Prior to my academic career, I was a Peace Corps volunteer and worked for a non-profit, so much of my worldview is in applied practice. As an academic I have done my best to extend this commitment to service. While it may seem that an unbiased analysis precludes close involvement, I’ve found that the two can work in concert, and I think it’s important not to take from the communities with whom I work without offering support or service. I was also fortunate to study in my field site, so logistically it was easier to balance the research and community engagement. With the community-engaged work, I had to learn when to say no to volunteer assignments, for instance during intense phases of writing or teaching, and I had a good enough relationship with those folks that they understood. Like I mention in the thesis, I never realized the degree to which my community-engaged work would impact my actual thesis. Once I realized that I could use it as the thread to connect my research, it was obvious that that was the organizing principle all along. An activist approach allows for more collaboration, particularly for people to be a part of telling their own story. For the researcher, accompaniment brings a first hand glimpse into how people navigate systems. But it does more than just understanding the barriers people face, it also helps them get through these barriers by interpreting for them, helping them access other resources, etc. As long as researchers are transparent about their involvement with communities, I think engagement can lend more valuable insight based on first-hand experience than just bird’s eye observation.

EJA: You mention that a possible direction for further investigation is the gendered dynamics at play in this context and, although your argument and analysis takes you in a different direction, there are certainly some interesting ethnographic observations on gender in your thesis. Given the ongoing critical debates about the feminization of food work, can I ask you to reflect upon how your own findings, as well as further scholarship on informal food vending more widely, could enhance our understanding of reproductive labor, especially its interplays with productive labor?

SF: The first five years after Katrina, it was mostly men that came to New Orleans. Women and children started to arrive after 2010, to reunite with their families and as a result of political instability across Central America. Oftentimes, it was the women who recognized the dearth of food options and the market for mobile food vending services. Women also continue to understand the flexibility of the street vending industry and the potential profitability. In many of these cases, reproductive labor directly intersected with productive labor in that women are able to prepare food for sale, while taking care of their children and completing other domestic work. In some of the more clandestine economies, women produce and sell food from their own homes; people would pick up foods directly from the home or someone, oftentimes men, would deliver the foods to construction sites. So in those cases, the women never had to leave home. Your question makes me realize a key part I left out in the case of the two dueling tamale vendors in Chapter Two. I fail to mention that there is free childcare at the Congreso meetings where the women sell food. So, the women could set up their booth and sell foods while their children played inside. This is so important. Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo (2007) addresses this to some degree in her work, as does Lorena Muñoz (2013). The feminization of food work comes up throughout my thesis and as I continue on with the book project I plan to engage this concept more explicitly.

EJA: There are points in your ethnography where there are evident tensions between vendors, particularly in relation to battles over turf. In what ways do these dynamics reflect and intersect with hierarchies of economic and cultural capital within the community?

SF: The root of these tensions and turf battles between vendors reflect hierarchies that manifest in terms of access. Oftentimes, this access is connected to documentation status, because there is so much power or perceived power linked to having papers. Like in the case of Clara and Leonora, Leonora can access more spaces as a tamale vendor because she has legal status through her English-speaking husband. She was able to get licensing—albeit a catering license—when Clara was not. But based on the other cases, it is likely Clara could have gotten a license as well (if she called the right person), she just assumed that she could not due to being undocumented. Other examples of turf wars include brick and mortar establishments versus the food truck vendors, which isn’t exclusive to New Orleans. These types of battles usually depend on institutional support as part of the hierarchies of capital. Brick and mortar places received support from the Louisiana/National Restaurant Association to fight for policies limiting the mobility of food trucks. But as food truck popularity grew nationwide, New Orleans City Council increasingly backed more liberal food truck ordinances, yet even those policies had limitations as shown in Chapter Three. One argument I maintain is that many of these policies, even though they may attempt to be liberal, fail to take into account what is happening on the ground locally.

As I continue onto the book project, I draw in a more cross-racial analysis, which reflects integration of Latinx communities in a predominantly Black city and within a New Orleans food culture that is quite homogenous. So, I consider questions like how have Latinx foods been creolized into New Orleans food culture. Here, these hierarchies of economic and cultural capital definitely come into play, especially within a Bourdieusian theoretical framework. But my argument links back to my first statement, drawing in questions of access—documentation status, class, and race. Those issues are inherently linked to these hierarchical tensions.

References

Muñoz, Lorena, “From Street Child Care to Drive-throughs: Latinas Reconfigure and Negotiate Street Vending Spaces in Los Angeles,” in Immigrant Women Workers in the Neoliberal Age. Champaign: University of Illinois Press. 2013, 133-143.

Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierette, Domestica: Immigrant Workers Cleaning and Caring the Shadows of Affluence. Berkeley: UC Press. 2007.

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Filed under anthropology, book reviews, labor, Latinx foodways, migration, New Orleans, reviews, United States, urban, work

Last Update, Before We Plunge In!

One last program update before heading up to DC. I recently received notification from alert readers about the following panels, which are food-related and interesting. One of them, I note with some embarrassment, is in fact a roundtable that I am a participant in. Don’t know how I failed to note that earlier, but now that is fixed. Check out earlier postings for other SAFN panels, papers, posters, and other important sessions. For further updates, check out the conference program on the AAA web site or program app.

Remember, SAFN needs you! Come to the business meeting, the reception, and all of our panels!

Finally, many of us will be using social media to post updates and comments about events at the conference. Follow the hashtag #AAA2017 to keep up. Go see these panels, participate in the discussions, have a great conference!

Wednesday, November 29

Session: (2-0345) Food in the Moral Orders of Contemporary China.

Mikkel Bunkenborg, Anders Sybrandt Hansen, Ingrid Fihl Simonsen, Mikkel Bunkenborg, Ingrid Fihl Simonsen, Annie Sheng, Jamie Coates, Erika J. Kuever, Ellen Oxfeld.

Abstract: Eating has become an anxious business in China. A seemingly endless series of scandals from milk laced with melamine to recycled gutter oil and rat meat camouflaged as mutton has caused alarm about food safety, and beneath these periodic scares is a constant suspicion that producers are using pesticides, hormones, and additives in ways that make their products unfit for human consumption. The problems persist despite increased governmental efforts to regulate food production and many have come to see the production and marketing of unsafe food as part of a more pervasive moral crisis that has haunted China in recent decades of rapid economic growth.

Distrustful of the agricultural products they consume, Chinese citizens develop new strategies for evaluating and sourcing foodstuffs ranging from online sharing of consumer reviews and reliance on imported foodstuffs to starting up food production in urban gardens and establishing relations to particular known farms that promise to deliver healthy and organic food. In the case of significant state units, specially procured foods sourced from outside the market sphere has a long tradition. Originally intended as a safeguard in case of famine, this practice continues today and food procured this way is the envy of many as its production is believed to be more strictly controlled, and the products consequently safer and healthier. While farmers are in a better position to produce their own food and thus retain some control over what they eat, they are increasingly integrated in a highly competitive market economy where farmers produce specialized cash crops – sometimes by means the farmers themselves find dubious – and rely on commoditized foodstuffs for consumption. Both ruralites and urbanites thus face the same predicament of procuring safe food in a market that is largely perceived as amoral.

This panel aims to address the problem of unsafe food from an ethnographic perspective by exploring how social relations and moral obligations are mediated by food and how people verbalize and act upon concerns with unsafe food in both urban and rural settings. From the feeding of infants and the feasting of guests to anonymous transactions with strangers, food is both indicative and constitutive of a variety of social relations. How do particular forms of sharing foods map moral communities, and how do such practices fare in the current atmosphere of consumer distrust? What do consumer decisions and notions of danger tell us about moral imaginaries of society, rural-urban-, inter-ethnic, and international orders? How is the reach of moral obligation negotiated in food production? What forms of community and social trust are developing on each side and across the rural-urban divide in new production and consumption practices? This panel calls for contributions that follow particular moral economies of food to their edges and thus provide a nuanced understanding of the imbrications of morality, trust and food in contemporary China.

Friday, December 1

Session: (4-0210) Food and drink: past, present, and future (Part I). Guy Duke, Guido Pezzarossi, Katherine Chiou, Kathryn Sampeck, Frederick Smith, Justin Reamer, Maria Bruno, Clare Sammells.

Session: (4-0480) Food and drink: past, present, and future (Part II).  Guido Pezzarossi, Guy Duke, Shanti Morell-Hart, J Ryan Kennedy, Laura Ng, David Cranford, Ann Laffey, Rosemary Joyce.

The food and drink we consume have always been integral links between human social phenomena, health and well-being, as well as the physical environment. Our methods of procurement and production, practices of preparation and consumption, and modes of discard and disposal all are deeply intertwined with everything from ontologies to politics, socioeconomics to ecology, and more. Archaeologists and cultural anthropologists have addressed these connections, often with particular emphasis on a general topic within the time periods and geographical settings of their study. Rarely, however, has the study of food and drink attempted to bridge past practices directly to current-day topics. Multiple potential approaches to making this linkage are available to us, each with unique but complementary perspectives. For instance, working from a longue dureé approach to foodways opens up new lines of inquiry that can radically contextualize the present in the past, illuminating local/ global knowledges and practices around food with longer and shorter histories and the particular assemblage(s) of humans and nonhumans that collaborate in their emergence and longevity.

Part I of this session will focus on how food and drink, and the heterogenous networks of practices, places, people and things that they gather, allow for analyses to inform on how past food related practices helped shape broader social and material contours of life in the present—both food and non-food related—at a variety of scales. Sidney Mintz’s study of sugar, and the multi-sited impacts on labor relations, production practices, technology, consumption and bodies–past and present–provides a model for thinking through the broader consequences and enduring legacies of past foodways.

In Part II of this session, presenters explore how such an approach also makes possible comparative analyses of contexts, processes and their effects that have been segregated in our analyses, due in large part to notions of modernity’s exceptionalism. A comparative approach to analyzing spatiotemporally distinct histories and assemblages, that are nevertheless generative of similar effects, provides a framework for bridging temporal/epochal ruptures between archaeology and cultural anthropology. Putting foodways in disparate pasts/presents that share similar topographies of power, process and experience into conversation, provides new perspectives on the seeming inevitability and permanence of present foodscapes and their entanglements.

Together, these sessions explore the multiple ways in which the patterns of food production, acquisition, preparation, distribution, consumption, and disposal in the ethnographic, archival, and archaeological past can not only have a profound effect on our understanding of how our current world came to be the way it is, but also guide us towards potential alternate futures.

Saturday, December 2

Roundtable Session: (5-0935) Food Talk Matters: How Health, Wealth, and Security Are Semiotically Produced, Consumed and Unequally Distributed. Kathleen Riley, Michael Silverstein, Robert Jarvenpa, Donna Patrick, Susan Blum, David Beriss, Amy Paugh, Christine Jourdan, Jillian Cavanaugh, Alexandra Jaffe, Martha Karrebaek.

Abstract: Food and words are produced, consumed, processed, and exchanged in homes, schools, gardens, coffee shops, farmers markets, movie sets, food shelves and refugee camps, to name only a few of the most familiar settings. Both are constrained by power-laced aesthetic systems. Both are enlisted by agents to semiotically transform political economic systems. Thus, the ethnographic and semiotic analysis of foodtalk (communication that happens through, about, around, and metaphorically as food) matters, both materially and symbolically, in a world where humans use foodways to both instantiate and alleviate social injustice and use discourse to both nourish and poison.

This roundtable brings together scholars from linguistic anthropology and food anthropology to explore the many cross-cutting ways in which food and language are implicated and interpolated in a range of political-economic issues from global discourses of food justice to dinnertime engagement in table talk. These include: the socialization of age and gender norms at home (Ochs, Paugh) and the acquisition of neoliberal ideologies about ethnicity and class at school (Karrebæk, Riley); gendered exchanges on the hunting trail (Jarvenpa) and the internecine rivalries of French village festivals (Jourdan); the textual production and labeling of “authentic” sausage (Cavanaugh) and the mediatization of food safety panics (Jourdan); the classing of wine (Silverstein) and the branding of soda (Manning); the representation of fat (Meneley) and the national significance of fried rat (Wilk;, the preparation of meals out of endangered species (Patrick) and interspecies semiosis in slaughter houses (Garrett); the circulation of gender and ethnicity in public and private kitchens (Abarca, Williams-Forson) and the racialized gentrification of the cultural food economy in urban America (Beriss); the production of taste for ‘local’ and ‘authentic’ (Riley, Cavanaugh, Blum) and the popular consumption of ‘language gap’ rhetoric (Blum, Riley).

In other words, food talk value is produced, consumed, and circulated, both economically and symbolically, with the qualia at stake including health and taste, climate change and interspecies cruelty, social justice and identity politics. Foodways are semiotically read as a form of structured communication (Barthes, Levi-Strauss, Douglas…); communication about foodways include not only referential but also iconic (synaesthetic) signs of food (Parasecoli, Belasco, Frye and Bruner…); communication around food (i.e., in its presence) not only references but also indexes the food, reproducing and transforming old understandings of food values (Schieffelin, Counihan, Dossa, etc.); finally, communication also operates as metaphorical and instrumental forms of sustenance — healthy or not (Cramer et al). Thus, ideologies about food and language are both reflected in and forged by discursive food exchanges, prompting “acts of resistance” to systems of miscommunication and efforts to renovate ailing food systems. In this session, we will sketch out some of the areas that have yet to be explored, some of the methods with which to take this project on, some of the connections that may be made, and some of the steps that could be taken.

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Filed under AAA 2017 Washington DC, anthropology, anthropology of food, archaeology

Food at the Museum

A brief reminder about two off-site events during the AAA meetings in DC:

The SAFN distinguished lecturer, Paula J. Johnson, is a curator, project director, and public historian in the Division of Work and Industry at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Along with presenting her work to us at our reception on Friday evening (December 1, 7:45 pm, details here), she has offered to give us a personal tour of the exhibit: “Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000” (which she curated).

Ryan Adams, who organized all of this, reminds us that this tour will take place on Saturday, 12/2. We will meet at 11 am at the Constitution Avenue entrance (1st Floor) to The National Museum of American History.

Ryan has also called our attention to a cooking demonstration occurring the same day at the museum. For those of you who may be confronted with fruitcake during the upcoming holidays, this could be a transformative experience. Ryan sends us the following information:

Holiday Traditions with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Guest chef: Jennifer Selman
1:00 p.m. Saturday December 2, in the Demonstration Kitchen

Celebrate the holidays and the 50th Anniversary of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival with a trip to the Caribbean. Jennifer Selman, chef/owner of Crown Bakery in Washington, DC, will shatter any negative notions you have about fruitcake with her Trinidadian version. She will also brew up the healthful and tangy holiday drink, sorrel. Chef Selman will be joined by long-time Folklife Festival researcher and presenter Camila Bryce-LaPorte, who is also the last person in her family to continue her own Caribbean and Panamanian fruitcake traditions. Learn how the Caribbean community of Washington, DC builds community through food and fellowship, especially during the holidays.

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Filed under AAA 2017 Washington DC, anthropology, museums

SAFN Program Updates

A very timely reminder from SAFN program co-organizer Abigail Adams about events coming up this week!

This is your SAFN Programs Co-organizer for the AAA annual meetings, looking forward to seeing everyone at the incredible panels we have lined up and at the Distinguished Speaker, Award Presentation, and Reception (free food!), Friday, December 1, 7:45 pm. Our distinguished speaker this year is Paula J. Johnson, of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. You can read about her work here. In addition to her exciting talk, we will be presenting our awards at the same event. You can read about the recipients here and here, then come meet them! Many thanks to Ryan Adams, Rachel Black and Amanda Green, for their work on developing our AAA program this year.

I want to encourage everyone to join us as well at the SAFN Business Meeting, Friday, December 1,  from 12:15 to 1:30 pm. This is a well-run meeting, with great colleagues and some real work to do. This is your best chance to not only have your voice heard, but take up a leadership role in SAFN yourself.

And, many of us will be interested in panels and events of the Culture & Agriculture (C&A) section. Here are the highlights that I have found:

Wednesday, November 29, 4:30-6:15 pm, 2-0670, panel, The Tourism of Food and Nature Matters

Friday, December 1, 4:30-6:15 pm, 4-1295 Networking and Mentoring in the Anthropology of Agriculture and the Environment

Friday, December 1, 9-10:15 pm, C&A Reception.

Best wishes for your work and travels in November until we gather in Washington, DC.

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Filed under AAA 2017 Washington DC, anthropology

More Food Panels, Papers, and Posters at AAA 2017

A week or so ago we posted a listing of the panels sponsored by SAFN at the upcoming meetings of the American Anthropological Association. It is a glorious list, of course, and if you are attending, you could probably build your entire schedule with that alone.

There are many more food and nutrition papers, posters, and panels on the conference program. If you do a search for “food” you will get a surprisingly large number of results. We requested that SAFN members whose work was not reviewed by SAFN send us information about anything they might have on the program. Those that we received are below…and the selection is inspiring! We will not have time to post more here, so check out the conference program for even more. If you are a SAFN member, remember that you can also circulate news about your presence on the meeting program by sending an email to the SAFN listserv. Let us know what you are up to!

Thursday, November 30

Abby Golub: New Plantations, Neo-Slavery, and Successful Incorporation: Towards a Framework for a More Just Food Production System, as part of the poster session (3-0530) “Gallery Session: Social Justice and Education,” 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM.

Abstract: New Plantations, a multi-sited, international collaboration funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies, considers migrant agricultural labor, race, and illegality. The project includes case studies in Italy, Switzerland, and Belgium. A primary goal of the project is to “develop a framework for more socially sustainable production regimes, and explore approaches that might improve difficult working conditions of migrants in agriculture.” My project fits within the Belgium case study. My goal was to understand life paths of people no longer working in such neo-slavery working conditions, and to understand how they achieved their positions. I specifically focus on South Asian, especially Sikh people in Belgium because they have often worked in agriculture and moved on to other jobs and even farm ownership. I argue that Sikh Cosmopolitanism, a compilation of traits such as openness, generosity, and positive associations with rural, as well as religious habitus, contributes to positive religious, economic, and educational incorporation both locally in Belgium and in transnational social fields.

Session: (3-0730) Famines and Food Crises in Africa: Causes, Consequences and Remediation: How Anthropologists Are Responding. Anita Spring (chair), Solomon Katz, Ellen Messer, Barrett Brenton, Zinta Zommers, John Lamm, Judy Canahuati, David Kauck. 2:00 PM – 3:45 PM

Abstract: Famines and food crises in Africa and some Middle Eastern countries bordering the Red Sea are created and complicated by war, political unrest, climate change, continued population growth, and economic factors. A chaotic decline in food resources for at least 20 million people extends east to west from Nigeria to South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen, mostly due to political unrest and instability, with these four countries having the greatest severity in Africa and the world according to the UN. Other climate-related famine countries are in the Horn of Africa and include Sudan and Ethiopia, while political unrest affects food production and distribution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (central Africa) and drought conditions obtain in the southern and eastern Africa (Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe), where prolonged and serious drought strains the economic and social capacity to cope with and develop new solutions in these recurring drought scenarios. Further complicating relief in many of these countries are the reduced expenditures from multilateral agencies of the UN and bilateral assistance from the US, UK, EU, and Japan. By contrast, China has stepped up to provide public- and private-sector funding and development assistance, but the magnitude, methods and results need to be studied to ascertain the impacts. This session examines from an anthropological perspective the causes, consequences, and their efforts for remedial and action plans developed by participating multilateral, bilateral and NGO agencies aimed at mitigating food and agriculture disasters, and for promulgating new solutions both political and technological. A major problem currently facing famine-relief programs is the uncertainty of UN funding, particularly affecting the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Program (WFP) and related emergency resources due in part to the proposed US under-funding for UN programs. This round table aims to summarize issues and remedies using the data from several perspectives. Questions to be addressed in this session include, but are not limited to the following issues: (1) How are anthropologists conceptualizing, identifying, and mitigating food-system disasters, using their long-term experiences in studying previous and recurrent calamities? (2) How do current political mishandling of agricultural production and distribution affect outcomes versus what happens if “more enlightened” production and distribution methods, as well as better marketing strategies and financial instruments are introduced? (3) Are any of these likely to mitigate the food crises, and if so how? This round table also considers new and innovative farm-managed methods such as conservation agriculture and carbon sequestration in soils, alternative food sources and better food storage, new financial instruments and index-insurance for farmers, and producer-friendly government policies in terms of production and distribution. The need for greater economic understanding of the food supply is a crucial and missing link between the planning which is often done by Big Ag economics, and the need for “Anthronomics”, that uses the insights and questions of anthropology and the methods of economics to address new solutions for food system problems.

Friday, December 1

Session: (4-1005) Anthropologists’ Retirement Accounts, Land-grabbing, and Deforestation: local and global impacts of TIAA’s agricultural investments. Douglas Hertzler, Marc Edelman, Sidney Greenfield, Maria Luisa Mendonca, Steven Heim, Quinton Robinson, Karina Gonzalez, David Kane.

Abstract: Many anthropologists have their retirement savings invested in the large financial services organization TIAA, which provides plans for many universities and non-profits. TIAA describes itself as “the largest manager of worldwide farmland assets.” The firm is a global leader in the surging interest in acquiring farmland that has occurred over last decade as investors have increasingly seen farmland as a valuable and potentially scarce asset in the future. Separately from its real estate investments TIAA also has investments in the consumption side of the palm oil supply chain, an industry often connected with deforestation and human rights concerns. TIAA prides itself in being a responsible investor and played a leading role in developing the Principles for Responsible Investment in Farmland. These TIAA sponsored principles remain controversial among and civil society organizations participating in the UN Committee on World Food Security which has developed its own more broadly recognized guidelines on land tenure.

Since the pioneering fieldwork of AAA past-President Walter Goldschmidt in California in the 1940s, anthropologists have been interested in the impact of farm ownership structure on communities and food systems. Brazilian researchers and social movements have been concerned that corporate investment in farmland undermines land access and control by marginalized communities and groups and it has been alleged that companies such as TIAA are circumventing laws that were intended to prevent large-scale foreign ownership of farmland through joint ventures with Brazilian companies with majority ownership. Further, some claim following national legal requirements is not enough to protect rural communities where land tenure is contentious. In the United States, family farm advocates are concerned that the growing scale of corporate farms harms rural communities and reduces farming opportunities for young farmers, immigrants, and farmers of color. This public policy forum moderated by anthropologists interested in the issues, will include representatives of family farm, environmental, and human rights organizations, as well as representatives of organizations involved in responsible investment. In addition to addressing the current situation, panelists will be asked: What can large institutional investors do to support the implementation of human rights norms and best practices in equitable access to land and collective land rights?

Willa Zhen: Chefs Need Anthropology: Critical Reflections on Teaching at the Culinary Institute of America, as part of the panel (4-1270) “Why Anthropology Matters: Making Anthropology Relevant and Engaging a Larger Public Audience through Pedagogy,” 4:15 PM – 6:00 PM.

Abstract: This paper reflects upon the author’s experiences teaching anthropology at the Culinary Institute of America. Founded in 1946, this institution has come to be known for producing some of the top names in the culinary and hospitality fields. Graduates of the Institute routinely top the “best of” lists in the culinary world; names like Anthony Bourdain, Duff Goldman, Cat Cora, and many others. It suffices to say this institution has a strong reputation – just not for anthropology. But as the food industry has come to deal with new social issues like environmental change, cultural sustainability, fair labor practices, the Institute has also had to reshape its curriculum. Anthropology has entered the curriculum in recent years, part of the Institute’s growing recognition of the need for students to be more than “just” chefs. This paper will discuss why it is important to teach anthropology in what are traditionally vocational contexts and how the discipline is uniquely positioned to contribute beyond traditional liberal arts classrooms. Culinary students, who in their kitchen training have been taught to follow orders, are challenged to think critically, to develop intercultural awareness, and to question why actions occur. Anthropology can play a role in shifting students from saying “Yes, Chef!” to asking “Why, Professor?” by training individuals to think beyond the plate.

Saturday, December 2

B Lynne Milgram. Activating Alternatives in a Transnational Trade: Social Entrepreneurship and Frontier Coffee Production in the Upland Northern Philippine, as part of the panel (5-0915) “(Re)Situating Social Entrepreneurship and Transnational Trade in the Global South: Actors, Agency and Alternatives,” 2:00 PM – 3:45 PM.

Abstract: While the fair-trade-certified coffee movement’s roots in social justice created advantageous terms for producers, its current perceived inadequate concern for coffee quality and uneven producer-vendor relations have given rise to entrepreneurial initiatives marketing “fairer-than- fair-trade” coffee. The latter’s practice moves beyond “corporate social responsibility” to champion transparency, high quality, and sustainability. By opting out of the certification system, however, such fairly-traded enterprises raise questions about how consumers can verify vendors’ claims and how to reward those effectively assisting producer communities?

This paper engages these issues by analyzing new northern Philippine specialty coffee enterprises that apply a “fairly traded” mandate to activate the region’s Arabica coffee production. I argue that while these “barefoot” social entrepreneurs (Max-Neef 1992) have established more equitable terms for their transnational Philippine-US/Canadian trade, the complexity of people’s subsistence needs and pre-existing socioeconomic relationships can challenge enterprise sustainability. By shortening commodity chains, paying higher purchase prices, and providing organic cultivation training and processing equipment, Philippine social entrepreneurs enable farmers’ engagement in alternatives to conventional and fair trade markets. Indeed by promoting small-lot coffee production, these entrepreneurs have established a distinctive terroir of place and taste. Yet, Philippine farmers’ lack of income diversity, independent rather than collective production, and fierce competition in which producers sell previously promised produce to another buyer can frustrate entrepreneurs’ efforts to differentiate their practice. Given coffee culture’s growing third wave, I argue that Philippine entrepreneurs’ timely initiatives can still resolve these push-pull tensions to yield an industry for, and more responsive to, stakeholders needs.

Sunday, December 3

Joeva Rock: “The So-Called NGOs, Some of Them are Just Killing Us”: Recipient Fatigue and Agricultural Development in Ghana, as part of the panel (6-0260) “Lives Spaces, Globalized Economies, and Consumption in African Contexts,” 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM.

Abstract: The African Green Revolution is an unprecedented attempt to radically transform the African countryside vis-à-vis commercialized agriculture. It is premised on the assumption that, when provided with education and opportunity, African farmers will purchase “improved,” higher-yielding technologies. In this presentation, I draw on 13 months of ethnographic research in Ghana on one such improved technology: genetically modified seeds.

Using interviews, organizational texts, and participant observation, I show how a growing discontent amongst bureaucrats, civil society, and farmers disrupts the African Green Revolution’s teleological logics of growth, modernization and development. I call this discontent “recipient fatigue,” a dissatisfaction with being subjects of NGO, donor and state interventions, many of which have had little positive impact. I first share stories from farmers in Northern Ghana, many of whom have had negative experiences with “modern” agriculture, and thus remain skeptical of future interventions. Some decide to opt out of projects and interviews, a momentary disassociation from a global development system that denigrates African epistemologies and expertise. Finally, I conclude by showing how Ghanaian food sovereignty organizations attempt to translate agrarian discontent into policy change and practice, with particular regard to seed and seed law.

Session: (6-0235) Categories of Remembrance and Forgetting: Itineraries and Sanctuaries – Itineraries (Part 1). Terese Gagnon, Carrie Emerson, C.Nadia Seremetakis, Hayden Kantor, Tracey Heatherington, Virginia Nazarea, Ann Gold

Abstract: Memory is in our heads, but it is also embedded in things, places, relationships and the senses. What happens when things are destroyed, people are uprooted, and sensuous engagements wane? Collectively, we explore how the valuable contents of memory are tied to webs of socialities, landscapes, and mythologies that call forth complex itineraries and sanctuaries. We query the ways in which emotions surrounding the forgotten and recalled, rather than representing a trauma/nostalgia binary, may most often be “both/and.” How is memory seeded, how is it ceded? In what ways are seeds portable altars of identity and place for indigenous peoples, traditional farmers, immigrants, and refugees, among others? When the seeds themselves are lost, is the opening of that sensuous portal to other times, places, and relationships permanently foreclosed? How does one re-member and re-emplace when faced with the erasure of landscapes of memory and enforced bodily forgetting in the context of various calamities and displacements? How are political economies, and the wide relationships they foster, tied up in all of this in the Anthropocene?

From dislocation of political refugees and traditional farmers to conservation of biodiversity and diverse agro-culinary traditions, we examine milieus and memorials where the past is re-lived, consecrated, or expunged. We consider how, under certain conditions, these subversive and pregnant sites may have the power to re-open or re-create alternant forms of sociality and “affective economies” that encompass humans and other beings alike. We delve into the nature of nostalgia, that journeying back into the memory of things, places, routes, and refuges that at once carry warmth and melancholy. The contributors look at how these associations are linked to temporalities and places that have the potential to be both “slippery” and “transmutable” through the performance of gardening, cooking, and commensality. Such acts are especially fertile ground, as they constitute a re-opening via the senses and memory that substantively alters the present physical/ontological reality. In these often strange journeys of estrangement and sometimes return, the material and the imaginary collide.

Session: (6-0420) Categories of Remembrance and Forgetting: Itineraries and Sanctuaries – Sanctuaries (Part 2) Emily Ramsey, Taylor Hosmer, David Sutton, Milan Shrestha, Melanie Narciso, Jim Veteto, Marc Williams, C. Nadia Seremetakis.

Abstract: How do landscapes and foodscapes, along with everyday practices of preserving or rebuilding knowledge and community across time and space become sanctuaries? How can embodied practices of memory and sensuous engagement call forth connections that bridge “transmission gaps” in the face of rapid changes in the age of Anthropocene? What new forms of sociality do individuals forge in constructing these sanctuaries of memory, and how can they re-shape the knowledge, identity, and even discourse surrounding the politics of food, climate change, and austerity? How does one emplace when (if) there is little left to enact? This panel seeks to delve into these questions, examining the diverse ways that sanctuaries of memory and practice confront the risk of loss and serve to rebuild connections to individuals, places, and times.

Food and beverage become a primary sanctuary and a productive site for memory’s maintenance, whether through the physical preparation of dishes or the value conveyed in commensality. Embodied aspects of food, whether in the preparation of Cathead biscuits, a regional Southern specialty at risk of dying out with the growth of the frozen biscuit market, or in the age-old preparation of mead, a practice revived among participants in the emergent ethnobotanical mead circle tradition of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Memory also confronts an ever shifting foodscape, maintaining connections to heritage and past ways of life, in both tomato festivals that dot the Southeastern United States, bringing farmers and suburbanites into conversation with one another, and among rural Filipinos who continue to produce Aslam Baliti, a slowly fermented sugarcane vinegar, against the many mass-produced vinegars lacking traditional complex flavors. Moreover, cultural memory intersects with and continues to shape action, for example, where Nepali memories of past flood events influences their perception of risk with glacial lake expansion, and how Greek citizens facing political austerity measures and increasing individualism react by enacting coffee shop sociality and preparing traditional meals for refugees. This session explores milieus where the past is re-lived, consecrated, or reimagined, creating sometimes alternant forms of sociality that bring together individuals in diverse localities and circumstances, creating sanctuaries , both fleeting and robust.

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Filed under AAA 2017 Washington DC, anthropology, anthropology of food

A “Hoppy” Bubble? Linking Labor and Capital in Washington State’s Beer and Cannabis Industries

Blog Editor’s note: This is the second installment in FoodAnthropology’s series on Latinx foodways in North America. We welcome contributions from researchers in this area. More details about the series are here

Megan A. Carney
University of Arizona, School of Anthropology and Center for Regional Food Studies

Every fall in the Pacific Northwest, craft brewers and beer connoisseurs alike anxiously anticipate the availability of freshly harvested hops. Ranging from mid-August to mid-October, almost every brewer in the trade premieres a fresh hop beer. The widespread and increasing demand for freshly harvested hops turns the craft beer scene into some kind of frenzy: brewers buy as much as they can as soon as the hops are available and then proudly display their piling heaps of green and gold treasures – mounds of the fresh hop buds – with much fanfare to salivating beer aficionados. The hop bud enjoys much attention, even worship, during this time of year, its image projected onto all forms of marketing and advertising from bottle labels to bumper stickers and billboards.

Washington State’s Yakima Valley is one of the most productive hop-growing regions in the United States, accounting for more than 70 percent of total hop cultivation nationally. It is a $380 million industry that generates over 65 million pounds of popular hop varieties such as Centennial, Amarillo, and Cascade. While an agricultural tradition has thrived in the Yakima Valley for many generations, due in part to its proximity to the Columbia River and fertile soils, more growers have gradually begun cultivating hops. Hops production has been increasing since the turn of the nineteenth century with a particularly sharp increase in 2005.

The elevated status of hops, however, and its near fetishization among brewers and consumers tend to obscure the labor processes and larger shifts in agricultural land use that have enabled the increased availability of hops. Harvesting hops is a labor-intensive process despite certain advances in mechanizing hops production. Migrant workers, whose origins trace from Mexico and Central America predominantly, perform the bulk of this highly skilled labor. One brewery even recently released a beer to pay homage to this migrant workforce. Since hops harvesting is seasonal, these migrant workers often migrate to other regions of the United States in search of work in other seasonal industries. While migrant labor has historically sustained much of the agricultural production in the Yakima Valley, the increasing demand for highly-skilled migrant workers in hops cultivation and harvesting due to the industry’s rapid expansion is a more recent development.

Much remains unknown regarding the specific labor and living conditions of migrant workers employed in the hops industry. However, studies of migrant farmworkers in the Yakima Valley have found substandard living conditions, numerous occupational hazards, high rates of food insecurity, chronic health conditions, and inadequate or limited access to health care as characterizing the daily struggles of this population. My research aims to understand the lived experiences of these workers, specifically the daily and seasonal rhythms of their labor, living conditions, and broader effects for food insecurity and health. In addition, I seek to map the political-economic and institutional arrangements within which the lived experiences and life chances of workers in the hops industry and the “hop-crazed” brewers and consumers are connected.

The greater Seattle region has experienced rapid gentrification with unprecedented population growth during the past decade. Estimates are that the city grows by 1,000 new residents each week, many of them attracted to jobs with tech giants such as Amazon. These residents tend to be younger and wealthier as a whole, but with the city’s housing crisis, many are moving into what historically were more working-class neighborhoods. The shifting demographics of Seattle’s cityscape have been accompanied by the proliferation of microbreweries and recreational cannabis shops, the latter especially since Washington residents voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012. Meanwhile, crises loom around illicit drug use – particularly of heroin and other opioids – and widespread homelessness, troubling local residents, public health workers, and policymakers about specific actions to take. The growing demand for artisanal brews and high-quality cannabis among the region’s younger and more affluent residents on the one hand, and the gradual dispossession of the poor and growing homeless population on the other, arguably represent two sides of the same coin.

Another dimension of this research is probing into questions regarding shifts in land use toward hop and cannabis cultivation and the broader political-economic, environmental, and human health consequences. Food system scholars and practitioners consistently highlight the implications of shifting land-use from staple or edible crops intended for human consumption toward crops that support biofuel production, animal feed, or more “luxury” and recreational commodities. Hops and cannabis of course, tend to fit within the last category, notwithstanding arguments for how both crops may support human health in reducing stress and anxiety, or offering pain relief. Yet these crops – especially cannabis – also represent “big business” in generating revenues much higher per acre of yield than say an acre planted in pears or potatoes. Indeed, a substantial portion of Washington State’s land surface area devoted to agricultural purposes is now being cultivated for certain mind-altering substances and libations (e.g., grapes, apples, cannabis, hops). How the broader consequences of such shifts in land use unfold along lines of citizenship, class, and race within the greater Seattle region, Washington state, the Pacific Northwest foodshed, and beyond remain to be adequately understood.

Megan A. Carney is Assistant Professor in the School of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Regional Food Studies at the University of Arizona.

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, beer, Food Studies, Latinx Series, wine