Author Archives: kellyfoodanth

About kellyfoodanth

Cultural Anthropology Duke University SAFN Interim Student Rep

The Development of Food Anthropology: Richard Wilk

IMG_0691Welcome to the inaugural interview in what will be a series of videos with founding folks working in the field of food anthropology, which is meant to document the origins and ongoing developments in the field. How did the anthropology of food emerge as a sub-discipline? Where has it been and where is it going? For information about the series, contact David Sutton (

Click here for the Richard Wilk interview.

Click here for the Richard Wilk Proust Questionnaire.

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The Proust Questionnaire: Dr. Richard Wilk

Unknown.jpegThe Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not originally devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.

As part of the SAFN Video Archive: The Development of Food Anthropology, we are producing a series of questionnaires with the participants. Here are responses from Dr. Richard Wilk (left).

What is your favorite virtue? Empathy

What are your favorite qualities in a man? Intelligence, Wit & Humility

What are your favorite qualities in a woman? Intelligence, Wit & Humility

What do you think is your chief characteristic?

Omnivorousness & Curiosity– intellectual and gustatory

What quality do you appreciate the most in your friends? Fun, depth, diversity

What do you consider your main fault? Easily distracted, talking instead of listening, weakness for donuts

What is your favorite occupation? Husband/father, writer, public speaker

What is your idea of happiness? The ocean, dinner with friends and family, dachshunds

What is your idea of misery? Fast food and slow lectures, being told stuff I already know, senility

If you could die and come back as another person or living being, what would you choose? an Orca

Where would you like to live? I would rather be peripatetic.

Who are your favorite prose authors? Ursula Le Guin, Iain Banks, Richard Koster

Who are your favorite poets? Garcia Lorca, B.B. King, Monty Python

Who are your favorite heroes/heroines of fiction? Arya Stark, Stephen Maturin, Good Soldier Schweik

Who are your favorite anthropologists? Anne Pyburn, Sidney Mintz, Michael Jackson, Orvar Lofgren, Zora Neale Hurston

Click here for the hour-long Richard Wilk interview. Click here for Richard Wilk’s author page.

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Trumping the Farmers, Taxing the Junk Food, Regulating the Milk, and More: World Food Policy Roundup


By Kelly Alexander

In the US: Farmers voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, and to thank them he addressed the American Farm Bureau Federation conference in Nashville. “Oh, are you happy you voted for me,” he said.” Watch Trump’s address (note the toned-down critique of NAFTA, which many farmers support); in the world: Should global food policy take inspiration from new “junk food taxes” in Hungary and Mexico? Researchers find that such taxes can positively affect habits;  in South Asia: A study of milk production in Nepal shows that compliance with global standards of food safety conflicts with labor and humanitarian practices in the developing world–so far intentions are good, but milk is still bad;  in Europe: an impassioned op-ed argues for Ireland to continue to be a player against worldwide malnutrition by prioritizing its foreign policy accordingly; mobilizing biopower for good or political opportunism? You decide.

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Food Swamps, Homeopathy, Healthy Soil, and Airplane Food: A New U.S. Food Policy Roundup

Unknown-2By Kelly Alexander

Happy New Year and without further ado, here’s the state of U.S. food policy on this second day of 2018: Special United States Edition. In the news now: Small-scale family farms are in limbo as the Trump administration backs away from NAFTA negotiations; a groundbreaking new proposal in the California General Assembly would legalize the selling of home-cooked foods and meals as a way of empowering immigrant and minority community cooks; menu labeling is coming to all American-based airlines in May 2018, but until then you can learn more about who serves what in the friendly skies; Michael Jacobson, newly retired executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, opines extensively about the governmental interventions he believes are necessary for a healthier American diet; you know about “food deserts” but do you know about food swamps—they’re just as much a part of the obesity epidemic, according to a new study; in the coming year the FDA vows to “crack down” on homeopathic remedies in response to increasing consumer safety concerns; finally, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says healthy soil is important to healthy food and wants to revamp the wetland determination process (maybe by paying farmers).


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green apple earthAhead of the upcoming AAA annual meeting, here’s a roundup of food and policy news from around the globe: In Brazil, an innovative yet controversial new flour made from freeze-dried leftover surplus food receives a blessing from Archbishop of São Paulo. In Ethiopia, legislators are preparing that country’s first-ever national food and nutrition policy;  the stated goal is to improve malnutrition and stunted growth among mothers and children and is in response to a national demographic health survey. In the U.S., Food Policy Action released its scorecard on Congressional activity around food policy including a record of votes taken and bills introduced by Congress on “critically important food issues”; find out how your state did (and sorry, Alabama). Also: Sexual harassment survivors are now coming out against abuses in the restaurant industry; powerhouse New Orleans chef John Besh is embroiled in a series of abuse allegations. Finally, from the “food in nautical archaeology” archive comes newly excavated knowledge about what 17th century British sailors actually ate aboard their voyages (spoiler alert: it wasn’t all hardtack).

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Hot Topic: School Lunch Regulation

Kelly Alexander


Breaking news from the world of U.S. food policy: President Trump’s new ag secretary Sonny Perdue moves to loosen federal school lunch legislation, thereby slowing healthy food standards implemented under the Obama administration. The Atlanta Journal‘s politics blog does a great job covering the implications — Perdue is former governor of the state of Georgia. The Sacramento Bee‘s editorial section has a snarkier take. Prominent school lunch regulation advocate Bettina Elias Siegel argues that it may not be as bad as some fear on her blog The Lunch Tray. In fact, she argues in an article in the New York Times that what folks should be more concerned about are issues of lunch shaming. All food for thought, especially in terms of the intersection of biopolitics and the school cafeteria.



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The School Lunch Debate: Ethnographic Perspectives

Unknown-2The School Lunch Debate:
Ethnographic Perspectives on Education, Nutrition, and Culture

From parents to politicians, health care providers to business executives, anthropologists and many others have various reasons to ask: How does school food shape children- their health, education, and general well-being? The politics behind school food programs is rife with tensions between neoliberal approaches to government that seek to diminish public assistance programs and those who believe that all humans have a right to food and schools should be one of the first places of assistance. Beyond the physical body, school food also has the potential to play a critical role in education–shaping children’s engagement with the natural world, different cultures, and the school curriculum.

This panel seeks to explore the different ways in which anthropologists are looking at how school food programs throughout the globe shape children’s lives. It also examines the ways in which government policies about nutrition and education play out in the cafeteria. From the children’s behavior in the lunchroom and classroom to the preparation of food in school kitchens and what kids bring to school in lunch bags, this panel will present new perspectives on food consumed at schools.

We invite papers that use ethnographic methods to shed new light on current debates about school food. Whether focused on the nutritional or educational outcomes or on the sourcing and sustainability of school food, we encourage participants that focus on understudied areas of school food—for example, taste education, cultural diversity, food in school curriculum, the intersection of biopolitics and nutrition, policy outcomes, allergies, eating disorders, the role of agro-food industries in feeding children, and the work of chefs. 

We are looking for 2-3 more papers for this session. Please send your abstract to Rachel Black by Wednesday, April 12, if you are interested in participating in this panel.


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AAA CFP: Environmental Worlds

fruit-seller-776158_640Call for Papers
AAA Annual Meeting
11/ 29-12/ 3, 2017
Washington, D.C.
Environmental Worlds: Between Craft and Emergence
Organizers: Mackenzie Cramblit (Duke) and John Moran (Stanford)
Discussant: TBD
How do environments matter, and how do they matter us? This panel proposes to consider engagements with environments as properly world-making practices. Planting and leveling forests, preserving and eradicating species, constructing dams, spraying pesticides, building strip malls, picking mushrooms, dumping toxic waste, cleaning houses: by working in, on, and with environments, human beings also give rise to the atmospheres – or environmental worlds – that in turn work on all of us (Choy and Zee 2015). The topic of this panel is precisely the interplay between the artful, a/im/moral, and frequently destructive labor of environmental craft, and the necessarily excessive (Bataille 1988) quality of environments themselves: the ways that they surprise, transcend, and overwhelm us. Thus, we propose to consider environmental world-making as a creative process (Bergson 1937; Pandian 2015; McLean 2009) of multiple, ambiguous, and always more-than-human (Whatmore 2006) unfoldings.

Environments are constituted but also constituting worlds. It takes effort to design, build, and manage environments, but ultimately we are susceptible to the structures of this making. We experience environments not so much through disembodied abstractions of mastery and control (Haraway 1991; Traweek 1992; cf. Shapin and Schaffer 1985), but through sensorial modalities of surrender, immersion, and absorption (Brennan 2004; Hayward 2010; Schüll 2012; Murphy 2006; Stewart 2011; Solomon 2016). While phenomenology has traditionally favored cognitive modes of perception, this panel seeks to reengage the full sensorium of worldly and embodied experience: not only discrete sensations like taste, touch, and sound (Basso and Feld 1996; Hayward 2012; Serres 2008; Stoller 1989) but also more ethereal and less articulate impressions of vibes, affect, and energy. Building on recent scholarship that stages the intersections of bodies and environments through the motif of multispecies  encounters (Haraway 2008; Kirksey 2014; Nading 2014; Ogden 2011; Paxson 2012; Tsing 2015), this panel seeks to evoke the qualities, sensations, and moods that emerge within such entanglements.

We invite ethnographic papers that engage the “conjectures, trials, and difficult lessons” of crafting and dissolving within “a larger universe beyond the human” through attention to image and sensation, rhythm and tempo, desire, light, color, and other qualities (Pandian 2015). Of course this is not a uniquely celebratory occasion: atmospheres are quite often deadly in their liveliness, and we particularly welcome submissions whose stories dwell in that ambiguity. In using the term environment generously here, we hope to inspire you to offer your own interpretations, and to initiate a broader conversation about the analytic purchase of “environmental” thinking.

Please submit your 250-word abstract to Mackenzie and John by 5 p.m. on April 9, 2017. We will notify those who have been selected by 5 p.m. on April 10.

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New Interim Student Rep

Kelly Alexander
Duke University

Dear SAFN members: For the last three years, I have enjoyed the sense of community that Kelly Zuster Agnesleaps off the screen along with the scholarship on this blog. That’s why I’m pleased to introduce myself as the interim SAFN student rep. Qualifying me for this role are the years I spent as a food journalist (I was an editor at Food & Wine and Saveur, and have written about food for other consumer publications) and the three years I’ve spent as a doctoral student in Cultural Anthropology at Duke, where I study materiality and its entanglements with affect. My articles about food traditions and obsessions cover everything from a long-forgotten food writer who codified “American” cuisine to the significance of colorful Fiestaware plates for cooks in the South. My current research is on still-edible food waste in the EU; I work in the kitchen of an haute cuisine restaurant, in a soup kitchen, and in a food bank. In my new role for SAFN, I have three objectives:

– liaise with student members and give voice to their concerns
– coordinate student activities at the ASFS and AAA conferences.
– contribute to this blog and invite other students to do so

In the coming weeks you’ll hear even more from me about those objectives. For now, two requests:

If you’re a student: I’d love to encourage folks to submit proposals for AAA as soon as possible—this way our program committee can help place papers with panels.: If you have a paper, we’ll try to place you—I’m a pretty good matchmaker.

If you’re a senior scholar: Wouldn’t you like to invite a grad student to participate in your panel? Variety, youth, they’re both great additions. Please let us know so we can help pair you with just the right junior scholar.

For all: I’m here to explore the possibility of poster sessions and mentoring/networking events. If you’d like to see some of those, especially if you’d like to participate, please let me know soonest. Non-traditional sessions and events for our members would be most welcome.

Questions? Concerns? Email me, I’d love to hear from you.

P.S. A few random facts about myself: I live in Chapel Hill, NC, with my partner and young sons; things I like include dirty martinis, sour cherries, spicy Sichuan soft-shell crabs, M.F.K. Fisher, and Sidney Mintz.


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