Category Archives: anthropology

Review: What’s So Controversial about Genetically Modified Foods?

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two reviews I have planned of this important new book.

What’s So Controversial about Genetically-Modified Foods? John Lang. Reaktion Publishers. 2016

Jacket Image

Ellen Messer (Tufts U)

On October 30, 2016 the Sunday NYT ran a large front-page article on the failed promises of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), which have yet to demonstrate significant productivity gains or pesticide reductions for food producers and arguably raise risks of health or environmental harms for everyone.  Without argument, the increase in GMO seeds and related agronomic management practices have put more control over agriculture and the food supply into the hands of a few large and ever more concentrated ag-industry players and thereby reduced farmer and consumer leverage over their food resources.  As food and nutrition anthropologists are well aware, food is basic to social, cultural, and biological life, and therefore of utmost concern to most people.  It is in this context that increasing industry dominance over the food supply, intellectual property rights over genes and consumers’ lack of trust or trustworthy information about food have become the hottest food controversies in the US and many other places.  For proponents, GMOs symbolize that great possibilities science and technology plus global corporate management systems offer for improving agricultural efficiency and effectively reaching growing populations with nourishing food.  For opponents, by contrast, GMOs are symbolic of scientific arrogance and corporate greed; they encapsulate all that is wrong with twenty-first century, un-sustainable, unhealthy, and environmentally destructive food systems.  

Most non-experts are confused; they wonder what to believe about the claims and counter-claims regarding the health and safety of GMOs, including whether they should be embraced or banned.  This small-format volume, in 139 short pages of text, sorts out the major controversies surrounding genetically-modified (GM) foods that since the late 1980s have been “remaking the global food system.” The author, a sociologist, argues that GM foods epitomize the risks that industrial, Big Ag and Big Food control over world food systems pose to sustainable food systems. A virtue of these controversies is that, in the best of all possible worlds, they awaken consumers, producers, marketers, and regulators to the challenges of ensuring healthy and sustainable diets and food supplies now and in the future.  The most pressing issues concern climate and environmental change (including degraded soils, scarcer clean water, reductions in biodiversity), inequitable access to nutritious food, and poorer nutritional choices with harmful health consequences.  These elevated risks are connected to the economics and politics of food and agriculture, which find increasing concentration and vertical corporate control over globally integrated food-value chains from farm to fork. Anti-GM positions assert that solutions must be tied to greater citizen awareness, activism, and actions that can hold the private corporate sector accountable. Pro-GM advocates similarly call for greater citizen understanding of GM crops and foods to reduce unwarranted fears and anxieties. These issues need even more urgent attention in an era of rapid scientific and technological change, which includes genetic engineering of plants, animals, and foods that no longer fit the definition of GM because gene-editing (CRISPR technique) does not involve transfer of foreign genes between species, but instead re-arranges the organism’s own genetic make-up to eliminate unwanted and enhance desirable products or characteristics.

The focus on GM as opposed to the underlying issues, Lang argues, undermines attention to these essential core concerns, which he summarizes in four chapters: (1) “The Illusion of Diversity,” (2) Intellectual Property: Protection or Overreaching?” (3) “Scary Information? Labelling and Traceability,” (4) “Scientific Fallibility: Contested Interests and Symbolic Battles.”  The final chapter (5) articulates “the tension between idealism and doom” that characterizes social and cultural responses to perceived threats of the public’s loss of control over their food, which is basic to human biological, social, and cultural life.  He suggests that “getting back on track” will require all players in these controversies to attend to the real and present dangers, instead of flash points and conflicting self-interests.  

These immediate and longer-term threats include chemical pollution in agriculture; scarcities of land, water, and fertility in areas that should be producing food for local people to eat; and the need to have genetic and pest-response resources in place for the changes already taking place in the context of environmental and climate change.  This final chapter articulates the well-known “systems” adage that would-be correction of one factor in the food system usually raises another of equal or greater concern (e.g., conservation tillage reduces run-off and soil erosion but increases soil-surface phosphorus concentrations that can pollute waterways, raise algal blooms and cause fish die-offs).  It also homes in on the lack of consumer trust in those promoting or regulating GM foods, a focus that serves as a substitute for their more general lack of understanding and distrust of expert scientists and the government officials who oversee food safety.

Lang, who at the end admits to holding a “neutral” position on GM foods, sees the GM controversies as a chance to address the underlying inequalities in production and distribution, the lack of democratic control over food systems, and the challenges of global environmental and political-economic change.  Only through greater consumer education and activism, based on more transparent food systems, can more sustainable approaches to healthy nourishment and agricultural environments address these pressing challenges.   These generalizations, with supporting information carefully organized into focused chapters are the volume’s strength.  The lack of complete scientific clarity in accounts is the volume’s weakness. Its weaknesses are inadequate communication of the science and technology; the text misses the mark by not emphasizing that, despite no surprising findings of impaired health or unexpected environmental consequences (i.e., co-evolution of pests and higher applications of herbicides were anticipated) all future GM products must be evaluated for the new risk factors they introduce.   

As a bio-cultural anthropologist who has been tracking agricultural biotechnology since its beginnings, I found the introductory explanation of the GM process, which the author attempted to simplify, overly technical and unduly difficult for non-scientists to understand. His presentations of the major GM scientific publications and public-relations controversies were either incomplete or misleading.  For example, the Cornell study that showed Bt-corn-pollen-kills-monarch-butterflies was controversial because the scientists presented known, uncontroversial information (that Bt-corn pollen, if consumed by butterfly larvae, will interfere with their feeding so that they die) but did not clarify the risk that the pollen would be present and persistent on the milkweed, the preferred food-source of butterfly larvae that feed at the edge of GM cornfields. Lang summarized the controversy surrounding the findings of organ damage to experimental rats fed GM modified potatoes carrying a pesticidal protein.  He pointed out that Pusztai, the researcher who reported these scary findings to the media, not to his scientific colleagues for peer review, lost his job and professional standing, an outcome that Lang contrasts with the Cornell researchers, who were able to continue their work because they acknowledged the additional studies that might be required.  But Lang missed the opportunity to enlighten readers more about scientific method and standards of evidence, based on replication and verification of contested studies, which in the Pusztai case apparently never happened.  On the science and public—and  professional—opinion management, food and nutrition anthropology courses would be better served by a selected set of articles, beginning with Glen Stone’s “Both Sides Now” regarding polarizations, more recent writings by him and his students, and updates to my own writings on “food systems” analysis of ag-biotech, and country- and crop-specific case studies comparing, say, Food First’s (Institute for Food and Development Policy) and Monsanto’s treatment of the same issues.

Agricultural biotechnologies and genetically-engineered crops and foods are, furthermore, a moving target.  Already, the specific cases of industrial mergers and acquisitions are out of date.  Monsanto is not buying Syngenta, but is under purchase and sale scrutiny regarding its acquisition by the German firm, Bayer.  Syngenta now is under scrutiny in a proposed merger with Chem China.  The gene-editing techniques introduced by CRISPR promise to thoroughly revolutionize molecular breeding of crops, which use their own DNA without GM gene transfers, and so will be subject to a different regulatory apparatus.  China is positioning itself to be the largest player in molecular-based breeding and crop developments.  

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a major facilitator in transferring technologies to the Third World and paying for transparent and trustworthy communications in the First World.  The book’s appendix on “organizations” lists seven sources of information (Codex Alimentarius, Council on Biotechnology Information, FAO, Greenpeace International, ISAAA, the non-GMO Project, and WHO).  Superior, up-to-date resources can be found on the U.S. National Research Council’s Genetically-Engineered Crops (2016) interactive website https://nas-sites.org/ge-crops/, which is searchable. An hour-long seminar presented by one of the NRC panel’s participants, Tim Griffin, clearly summarizes the findings, showing risks and benefits (no health or safety issues—yet; and no demonstrable intrinsic improvements in basic-commodity crop yields). It also emphasizing the need for constant vigilance (abstract and video available on-line at: https://nutrition.tufts.edu/event/2016-10-05/friedman-seminar-tim-griffin).  Another place to follow technical developments is Cornell University’s (pro-GM) “Genetic Literacy Project” (access at: https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org ). Cornell also posts (free) on-line course websites, where issues can be studied along with the blogs of their anti-GM respondents, e.g., http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/05/cornell-faculty-refuse-to-defend-gmo-crops/ ).  

These sources ably cover the science-technology issues, but there is no comparable university or government website neutrally analyzing the social and ethical concerns.  The social and ethical issues, to the extent that they are discussed, relate more to human than food-crop genome-editing.  New CRISPR techniques promise to revolutionize crops tailored to hazardous environments and particular health risks.  New start-ups are endeavoring to engineer multiple components of soil micro biomes or mobilize a plant’s own genetic resources against pests or environmental perturbations.  But what are the implications for production and distribution of food crops that might reach those who are most vulnerable to higher temperatures and sea levels, undernourishment, and insecure livelihoods? In what ways might the priorities and products of genetic engineering improve equitable access to the nutritious foods particular peoples need and want to eat?  Do particular hungry places require genetically-engineered crops? Or do they need more democracy and socioeconomic access to land and livelihoods, that are being undermined by the very processes of globalization associated with GMOs?   It is this social-ethical gap in understanding that Lang’s book tries to fill. 

This is the second entry in the “Food Controversies” series edited by Andrew F. Smith, who authored the first contribution: Fast Food. The Good, the Bad, and the Hungry.  Responses to these writings can be productive and instructive, even or especially where one encounters inadequacies.

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Conference Report: 6th annual Asian Food Study Conference, Kusatsu, Japan

While there are many conferences of potential interest to food anthropologists, last weekend (December 3-4, 2016), I attended a conference that I found particularly useful and inspiring: the 6th annual Asian Food Studies Conference.

This is a conference that attracts historians, nutritionists, anthropologists, and researchers from fields like hospitality and tourism. The diverse presentation topics included these titles: “Chinese Ancient Food Culture Implied in Oracle-bone inscriptions” (Cheng Xuerong), “The Comprehensive Discourse on Edible Flowers in Pre-modern China” (Liu Jun Li), “Plagiarism and Originality: Focused on the Study of Modern Printed Cookbooks in Early 20th Century Korea” (Ra Yeon-jae), “Nutrition Education Affects the Use of an Escalator and Elevator to Reach a Women’s College on a Hilltop” (Ishihara Kengo and Takaishi Tetsuo), and “Beyond the ‘Super Shark’ Myth: Promoting Sustainable Shark Foodways in Japan and Asia” (Akamine Jun).

What really impressed me, however, was the true sense of internationalism evident at the conference. The conference’s venue changes every year. Last year the conference was held in Shangdong, China, this year in Kusatsu, Japan (hosted by Ritsumeikan University), and next year the conference venue will be in Korea. There are presentations in multiple languages (this year: Chinese, Japanese, and English). The first day’s keynote speeches, one in each language, were translated into the other two. But beyond this, the conference theme—Exchange and Dynamism of Food Culture in Asia—encouraged presentations of research that was itself transdisciplinary and transnational, with a mission toward forging connections and sharing knowledge.

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Takagi Hitoshi explaining how the Miskito categorize and use different parts of the sea turtles they hunt.

Let me give some examples. One of the panels on the first day included presenters from Malaysia, the Philippines, the US, Bulgaria, and Korea. All of the research on this panel had an obvious transnational component. A key example of such a project would be Korean scholar Ja Young Choe’s (Hong Kong Polytechnic University) research on the relative popularity of various Asian cuisines (Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indian—in that order) in Hong Kong. On the second day Francoise Sabban’s research on the culinary perceptions of French and Chinese diplomats and envoys in the 19th century, Takagi Hitoshi’s observations from fieldwork conducted among the sea turtle hunting Miskito of the Caribbean, and Osawa Yoshimi’s probing of the simultaneous global appeal of umami and distrust of MSG are other examples.

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SAFN member Shingo Hamada describing traditional foodways–fishy and fermented–in Fukui prefecture, Japan.

Representing SAFN at the conference, Shingo Hamada presented new research on obstacles to commoditizing traditional fermented foods in Japan’s contemporary Fukui prefecture and I explained how Kyoto cuisine has benefited from international support (collaborators, promoters, funders) and resources (ingredients, ideas, technology) from far outside of Japan.

Next year, the conference will be hosted in South Korea. I heartily recommend attending to anyone interested in the topics of transnationalism, food, and Asia.

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ASFS Student Paper Awards

Students! Check out these awards for undergraduate and graduate essays from the Association for the Study of Food and Society. These are great opportunities for fame and recognition. If you have been studying and writing about food and have an essay, you should submit it. A brief summary is below, along with a link to the web site with complete details on how to apply. The deadline is February 1, 2017.

The ASFS invites current undergraduate and graduate students to submit a paper for the William Whit (undergraduate) and Alex McIntosh (graduate) prizes, respectively. These awards recognize students’ contributions to the field of food studies. There will be one award each for an undergraduate student paper and a graduate student paper. ASFS welcomes submissions on a wide range of issues relating to food, society and culture, and from the diverse disciplinary and trans-disciplinary fields that ASFS encompasses. The author of each award-winning paper will receive:

  • $500
  • payment of annual membership and conference fees to be applied to the following year if student is not attending in the current year
  • a free banquet ticket for the coming year’s annual meeting or the following year’s if a ticket has already been purchased or the student is not attending the conference in the current year; and
  • the opportunity to present prize-winning papers at an ASFS/AFHVS conference. Winners who wish to present the year they receive their award must have submitted a conference abstract in that same year.

Please note

  • Authors are highly encouraged to simultaneously submit an abstract to the ASFS/AFHVS conference by the conference deadline. Conference organizers cannot add your paper to an already completed program; you MUST submit an abstract by the deadline.
  • Prize winning papers may be presented at an ASFS/AFHVS conference within two years of award. Those prize winners who submit a conference abstract in the subsequent two years, should indicate their award status (year and name of award) with the abstract.
  • Prize winners may also postpone their registration and banquet ticket use for one year following the award.

Deadline for Annual Submission (all required material): February 1. NO Exceptions! Electronic submissions ONLY!

For complete details, visit this site.

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What FoodAnthro is Reading Now, December 5, 2016

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

This past week, Peng Chang-Kuei, the inventor of General Tso’s chicken, died at aged 98:

As Hunanese chefs adopted General Tso’s chicken, the dish entered a strange second career. In a sweeping act of historical revisionism, it came to be seen as a traditional Hunan dish. Several Hunanese chefs have described it in their cookbooks as a favorite of the 19th-century general’s.

The end of the year is fast approaching, which means it’s already time to look back on food in 2016. Forbes tells us about 5 trends to look for in 2017. The Guardian reviews a few of the best food books of 2016, though they are mainly recipe-focused. I’m sure there’ll be more digests looking back at our food year– let us know if you see a good one.

Here’s an article reporting on divided U.S. food attitudes, basically dividing Americans into two distinct camps, which I’m not sure our readers would be quite so ready to do:

“Food has become a flashpoint in American culture and politics,” the researchers wrote in their report, released Thursday. “The way Americans eat has become a source of potential social, economic and political friction.”

For personal inspiration, we loved this story about using paying customers to support non-paying customers:

“The inspiration came from Pope Francis, who’s spoken again and again about the importance of giving people dignity, whether it’s through bread or through work,” said Father Ángel.

Haddad, Hawkes and colleagues wrote about creating a new research agenda for food. We think it gave a lot of space for the work of food anthropologists:

Pairings of single foods and diseases are the basis of risk-factor analysis in global burden studies, but tell us little about diets as a whole.

Do you have readings we missed? Let us know!

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CFP: Feminist Food Studies: Exploring Intersectionality

Yet another call for abstracts that will no doubt be of great interest to readers of FoodAnthropology:

EDITED COLLECTION CALL FOR ABSTRACTS

FEMINIST FOOD STUDIES: EXPLORING INTERSECTIONALITY

What might a feminist, intersectional analysis bring to food studies? Intersectionality (Crenshaw 1989; hooks, 1992) pushes food scholars, activists, students, and community members to situate interconnected social identities such as gender, race/ethnicity, social class, age, body size, able–‐bodiedness, sexual identity and difference as these overlap through discursive power and social structures to shape food practices (Williams–‐Forson, & Wilkerson, 2011; Brady et. al., 2016; Sachs, & Patel–‐Campillo, 2014; Sachs et. al., 2014; Heldke, 2013; Harper, 2010; Williams–‐Forson, 2006; Inness, 2006; Thompson, 1996). Feminist food studies scholars have begun to take up intersectionality as a way of better understanding the cultural, economic, political, social, spiritual, relational, and emotional aspects of food and eating. Cairns & Johnston (2015) remind us that embedded within intersectional analyses, there are multiple femininities constructed through gendered food practices. Julier (2005) suggests that a feminist food studies needs to theorize women’s experiences of the interconnections between food consumption and production practices, particularly as the construction of difference and inequality are centrally located in the convergences of the social relations constructed through these practices (pg. 164). Moreover, others have identified the need to consider how women’s experiences of embodiment and identity overlap with their participation and labour in alternative and agri–‐food systems, through paid work and unpaid caring work or food provisioning, and through their engagement with public health nutrition and representations of food in relation to gender, race, class and the body.

Feminist Food Studies: Exploring Intersectionality aims to pull together current scholarship that engages with intersectionality, as theoretical approach, epistemology, methodology, or method, in the emergent area of feminist food studies. We seek to address questions such as: how might a feminist, intersectional framework enhance, enliven, and advance food studies? How might feminist intersectionality inform the movement for food justice in ways that bring to light the complexities of doing this work locally, nationally, and internationally? What might feminist, intersectional analyses of food systems and food 2 practices, bring to the mainstream food studies table? How do feminist food studies scholars differ in their pedagogical, methodological, and epistemological approaches from traditional or mainstream food studies around the world? What work has already been accomplished by feminist food scholars globally? What areas have yet to be addressed? In what innovative, creative, and radical directions might feminist food studies lead the scholarship of food, eating, and the body in the future?

Feminist Food Studies: Exploring Intersectionality, will feature papers that highlight current empirical research and feminist theorizing using an intersectional lens in the emergent area of feminist food studies. The Edited Collection will be international in scope and thus, we welcome a range of papers that examine food and intersectionality in all its complexity, broadly represented through the thematic areas of the socio–‐cultural, the material and the embodied or corporeal domains (Allen & Sachs, 2007).

Possible areas for submission include:

  • Intersectionality as a methodological approach or as method in food studies
  • Theorizing intersectionality through social identities such as race, ethnicity, gender, social class, age, sexualities, disabilities
  • Feminist Intersectional pedagogies in food studies
  • Femininities / masculinities
  • Embodiment including fat studies, or critical ‘obesity’ studies
  • Health as an embodied social practice
  • Ecofeminist perspectives and critical animal studies
  • Indigenous food systems and relationships
  • Material feminism
  • Food systems
  • Food security and food sovereignty
  • Women and agriculture / farming

Deadline for proposals: February 28, 2017

Deadline for full papers: June 30, 2017

Anticipated Publication: 2018

Please submit abstracts to: feministfoodstudies@gmail.com

References:

Allen, P. & Sachs, C. (2007). Women and Food Chains: The Gendered Politics of Food, International Journal of Sociology and Food, 15(1), pp. 1–‐23. http://www.ijsaf.org/contents/15–‐1/allen/index.html

Brady, J., Gingras, J., & Power E. (2016). Still Hungry: A Feminist Perspective on Food, Foodwork, the Body and Food Studies, in Mustafa Koc, Jennifer Sumner, & Anthony Winson, (eds.), Critical Perspectives in Food Studies, (2nd ed.), pp. 185–‐204, Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.

Cairns, K. & Johnston, J. (2015). Food and Femininity, London, New Delhi, New York & Sydney: Bloomsbury Academic Press.

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics, The University of Chicago Legal Forum, (140), pp. 139–‐167. http://philpapers.org/rec/CREDTI

Julier, A. P. (2005). Hiding Gender and Race in the Discourse of Commercial Food Consumption, in Arlene Voski Avakian & Barbara Haber (Eds.), From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies: Critical Perspectives on Women and Food, pp. 163–‐184. Amherst & Boston: University of Massachusetts Press.

Harper, B. (2010). Social Justice Beliefs and Addiction to Uncompassionate Consumption, in A. Breeze Harper (ed.), Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society, pp. 20–‐41, Brooklyn, New York: Lantern Books.

Heldke, L. (2013). Let’s Cook Thai: Recipes for Colonialism, in Carole Counihan and Penny Van Estrrik (Eds.), Food and Culture: A Reader, (3rd ed.), pp. 394–‐408, New York & London: Routledge.

hooks, B. (1992). Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance, Black Looks, Race and Representation, Boston: South End Press.

Inness, S. A. (2006). Secret Ingredients: Race, Gender & Class at the Dinner Table, New York: Palgrave Macmillon.

Sachs, C., & Patel–‐Campillo, A. (2014). Feminist Food Justice: Crafting a New Vision, Feminist Studies, 40(2), pp. 396–‐410. http://jstor.org/stable/10.15767/feministstudies.40.2.396

Sachs, C., Allen, P., Terman, R. A., Hayden, J. & Hatcher, C. (2014). Front and Back of the House: Social–‐spatial food inequalities in food work, Agriculture & Human Values, 31(1), pp. 3–‐ 17. http://philpapers.org/rec/SACFAB

Thompson, B. (1996). A Hunger So Wide and So Deep: American Women Speak Out on Eating Problems, Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press.

Williams–‐Forson, P. & Wilkerson, A. (2011). Intersectionality and Food Studies, Food, Culture & Society, 14(1), pp. 7–‐28. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2752/175174411X12810842291119

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CFP: FOOD IN CANADA AND BEYOND

We recently received notification of the looming deadline (January 15, 2017) for this conference, which may be of interest to SAFN members and FoodAnthropology readers.

The Canadian Association for Food Studies (CAFS) will host its twelfth annual assembly at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, May 27–30, 2017, in conjunction with the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Canada has immense food-systems resources and capabilities. Endowed with natural capital, informed by indigenous peoples and waves of immigrants, Canadian food systems continue to evolve in response to domestic and global challenges, such as food security, health and nutrition, food safety, climate change, and environmental degradation. Such evolutions contribute to shaping Canadian identities.

The 2017 conference invites a variety of submissions that examine how community, collaboration and complexity shape Canadian identities and Canada’s food systems and food movements. We are especially interested in submissions that examine food and its relationships with health, the environment, the arts and humanities, gender, indigenous peoples, education, security, public policy as well as how the roles of civil society, government, and business have an impact on food systems in Canada and the global context. Consistent with CAFS’ interests and mandate to promote multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship across multiple facets of food systems, we welcome a diverse array of submissions.
Presentation types:
– Standard Fare
– Themed Panels
– Pedagogy Matters
– Pecha Kucha
– Cookbook & Poster Displays
Submission areas may include, but are not limited to:
– food systems: local and global, past and present
– culture and cultural studies
– discipline-specific and interdisciplinary research
– art, design, and technology
– ethics, philosophy, and values
– food access, security, and sovereignty
– migration, immigration, diaspora and transnational community studies
– cultural, agricultural, and culinary preservation and innovation
– governance, policy, and rights
– pedagogy, food education, and/or experiential learning
– labour in the food system, production, consumption
– energy and agriculture
– health: opportunities, problems, paradigms, and professions
– business and management
Other Opportunities:
– Award for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in Food Studies
– Student Paper Award in Food Studies
– Exploration Gallery
For details and deadlines (the earliest one is January 15), please refer to our CFP guidelines.
For enquires, please email to assembly@foodstudies.ca.

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What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, November 30, 2016

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.

If we want to count the number of farms in the U.S., what should we count? Public policy and opinion thrive on analyses driven by big data these days, but it is increasingly clear that there are a lot of faulty assumptions behind the data. This article looks at the definition of farms and raises great questions about the definition of what counts. Ethnography might help…

While we are reading about farm and food policies, what might be the impact of a Trump administration crack down on immigration? Over at Civil Eats, Elizabeth Grossman provides this useful overview of a number of organizations and their views on this matter.

Also related to the incoming U.S. administration, Dan Nosowitz speculates about the candidates for Secretary of Agriculture over at Modern Farmer.

This may seem like something out of Sinclair Lewis’ novel “The Jungle,” but it appears that animal to human transmission of tuberculosis has become a significant problem in Africa. Anthropologist Lauren Carruth and her co-authors explore the issue – which includes drug-resistant strains of TB – in this article, which you can read here (if you subscribe to The Lancet) or here (if you do not).

The legal desegregation of public dining happened decades ago, but the reality of racial distinctions is still clear in fine dining all over America. In this elegantly-written piece, Maurice Carlos Ruffin explores his experiences of race and class in New Orleans dining and thinks about what that tells us about local and national culture. This article would really be useful in any number of classes.

Eating in diners has been an important part of New York City’s restaurant culture for a while, but that era may be coming to a close. In this essay, George Blecher explores what it means to be a regular in a New York diner.

With the recent death of Fidel Castro, it is interesting to think about some of the ways in which Cuba has been at the front of experiments in all kinds of social policies, including some related to food. In this article (which is a not recent, but we just read it), Christopher Cook looks at the rise of urban agriculture in Cuba in the wake of the demise of the Soviet Union and its support for Cuba.

Do black and white Americans have different culinary references? Listen to this interview with Donna Battle Pierce on KCRW’s “Good Food” about Freda DeKnight’s cookbook “A Date With A Dish,” which was a key part of many middle class African American household kitchens in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Are food deserts a result of bad supply or poor demand? In this article, Patrick Clinton looks at a recent study by an economist (which you can read more about here) that suggests that when poor people get more money, they do not choose higher quality foods. This is thought-provoking, but problematic, since it mostly leaves out any sense of history, culture, or taste. Low income people are hardly alone in the U.S. in making unhealthy food choices…demand seems like a weak explanation for that by itself. After all, where does demand come from?

Finishing on a lighter note (and inspired by an interview on KCRW’s “Good Food”), the Reverend Shawn Amos has a delightful series of blues performances available on his Youtube channel called The Kitchen Table Blues. He and his band appear in kitchens and near or in restaurants and perform blues. Sometimes food seems to be involved. Enjoy.

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