Category Archives: feminism

Black Women’s Food Work is from the Future

Ashanté M. Reese, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Spelman College

 When I think about being a Black girl from the future, my mind goes to the contradiction that many Black girls and women encounter which is that we are often simultaneously hyper visible and invisible at the same time – Renina Jarmon

Black women are not seen as authorities in the kitchen or elsewhere in matters of food—culturally, politically, and socially—and when she dares to be, she may be described in reviews as “angry” or “not angry enough.” She is rendered absent, and made invisible by the continued salience of intersecting vectors of disempowerment: race/gender/class/sexuality. Or in the absolute worst cases she is confronted—face-to-face and in social media outlets—with a “how dare she” attitude because she does not, will not, cannot conform to a prescribed role of Black women who work with, as banal as it sounds, food (Nettles-Barcélon et al. 2015:35)

If there is to be a future where the food system is safe, equitable, and healthy how will we get there?

On March 30th, the newly launched Food Studies Program at Spelman College hosted a symposium on Food Justice featuring three Black women activists and scholars who work to improve the food system and health of communities in various parts of the country.  The symposium was clear in its purpose: to not only interrogate the successes and limits of food justice but to also highlight the work of Black women that is often invisible, ignored, or co-opted.

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Monica White, PhD in the field in Mississippi

I left the symposium feeling energized and challenged by the panelists and the audience. I also left with questions. How do we contend with the hypervisibility of Black women’s association with obesity on the one hand and the lack of visibility concerning Black women’s activist, artistic, and academic expertise in food production, preparation and writing on the other?  Nettles-Barcélon et al. provide a framework—Black women’s food work as critical space—for understanding how the future of the food system is deeply intertwined with the food work produced by Black women and the barriers that attempt to curtail that work. They argue that because Black women are positioned as both speakers for “the other” while also being Othered, their food work is not simply necessary but critical in the dismantling of an oppressive food system that consistently denies equal access to Othered bodies from which corporations profit.

From the scholarly world to on-the-ground organizing, Black women ask difficult questions, put their reputations and bodies on the line, and demonstrate a Black feminist food future attuned to a far-off world in which we are all free.  This future is currently being written in the scholarly works about Fannie Lou Hamer and the Freedom Farms Cooperative (White 2017), increasing visibility of Black women vegans outside the normative gaze (Harper 2010), and analyses of Black women’s agency, power and entrepreneurship in the context of stereotypes-turned-metaphors (Williams-Forson 2006). It is engaged with dismantling an unjust and unequal industrialized food system at the nexus of racial justice under the Movement for Black Lives. It is on the front lines on the Fight for $15. It is being built everyday on urban farms, in community gardens, in nonprofit organizations, and in classrooms where Black women’s labor contribute to everyday resistances.  It is present in intergenerational storytelling and cross-institutional relationship building. This work is generated from a simultaneous engagement with the past, the present, and a future where the dialectical hypervisibility and invisibility that Black women experience no longer exists.

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Community Member Supporting Urban Ag in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Ashanté Reese)

In the sixth episode of season two of the WGN series Underground, Harriet Tubman—played by Aisha Hinds—delivers a passionate, hour-long speech to abolitionists who are at odds about how to move forward on the question of eradicating slavery. After detailing parts of her own journey to freedom and commitment to others’ freedom, she declared:

There ain’t no negotiations on freedom. I spent all my time knowing things instead of believing them. And that’s the first step to being free. When you can see past all the things that you know and believe something better.

Black women’s food work is often informed by an embodied knowing that it is difficult—if not impossible—to negotiate from the duality of hypervisibility and invisibility. Instead, this food work is rooted in a belief in something beyond. It is not simply a substance of things hoped for or the evidence of things not seen (see Hebrews 11:1 for biblical reference). No. Black women’s food work is the critical space from which the world we want to see is being built.  Black women’s food work is, indeed, from the future.

 

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Filed under anthropology, feminism, food, food activism, food systems, foodways

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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Filed under anthropology, CFP, feminism, Food Studies, gender