Food Art and Feminism. The Case of “Black Protests” in Poland
Agata Stronciwilk, Assistant Professor
In 2016 the ruling government party in Poland Law and Justice proceeded with the act that would tighten Poland’s already very restrictive abortion laws. This led to a strong social disapproval which resulted in the biggest social movement in Poland since the famous “Solidarity” protests in the 80′. Hundreds of thousands of Poles walked in the famous “Black Protests” to emphasize their disagreement with the project which prohibited abortion under any circumstances (including rape and serious medical issues). In my paper, I would like to concentrate on an exhibition that accompanied the “Black Protest” in Cracow in 2017. It was organized by artist Iwona Demko and curator Renata Kopyto. The exhibition was titled “Gastronomki” which could be translated as “She-Gastronomes”. The exhibition revolved around the topics related to food, power and feminity. Can food be a form of a protest? The artists discussed the stereotypes of “Polish mother” and looked at the kitchen as the space of both oppression and freedom. Artists who participated in the exhibition used food as a mean to speak about their anger, sadness, and fear. However, food was not only a medium of an emotional confession but also for a political statement. The artworks included in the exhibition proved that food “matters” – its symbolic and social significance make it a powerful medium that could be engaged in artistic practice.
The Invention of Authentic Food: Constructing Traditionality Through Ingredients and Matters
Alessandro Gerosa, Postdoctoral Researcher
The centrality of authenticity in contemporary food cultures has been argued by many relevant contributions from consumption, cultural and sociological studies (DeSoucey, 2010; Johnston & Baumann, 2014; Ocejo, 2017; Thurnell‐Read, 2019). This contribution analyses authenticity in food cultures through the epistemic lenses of “material-discursive” (Barad, 2003) or “material-semiotic” (Haraway, 1988) practises, drawing results from semi-structured interviews to forty bartenders and street food vendors in Milan (Italy). The aim is to develop a critical analysis of food authenticity concept analysing the intra-action (Barad, 2007) between discursive, material and technological practises happening between the worker, the food object and the context. Drawing on the results, we argue that the ingredients are the matter that confers the quality of ‘being authentic’ to the food object. Ingredients must have peculiar material features to frame the final product, at a discursive level, as ‘typical’ of a particular local tradition. They become a material vector that allows a semiotic synecdoche, translating the quality of a component to the entire product. The recognition of the quality of authenticity is contemporarily discursive (experienced connecting the ingredient to a local tradition) and material (experienced connecting the taste of the final product to peculiar features of the ingredient). At the same time, we argue that the analysis of the intra-action between the material and the discursive practises enable to critically de-naturalise authenticity, reading it as a ‘technicised myth’ (Jesi & Cavalletti, 2014), using ingredients to evoke a ‘genuine myth’ but converting it into to an ‘efficient zero’.
The Rejection of Mexican Quelites: A Study of Cultural Culinary Hegemony in Mexico
Alfonso Gomez Rossi (Professor) & Onassis Morales (Master’s Student)
Mexican gastronomic culture has been an important component of its national identity since it became an independent country in 1821. A nascent Mexican State began to associate foods and ingredients with what was understood as being a true Mexican. While there were foodstuffs that were celebrated because they demonstrated how Mexican a person was, there were other ingredients that were derided and hidden as bulwarks of a Prehispanic past that were viewed as barbaric by the Mexican authorities. The ingredients that caused a scandal for Mexican nationals were human meat, corn and amaranth, which were understood as ingredients involved in the Aztec human sacrifice. Aside from these ingredients that were deemed “dangerous” for their use in prehispanic religious ceremonies, there were other plants that grow along with the maize in the cornfields, and which were also rejected by the Spaniards for cultural reasons. These vegetables are called quelites and were rejected for Europeans did not have a culture of eating plants that grew in the wild. This belief eliminated the leafy herbs and plants that grew around the maize plants from the middle class and elites diets. This paper explores the history of quelites in the Mexican diet, why their consumption has been displaced by a Western culture that looks down on them and the cultural and culinary importance they have in the native Mexican population in Mexico.
Is There a Truth of The Matter? The Promise of Post-truth For Food Studies
Alissa Overend, Associate Professor
In questioning the dominant, normative discourses of health, Jonathan Metzl (2010) rhetorically asks, “How can anyone take a stand against health? What could be wrong with health? Shouldn’t we be for health?” (p. 1, emphasis in original). As a means of both disrupting and thinking differently about singular food truths commonly at the core of contemporary Western food debates, following Metzl (2010), I offer an analogous position against singular dietetic truths. How can anyone take a stand against truth? What could be wrong with truth? Shouldn’t we be for truth? In an age of increasingly polarized debates about what to eat (and not eat), the search for and maintenance of singular food truths, for me, is itself part of the problem. Too often, the obsession on singular dietetic truths fail to account for situational, relational, systemic, and structural contexts of eating and health that more directly affect health than any one micro- or macronutrient. I offer a questioning of what a post-truth framework can enable for food studies—What new critical questions might it enable? How might it encourage a re-thinking of the links between food and health? And how is it more reflective of the complex foodscapes we currently find ourselves in?
Eating for the Microbiome: From Fizzing Jars to Excel Sheets
Alexandra Widmer, Assistant Professor
This paper will examine the importance of the human microbiome, as scientific model, material presence and object of concern, in the food cultures of two particular groups clustered around caring for the gut microbiome. From ethnographic work with practitioners of food fermentation in Toronto, I will discuss their concern for microbes and their wonder at the alchemical transformation from tea and sugar to kombucha or the pounding of cabbage to release juices to facilitate microbial ecologies for beneficial fermentation. I contrast those materialities with the approach to food consumption discussed by direct to consumer microbiome test consumers. Here beneficial foods are entered on excel sheets of personalized advice and placed on fridge doors. Choosing correctly will allow the host’s body to become its best self. In each of these domains of practices of care for the microbiome, the paper will discuss how practices frame the materiality of ‘body’, ‘environment’ and ‘choice’ to as a way of understanding contemporary iterations of health, food cultures and uncertainty.
Ethnicity, Food and Music
Antti-Ville Kärjä, Professor
Music and food are surrounded by assumptions about cultural differences as well as about physical needs and pleasures. The notions of “ethnic food” and “ethnic music” circulate widely, suggesting there are also tastes and timbres that are not “ethnic”. Furthermore, the implication is that both food and music are capable of communicating ethnic qualities and even transcending the cultural boundaries associated with them. The presentation aims at interrogating the prefix “ethnic” in the context of food and music. By adopting an intersectional approach, at issue is how ethnicity becomes constructed in relation to racialisation, gender and generational dynamics. For example, how do ideas about blackness, femininity and youth intersect in relation to food and music? By approaching both food and music as multimodal forms of sensory cultures, the presentation deals with the epistemological materialities at stake and discusses the sensory realms and modalities on the basis of which knowledge about “ethnic” food and music is produced. The treatment is based on a multimodal discourse analysis of random online sources in their literary, pictorial and (where available) musical and audiovisual forms. The epistemological issues raised lead further to a critical examination of the dominance of sight both within academic disciplines and in societies in general. By concentrating on the multiple potential layers of meaning of a given instance of sensory culture in order to rethink people’s relationships to community, environment and power, the presentation advocates “democracy of the senses”.
Multimodal Interaction Between Food and Music
Anu Hopia, Professor
Producing, preparing and consuming food are multisensory acts where all five sensory modalities are involved. We commonly talk about “taste of food” although perceive it through visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile sensations before the actual tasting. The different modalities interact constantly; for instance, sight and scent influence the taste of food. The role of hearing in food perception is often ignored although the first scientific evidence of this interaction is already from the 1950s. A growing body of empirical evidence demonstrate that auditory cues – whether at issue are sounds arising from food or eating, or ambient soundscapes that are naturally present or intentionally constructed – have an influence on perception as well as liking of food. The connection between food and music often manifests itself implicitly. When describing either food or music, adjectives such as crisp, sweet, dry, light and soft are commonly used. Verbal associations can be translated also into musical patterns bitterness in music being low-pitched and legato, whereas musical expression of sweetness is characterized by consonance and slowness. The possible mechanisms underlying the auditory modulation of taste include crossmodal interactions between sound and taste, sensation or emotion transferences and synesthesia. This presentation discusses how correspondences between taste and sound can influence the perception of food and how music and soundscapes, both natural and intentionally constructed, can affect culinary experiences. This is exemplified by reference to an empirical study to where exposure to the “sweet” or “sour” musical pieces influence people’s food perception and food-related thinking processes and behaviors.
Food in the Times of COVID: Digital Ways of Sourcing, Preparing and Eating
Canadians were using food delivery apps and ordering their groceries online long before physical distancing measures were put in place due to the COVID19 pandemic. However, the increased reliance on these apps during lockdowns highlighted labour inequalities and corporate predatory practices. A handful of alternative apps emerged to support local restaurants and community initiatives, such as community fridges and meal donations for the significant amount of people left without an income and food insecure. Some tech-savvy chefs were able to generate some income by selling take-out meals or through cooking classes on Instagram or Zoom. Overall it seems people started cooking more as the lockdown continued, for example, baking and bread making became such trends that there was a flour shortage. As the year went on, people shared meals or drinks through video conferencing apps, and culinary knowledge was shared through social media platforms. Facebook groups on “pandemic cooking” were created to exchange recipes, tips and general cooking advice. Moreover, a few restaurants pivoted to selling “at home experiences”, while a handful of cultural associations and food festivals combined online events such as tastings, with take-out or meal kits, or posted recipes and video tutorials. This paper explores how Canadians share and access food through digital technologies, the effects of staying at home measures on their cooking habits, and the different food trends emerging during the pandemic.
‘From the Tapped Tree to Your Table’: Marketing Maple Syrup in Early 20th Century Canada
Brigit Ramsingh, Independent Researcher & Food Writer
Contemporary debates on sugar and its detrimental health effects have created new markets for seemingly healthier alternatives such as agave, honey and maple syrup. Maple syrup has become a favourite among clean eating proponents because it’s a source of anti-oxidants, zinc and manganese, and has a lower glycaemic index. Its purported benefits and material form, however, have shifted over time to mirror changing health and gastronomic concerns. In Canada, the marketing of maple syrup (originally sold in the form of sugar bricks) began in the early twentieth-century, led by cooperatives such as the Québec Maple Sugar Producers’ Society. Messaging featured the production process, flowing of sap, sugar bush and romance of ‘sugaring off’ parties, where the ‘amorous instincts of the budding youths’ would awaken. Despite rampant problems with adulteration, maple products were promoted as ‘pure’ sugar (compared to cheaper cane sugar), more calorific and a source of iron. By the 1930s, adverts appeared in magazines, displays at railway stations, and educational events in schools. It was advertised as the ‘safe sweet for children’ – safeguarded all the way ‘from the tapped tree to your table’. Women’s Institutes created recipes featuring maple blanc-mange, maple candied rice, and maple peanut brittle. Using an historical critical lens, this paper will focus on maple product marketing in early twentieth-century Canada, and how the materiality of maple syrup/sugar, particularly its safe and nutritious qualities, were used to position it as a product to be woven into the daily diets and social lives of Canadians.
“Another Discount, Garbage Grocery Store”: Food Inaccessibility as Gentrification Strategy
Cameron Butler, PhD Student
Food mirages describe gentrifying mixed-income neighbourhoods where low-income residents are unable to afford the numerous upscale food outlets in the area (Sullivan 2014). I argue that food mirages are purposefully cultivated as part of gentrification efforts. To explore this dynamic, I analyze the public conflicts that arose in the Junction Triangle, a rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood in Toronto, when parent company Metro Inc. backtracked on their initial plan to open a higher-end store Metro. The company opted instead to open a discount supermarket Food Basics because it better matched the lower average income level of the neighbourhood. Recently arrived luxury condominium residents, angry with the decision, responded by starting a petition, speaking to media outlets, and writing letters to the editor demanding the decision be reversed. Through these efforts, the wealthy residents articulated a clear understanding that increasing food accessibility ran contrary to their goals of neighbourhood ‘improvement’ because it would allow poorer residents to access affordable food options. By conducting a close reading of the petition comments and public discourse, I demonstrate how wealthy residents deploy the multiple, overlapping geographies of divergent food access both symbolically and materially. Symbolically, these geographies are claimed to reflect the neighbourhood’s supposed overall ‘quality’ and by extension the ‘proper’ residents that match said quality. Materially, wealthy residents remake these geographies to starve poorer residents out of the area. Thus, this paper exposes how food mirages do not simply happen, but rather gentrifying residents deliberately produce them in order to lay claim to neighbourhoods.
Both the Problem and the Solution: How the Actors of Istanbul’s Urban Food Supply Chain Understand Neoliberalism
Candan Turkkan, Assistant Professor
This paper analyzes how neoliberalism is utilized as a discursive tool among food production and distribution actors in the context of urbanizing Istanbul. Through semi-structured interviews, the paper discusses how each actor along the food supply chain (producers, intermediaries, government officials, multinational supermarkets, domestic supermarkets, neighborhood retailers, bazaar vendors and mobile vendors, civic associations, and producer-consumers of alternative food networks) understands neoliberalism, and how they position themselves in response to it. Paper argues that actors use neoliberalism to indicate both widely varying problems (relocation due to urban transformation, loss of sense of belonging and urban identity, logistic and infrastructural inadequacy in an expanding city), and equally wide ranging solutions (accumulation of capital, diversification of financing and sales opportunities, expansion of consumption preferences, transfer of technology). Paper concludes by pointing out that the ways in which neoliberalism is utilized as a discursive tool prevents agents from imagining political-economic alternatives to neoliberalism.
Fæces and Species: the Food We Eat, the Food We Produce, the Food We are
Danielle Wilde, Associate Professor
We cannot see microbes without specialist tools. Yet, our interactions with them shape who we are and how we live. We harness microbes to ferment foods. Their composition in the soil determines the nutritional health of much that we eat. The microorganisms in our gastrointestinal tract aid our digestion; can trigger contentment: satiation and comfortably passed stools; but also pain, distress, and in extreme moments of discord, death. Fæces and Species critically-engages with the complex terrain of human-microbe interrelations. The inquiry ranges through i) Shit!; ii) Shit, honey, soil and dert; and iii) bees and microbiomes, via carefully scripted procedures of collaboration, materialisation and self-experimentation—participatory frames for collectively examining food, materials, performativity and shit; transgressing disgust, cultural norms and taboo (re)examining our food engagements as multi-species assemblages. Microbes are invisible to the naked eye. They require faith in science, and unimaginable leaps of the imagination. Every person’s gut microbiome is distinctive. Taboo-ridden social discourses—around the shit we produce and our defecation practices—complicate human-microbe engagement. Fæces and Species opens up new ways of relating and responding to guts, shit, soil and microbes, by externalising—materially and discursively—what may be deemed abject, shameful, invisible, perhaps imaginary. The research makes visible the tentative nature of contemporary society’s connection to the microorganisms on which we rely. The objective is to empower people to navigate the trans-corporal interspecies assemblages that shape the food we eat, the food we produce and the food we are.
Probing Food and Power With Robotized Spoonfuls of Edible Paste
David Szanto (Teacher, Researcher & Writer) & Simon Laroche (Media Artist & Teacher)
Food, technology, and humans are entangled in a set of complex relationships that both produce and resist systems of power. Yet the specifics of these dynamics often remain hidden from view, whether in agroscience, cuisine, mobile apps, or other mediated contexts. In this paper, we present a reflexive analysis of Orchestrer la perte/Perpetual Demotion (OLPPD), a food-and-robotic art installation that demonstrates how putting food matter ‘where it doesn’t belong’ can reveal what often remains obscured in our societies, bodies, digital realms, and other relational spaces. Conceived around the theme of domination and nurturing, OLPPD features a feeding robot that delivers spoonfuls of edible paste to humans’ mouths, using facial-tracking technology. The work probes issues of mutual enslavement, deskilling, the loss of privacy, and the fear-risk-trust within eating. At a broader scale, OLPPD also troubles food and safety policies, probes culinary authenticity and heritage, and heightens tensions relative to eating, bodily penetration, and the presentation of self. By activating inhabitual dynamics among humans and technology through the materiality of food, the installation inverts what is normally understood as performance and art. Drawing on our experiences with the piece during eight different festivals since 2014, we show how digital-material art can illuminate a variety of ways in which dominance and power arise. We propose that this can help surface different and more equitable forms of interaction, whether among food, technology, and humans, or in the more abstract realms of power, culture, and ‘mattering.’
Food as Soft Power? Reflections on Turkish Public Diplomacy
Defne Karaosmanoglu, Associate Professor
In this paper, I study the relationship between political communication and food by focusing on the diplomatic strategies initiated by the presidential palace in Turkey between 2010 and 2020 and their interpretations by the foreign and domestic news media. To give a contextual framework of “new Turkey,” first I talk about the ways in which foods and drinks are incorporated into the themes of native/national. I try to understand how and what kinds of foods and drinks the AKP and its representatives construct as “native/national,” and then promote to represent Turkey both inside and outside. Then, I analyse the discourses surrounding the production and consumption of the presidential palace food. I investigate a number of events which took place in the palace between 2010 and 2020. I explore the policies of the presidential kitchen and food/drinks served in the receptions. I examine the ways in which food, culinary items and specials meals during banquets served and consumed in the presidential palace work to represent Turkey, i.e., “new Turkey” both inside and outside the country. Finally, my aim is to discuss the concepts of nation branding, gastrodiplomacy, and culinary diplomacy in relation to neo-Ottomanism, localism, and globalism. In other words, I aim to understand the cultural policies and meaning-making processes of the presidential palace with respect to the themes of neo-Ottomanism, localism, and globalism.
Social Integration Through the Kitchen: Cooking and Eating with Others in Germany
Edda Starck (Postgraduate Student) & Raúl Matta (Researcher)
In the aftermath of recent migrant events, the living conditions of refugees and other migrants raise major political controversies and concerns. Against nationalisms that preach the rejection of the Other, citizens in several countries get organized around initiatives to support the newcomers. Food occupies a prominent place in many of these (refugee food festivals, cooking workshops, community gardens, etc.). Our aim is to explore the role of food in the articulation of relations between migrants and host communities in the public space, and what practices in turn develop as a response to these reassembled contexts. Two initiatives taking place Germany provide valuable insights to develop a new materialist perspective in which food, technology, and humans interrelate to create responses to the unequal relationships that affect the lives of newcomers. The first concerns a catering business in which the employees, all Syrian refugees, use bicycle kitchen trailers especially designed to travel over the city’s roads and mount portable grill stalls at public and private events. The second initiative concerns an association whose focus is to build community among people of different cultural backgrounds, and uses a shipping container with an in-built kitchen that travels through Europe to organize community-cooking events on its way. Drawing on posthumanism and new materialist accounts, we address how these projects challenge the distinction between the materiality of the physical world and the social constructs of human intentions, and to what extent things other than humans (food-related technologies) can become social agents that “make things happen”.
Uprooting Turrón: Political Economy and the Malleable Materiality of a Protected Geographical Indicator
Emily Reisman, Assistant Professor
Protected geographical indicators (PGIs) are a popular, and highly political, strategy for legitimating price premiums on food products in the interest of preserving associated rural practices and lifeways. The materiality of the resulting food, often expressed through the language of terroir, is tightly bound up with the meanings it carries as a geographically distinctive “taste of place” (Trubek 2008). Yet materiality may be more malleable than it seems. Seemingly objective assessments like physico-chemical analyses are not immune to political economic change. The Spanish almond dessert turrón provides a case study in how boom-bust cycles in agriculture destabilize the ways in which materiality links place to taste, exacerbating unequal human and more-than-human power relations in the process. This paper uses a feminist science studies approach (Alaimo and Hekman 2008; Barad 2007; Tsing 2014) to analyzing how a shift in almond sourcing reshapes the material matterings of origin stories, more-than-human relationships, and scientific practice in Jijona’s PGI turrón industry. I build upon previous critiques of the impact of PGIs on agricultural livelihoods (Bowen and De Master 2011; Rangnekar 2011; Tashiro, Uchiyama, and Kohsaka 2019; Besky 2014; Bowen and Zapata 2009), drawing attention to (1) the material-semiotic disconnect between idealized agrarian origins and a disposable agrarian present, (2) the material frictions between a heritage of ecologically-adapted agriculture and the industrial scaling of a heritage product, and (3) the malleability of food sciences in both defending and purging the almond of its terroir.
Disciplinary Encounters in Flavour and Music
Erik Fooladi, Assistant Professor
Perceptions and experiences of food are inherently transdisciplinary phenomena, thus requiring that they be approached from multiple sides, or disciplines, while at the same time transcending the boundaries of the disciplines studying them. Hence, they provide a playground to study intersections and meetings between domain-specific epistemologies, practices and ways of thinking. This provides for both possibilities and frictions, with questions of power relations coming to the fore, between subject domains as well as the place and authority given to human sensory modalities for gathering information of refined nature. The present contribution seeks to describe such interactions on the basis of a case from secondary music where multisensory perception of food meets music. In a school assignment 23 students (16 year of age) were asked to compose and perform short musical pieces to represent specific flavour sensations. The school assignment thus asks whether it is possible to communicate a flavour sensation through music. Inspired by methods from sensory science (natural sciences), the students were subsequently asked to analyse each other’s soundscapes by making links between music and flavour (humanities, music). This way, flavour experiences become a source for musical expression, multisensory perception is made explicit both as phenomenon and practice (neuroscience), and scientifically inspired analysis is conducted as part of experience-based and arts-oriented practices. Analytical practices meet aesthetic practices in multisensory perception of food and music. The presentation is concluded by a discussion of roles and power relations between disciplines in these kinds of meetings between subject domains.
Materiality and the Equivalence of Seeds in the Global Expansion of Quinoa
Fabiana Li, Assistant Professor
Quinoa’s growing popularity in recent years rests on the many qualities that researchers, growers, and consumers attach to quinoa. It is valued for being nutritionally exceptional; environmentally sustainable and ethically produced; and an ‘ancient grain’ with romantic appeal for consumers dissatisfied with an industrial food system. This paper focuses on the World Quinoa Conference and other international gatherings of experts (plant scientists, quinoa farmers, social scientists, development practitioners, and entrepreneurs) who produce and share knowledge about quinoa’s cultivation, production, consumption, and diversification. Using the conferences as sites of ethnographic research, this paper examines how various actors materialize quinoa through different ways of conceptualizing seeds, property, and food security. For example, in some contexts, quinoa is part of a larger (living) socioecological system, while in others, seeds are disembedded from their geographical context and studied in terms of their efficiency and yields. Meanwhile, food security can be construed as a local concern, tied to identity, culture, and sovereignty, or as a global mission to eradicate hunger and malnutrition. I explore the convergence and divergence of knowledges that accompany quinoa’s globalization, shedding light on the frictions, conflicting priorities, opportunities, and questions that arise in international spaces of knowledge creation, exchange, and collaboration.
“Puttu”, “Vadai” and Trenches: Gendered Memories of Tamil Resistance Movements
Geetha Sukumaran, PhD Student
The field of gender studies faces a heterogeneous task in examining violence, female victims and women fighters in the insurgence movements. While feminist scholarship has examined the manifold aspects of women fighters of the state-owned army, studies about women in the guerilla movements are still emerging and there is a lack in critically engaging with women combatants. The prolific writings by former women combatants that emerged in Sri Lanka in the recent decades, especially after the end of the civil war between Sri Lankan armed forces and the insurgent movements, provide interesting insights into food, memory and conflict. These life writings form a discursive site to remember a messy, contentious, and violent past through food. As such, this paper will focus on the life writings of three women combatants who were part of Tamil resistance movements that sprouted in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Northern Sri Lanka: Oru Koorvazhin Nizhalil (Under the Shadow of a Sharp-Edged Sword) written by Thamilini, Malaimakal Kathaikal (Stories of Malaimakal) by Malaimakal, and Akaalam by Pushparani. Utilizing the lens of culinary practices, the paper explores the multi-faceted, gendered articulations and memorialization of war. This paper focuses on how eating, hunger and the act of cooking have become metaphors and metonyms in the Tamil resistance movements of Sri Lanka. In so doing, the essay offers alternative perspectives on how culinaryscapes remain in conflict with broader feminist and gendered narratives.
Indigenous Food Sovereignty Through Tribal Community Gardens: the Implications of Four Case Studies in Minnesota and Wisconsin
Hannah Johnson, Master’s Candidate
Among indigenous food sovereignty advocates, tribal community gardens are powerful spaces with the potential to reinvigorate community relationships with food and land. However, many communities struggle with the implementation of these projects. This presentation examines case studies in four different communities belonging to different tribal affiliations and the challenges and opportunities these communities face. These communities are diverse in terms of economic development, urban-rural placement, pre-contact histories in or outside of agriculture, and their tribal community gardening programs’ timelines. The research was conducted in the summer of 2019 through a series of original expert interviews. Included among these interviewees was the tribal chairwoman of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, a representative from the First Nations Development Institute, an indigenous ethnobotanist, and a University of Minnesota Duluth professor of Tribal Administration and Governance, who serves her home community on the Oneida Land Commission. Through use of qualitative research methodologies, such as expert interviews, as well as research from academic and non-academic books, articles, and journals, one of the key findings of this research project is that, regardless of the allotted budget, a project will face challenges unless those involved have a clear vision regarding the planning and execution of the project, as well as specific goals for the project’s role in the community. Although the research took place amongst diverse communities and circumstances, the commonalities of these narratives lie in the difficulties of garnering community interest, struggles in planning within or outside of tribal government contexts, and the lack of knowledge about the Indigenous food sovereignty network amongst individuals who most need the resources of this community.
Food and Sensory Memory in a Nepali Ritual Tradition
Ian Turner, Graduate Student
Within the interwoven Buddhist and Hindu traditions of the Newars, an ethnic group from Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley, food is central. The acts of eating – of commensality, hospitality, and feasting – are important operations in the construction and contestation of relational identities within socio-religious and political hierarchies. But next to food as performance of consumption, there is equal concern for the items of food themselves. Often called ‘food symbolism’, items of both raw and cooked foods are integral to the semiotics and materiality of Newar rituals. This paper asks how ritual cultures of food operate in the collective and individual memory of Newars today. As a ritual language, how do the sensory qualities of food cultivate memory in the transmission of Newar religious traditions? This paper compares textual and oral recollections of Newar foodways by Newars. On text, anthropologically informed self-publishing has been a primary medium of knowledge circulation amongst the Newars for half a century, historicizing and textualizing cultural memory. This paper offers a comparative reading of five such publications: on feasting, festivals, food culture, and recipes. These literate productions of the scholarly minority are complimented with insights from an ongoing oral history project with members of the Canadian Newar Guthi, a community organization based in Southern Ontario. Their testimonies of growing up in Nepal, told not with scholarly but diasporic remove, speak alongside the print media to how food, food semiotics, and sensory memory inform and sometimes reform religious sensibilities.
Thinking of Food Futures: Resisting Capitalism Through Agroecological Practices
Isabella Altoe, PhD Candidate
Agroecology is broadly understood as the application of ecology in agriculture to preserve food cultures and systems. Beyond a food production method, it also constitutes a science (based on traditional and technological knowledge) and catalyzes a social movement (which gathers people in favor of environmental and social justice, agrarian reform, and public policies). In order to understand this complex subject, it is necessary to draw from an interdisciplinary approach that takes into account multispecies interactions, environmentalism, and the socio-cultural and economic dimensions of food production. Considering that the current industrial agri-food system is one of the main projects responsible for the Anthropocene and its catastrophes, this paper seeks to explore how agroecology is committed to the creation of a different world outside of the capitalist extractivist logic by promoting alternative forms of relationship with the environment, people, cities, and other species. To do so, it will discuss the Brazilian Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) and The Capixaba Urban Network of Agroecology (RUCA), to explore the different ways in which non capitalist economies can work, and to show that the commitment to food production and food sovereignty should not be only a peasant/farmers’ concern.
Framing Good Food: Communicating Value of Community Food Initiatives in the Midst of a Food Crisis
Irena Knezevic, Assistant Professor
Food policy, regulation, and public spending in much of the world are framed by the values of market economy, which focuses on volume and yield, market efficiencies, and profitability. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that this approach, despite its discursive promises, has not significantly altered hunger and food insecurity rates. At the same time, it has been linked to material consequences that include unprecedented environmental degradation, growing incidence of diet-related disease, and a range of social inequities. Compounded by climate change, destabilization of governments around the globe, and most recently a pandemic, these problems now amount to a veritable food crisis. In response to these challenges, peasant farmers, small-scale processors and distributors, and community activists have converged as a movement around “alternative” food. The alternatives seek ways to produce food that is more nutritious and more socially just. They build social capital, encourage co-operation over competition, stimulate social and environmental innovation, offer spaces for business mentorship and knowledge sharing, and contribute to community wellbeing. In other words, they make material, more-than-market contributions. Yet, they struggle to be recognized by formal institutions as significant and necessary elements of food systems. I argue that Gibson-Graham’s framing of “diverse economies” can offer a pathway to better communication and thus more accurate valuing of the work of such initiatives, which in turn can deliver material improvements to the ways we grow, harvest, process, and distribute food.
Tracing the Roots of ‘Yeast and Malt’: Alcohol and National Memory of a Drunken Past in Early Twentieth-Century China
Jackson Guo, PhD Student
While Western drinks beer and brandy flooded into China’s domestic market, early twentieth-century Chinese writers recounted an indigenous origin of imported drinks. The asserted root of brewing and distillation technologies that accompanied the establishment of the first modern Chinese breweries, wineries and distilleries not only triggered a wave of patriotism spanning across the whole country, but also shaped how recent historians and archaeologists view alcohol as a nexus between China’s past and present. Interesting enough, however, the twentieth century saw both the decline of traditional grain brews and the popularity of imports. How had the changing drinking habit shaped Chinese people’s understanding of modernity and their nationhood? This essay delves into the intriguing historiography of liquor and beer in modern Chinese scholars’ narrative. It examines alcohol as a site of historical invention, imagination, and contestation among Chinese intellectuals and patriots, who over the past century or so, have widely assumed a consistent development of alcohol production in Chinese records and literature, which suggested China as the birthplace of all brewing and distilling techniques. In this light, adopting Western facilities and establishing China’s modern alcohol industry became an enterprise of retrieving the shared glorious past of all Chinse citizens. This narrative was designed to ignite nation-wide patriotic sentiment during which China faced both internal division and colonial subjugation followed by the collapse of the Qing dynasty. The mission of creating an imagined past of alcoholic beverages was well associated with the fate of the precarious republic.
What is the Matter? Exploring the Intersection of Smart Phone Use and Food Consumption
Jacqueline Botterill, Associate Professor
It is a given that “you are what you eat” and reasonable to suggest that “you are also who you eat with”. Approaching food from a media studies perspective, this paper argues that “you are also the technology you eat with”. After decades of media study of diets and TV viewing, the research agenda has begun to recognize that the phone has supplanted the TV as the primary source of information, entertainment and socializing, particularly among young adults. Phones are entangled in the daily rituals of eating and snacking when alone and with others. Yet, as Tania Lewis (2020) notes “digital media are remarkably invisible despite their centrality to daily life” (p. 7). To explore the naturalization of mobile phones within daily eating practices, we spoke with 27, 19-24-year-old, Southern Ontarian residents about how their smart phone use intersected with their everyday food consumption. This Food Matters and Materialities conference affords a chance to examine these interview transcripts using a “new materialism” lens. The paper advances two research questions for debate: What “matters” are emerging at the cross-road of smart phones and food consumption, if any? (Alaimo & Hekman, 2008) How do participants report using their phones to accomplish everyday food consumption and lifestyle projects, and conjointly, how do interactive, lively smart phones and food commodities use participants? Critical attention is paid to how media political economy, commercialization, and new systems for extracting value from the audience commodity twin phone and eater.
When Every Bite Could Kill: Examining the Material Experiences of Caretakers of Children with Food Allergies
Janis Goldie, Professor & Chair of the Communication Studies Department
Food allergies affect one in 13 Canadians, or 2.5 million people, and can be fatal if treatment is delayed (Soller et al. 2015). While food allergies are an increasing public health concern in Canada and around the globe (Warren et al. 2020), there remains a lack of research that explores the material everyday lived experiences of those dealing with food allergies across a wide variety of relationships, regions, and social contexts in Canada. To begin to address these gaps, this paper provides a critical discursive examination of the material experiences of caretakers of children with food allergies in a Northern Ontario city. In a geographical and regional circumstance where access to social supports, medical specialists, and even needed food alternatives present a challenge, the participants begin to shed light on the realities of living in a rural and northern population setting in which unique social inequities around children’s health exist. Relying on in-depth interviews, the study investigates caretakers’ understandings of food allergies, strategies and narratives when dealing with food as a constant and potentially lethal risk, the impact on their interpersonal relationships including their experiences with people in positions of power, such as school educators or medical professionals, and the impact on their employment and broader social opportunities. Notably, the self-identified female mother caretakers also present an interesting opportunity to unpack the impact of systemic structures and gender constructs on caretaking, mothering, and blame in a neoliberal public health context.
Food Security and Food Sovereignty: the Materialities of Damming on the Floodplains of the Creston Valley of British Columbia
Joanne Taylor, Postdoctoral Fellow
Food security is one of the most serious challenges of our time with over one in ten people in Canada suffering from some form of food insecurity. In this paper, I critically explore food security and food sovereignty in the Creston Valley Floodplain of British Columbia, Canada. I specifically examine processes of exclusion from the bi-lateral Columbia River Treaty (CRT) negotiations which results in the marginalization of Indigenous First Nations Ktunaxa from their traditional food procuring sites, and domination of their inherent title and land rights. I also analyze how the operation of the CRT Libby Dam, in Montana, threatens the integrity of European settlers’ diking infrastructures thus, perilously transforming the floodplain into a food insecure area . Catastrophic climate change notwithstanding, landscapes of monoculture cropping also jeopardize the security of this food producing area while prioritizing profits over people, health, and the environment. These devastating environmental impacts are calamitous to ecosystem function, while exemplifying the power relationships of ongoing expansionary tendencies and capital accumulation of hydro wealth which continues to subordinate Indigenous peoples’ decision making powers, thus perpetuating, and embedding the mechanisms that control and subvert food knowledge systems. My research findings suggest that a significant number of Creston Valley households are food insecure, and given the current configuration of farming practices, contradictory federal policies, climate change impacts, unresolved Indigenous issues, and water management challenges, the Creston Valley as a whole is at significant risk of higher rates of food insecurity in the future.
Whiteness and Farmers Markets in Nova Scotia
Jonathan Roberts, Associate Professor & Chair of the Department
In 2015, the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market attempted to enhance its local food offerings by creating more room on the main floor for farm produce. The space was taken away from ethnic food vendors, who were to be relocated to a mezzanine area with lower traffic. Activist vendors protested, initiating a backlash in the media that forced the market to back away from their decision. However, ethnic vendors continued to feel marginalized and harassed by market staff, unsure of their position vis-à-vis the local food movement. This conflict has been apparent in other farmers markets in North America, and has drawn some critical inquiry by scholars in the USA (Alkon & McCullen, 2011; Orkin 2013), but not as much in Canada (Bond & Fegan 2013). Using primary source accounts and vendor interviews, this paper will expose some contradictions within the local food movement that challenge multicultural and entrepreneurial elements of Canadian society.
Meat-ing in the Middle: Supermarkets, Trust, and the Beef Supply Chain in Canada
Kelsey Speakman, PhD Candidate
Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March of 2020, Canadian grocery shoppers have encountered extensive safety measures in supermarkets. Even as the meatpacking plants that supply products to these stores have become hotspots for outbreaks, members of the meatpacking workforce have not been offered parallel protections. How is public trust in the Canadian meat industry being maintained in the context of intersecting health crises, which have exacerbated concerns about social inequality, economic instability, climate change, and other threats to food security? The paper addresses this question through a case study of the ethics of beef in Loblaw supermarkets, which observes that practices of ethical beef consumption are increasingly defined by ideals that emerge out of dynamics of trust between supermarkets and select groups of shoppers. The thematic analysis of empirical data reveals that Loblaw establishes itself as a trustworthy partner in responsible beef consumption through its position as a neighbourhood tastemaker, Canadian company, and wellness authority. The study demonstrates that sustained public trust is not a guarantee of ethical beef consumption practices. Public trust operates as a valuable form of capital in the context of a neoliberal food system, as it grants retailers social license to conduct business with less external oversight. Drawing on decolonial feminist understandings of ethical food systems, I propose that relationships of beef consumption must be re-embedded in more-than-human ecologies in order for public trust to play a meaningful role in repairing the broken links of meat supply chains.
The Quantified Cow: Digitally Tracking Livestock with Wearable Devices
Kendra Lee Sanders, PhD Candidate
The global agricultural robots market is projected to nearly double over the next five years, which brings together two of the biggest world industries: agriculture and information technology. The union between the two enterprises seizes a powerful seat in the global economy and food culture, a place from which forms of power are effectively reproduced and which reshape relationships between farmers and what they cultivate. The dairy industry, as one of the most precarious sectors, proves one of the earliest adaptors to animal wearables. The quantified cow, a dairy cow equipped with a wearable sensor, becomes a key site of encounter in the ag robots market and its implications for food production, consumption, and the environment. This paper employs media theory, environmental history, and computer science to situate within current scholarship the recent surge in sensors to monitor dairy cattle and to adjust thereafter their environments for optimal milk production. Placing the cow at the focal point rather than farmer, the paper examines how nature transforms through the prehistoric practice of agriculture into a living digital medium that organizes space, time, and power through data/food production and management.
It’s in the Duck: Diaspora and Thinking Dialectically in a Settler Colonial Food System
Koby Song-Nichols (PhD Student) & Katie Konstantopoulos (Independent Researcher)
Canada’s duck industry is firmly placed within Canadian settler agriculture, implicating the production of duck in the colonial violence against/displacement of Indigenous people, anti-Asian exclusion, and the construction of White Canada (Rotz 2017, Tuck & Yang 2012, Ward 2002). Drawing on food studies methodologies and conversations that see food as pedagogical tools of inquiry (Flowers & Swan 2015), we examine how cultural meaning is melded into the materiality of duck as it moves between a single, family-run duck farm and Chinese-Canadian communities in Toronto, Ontario since the 1950s. We are reminded that Settler Colonialism and Whiteness isn’t only historically and continually present on Canadian farms, but is woven into larger food systems. Focusing on Toronto as a site of White settler and immigrant settler placemaking, we adopt a dialectic approach to examine key moments in the culinary life course of duck. We posit that the material and symbolic qualities of duck are shaped and negotiated within implicit and explicit intercultural exchanges, from being imbued with “Canadiana” through farming and marketing techniques to multi-varied Chinese Canadian presentations of home. We ground our research in historical, food, diaspora, Chinese Canadian, and settler colonial studies, and draw on a diversity of sources including menus, restaurant reviews, industry advertisements, government reports and census data. Finally, we meditate on how food can be imbued with colonial and white supremacist meaning and how diasporic bendings of time and space can create an intercultural culinary dialectic, where hierarchies of race and understandings of place are negotiated and mobilized.
Binge-Restrict-Repeat: An Examination of the Neoliberal Eating Regime
Linea Cutter, PhD Candidate
This project is concerned with bridging the scholarly gap between the political economy of agri-food systems and the medicalization and biomedicalization of eating patterns. In doing so, I apply the theoretical and methodological framework of neoliberal governmentality to the study of food regimes. I argue that, as a biopolitical mode of governance that places the responsibility for the health of the population onto the shoulders of individuals, neoliberal governmentality reveals how chaotic eating patterns produce, and are produced by, a global food regime that compels individuals to binge and restrict, to both overeat and diet. This project interrogates how corporate consolidations and transnational alliances centered on agri-biotechnology are imbricated with eating regimes that shape and are reproduced by individuals at the level of subjectivity. More precisely, I analyze how these regimes delimit the specific, often mundane ways of life and embodied relationships to food that are possible in certain historical and spatial contexts. Despite neoliberal freedom’s unceasing imperative to consume, I examine how subjects must also restrict their intake of food in order to ensure that they are not failing to maintain a weight that is deemed as “normal,” “responsible,” and “healthy.” Thus, I analyze how food itself is framed and used as a biomedical tool of self-enhancement, even as biotechnology provides hyperpalatable foodstuffs that neoliberal subjects must crave and compulsively consume. I theorize foodstuffs as biomedical tools of self-enhancement and self-management that, when ingested, dissolve neoliberal forms of discipline and compulsion into the body.
Antawaynchikaywin mino pimatisiwin oonji (Hunting and Fishing Food Goodlife): Learning from Elders of Misko-ziibiing (Bloodvein River First Nation) in Manitoba
Lisa Young (Master’s Student) & Shailesh Shukla (Associate Professor)
Hunting, fishing, trapping and harvesting traditional foods is a practice that the Anishinabeg of Misko-ziibiing (Bloodvein River Ojibway First Natioons have been actively doing since settling in their current location. These traditional teachings have been passed from generation to generation providing families and the community with food sovereignty. Through oral history in-depth interviews with 11 elders and participatory observations, this narrative field study, reveals the meaning and perspectives on their food systems and barriers impacting Misko-ziibiing Indigenous food systems including development of all weather road and concurrent changes in environment and life style. We will also present the suggestions and recommendations to strengthen the local Indigenous food systems and food security.
Negotiating Alternative Production and Marketing of Northern Philippine Specialty Arabica Coffee
Lynne Milgram, Professor
Private, government, and corporate sectors increasingly seek to mitigate the precarious economic and environmental conditions their businesses have caused. Given the shortcomings of conventional approaches to achieve meaningful social change, social entrepreneurship has emerged as an alternative approach to answer this call. Combining business, private investment, and social movement models, social entrepreneurs work collaboratively with communities to augment peoples’ livelihood and their social security. This paper draws on social entrepreneurship and food studies scholarship to analyze entrepreneurs’ initiatives in the northern Philippines’ specialty Arabica coffee industry in Benguet province. While a key aim of these social entrepreneurs is to produce a consistently high-quality product that speaks of a Benguet taste profile, entrepreneurs’ direct farmer-to-consumer commodity flow mandate also promotes community infrastructure development and farmers’ training in pre- and post-harvest best agricultural practices. Within this context, I explore the extent to which entrepreneurs can operationalize opportunities and mitigate constraints as they expand from their small start-up premises while maintaining their social mandate. Given that current demand for premium green coffee beans outstrips supply, entrepreneurs may find themselves in completion with one another. This situation coupled with the Philippine government’s inability to secure peoples’ subsistence needs means that farmers may betray their allegiance to the entrepreneurs who supported them. I ask, do social entrepreneurs’ efforts simply alleviate symptoms rather than address root causes of inequality? Given that entrepreneurs’ efforts have created positive industry outcomes, encourages pursuing such cross-sector advocacy to curtail challenges that potentially jeopardize enterprise sustainability.
Supporting Youth Participation in Food Preservation Within Traditional and Local Food Systems
Majing Oloko, PhD Candidate
One in six youth under 18 in Canada experience food insecurity (Tarasuk & Mitchell, 2020). Youth in remote regions of the country face additional barriers that make accessing healthy food more challenging (Fieldhouse & Thompson, 2012). Healthy food through global food systems (GFS) structures such as the grocery store is prohibitive in remote regions of Canada than in urban areas (Pal, Haman, & Robidoux, 2013). The high cost of healthy food, poverty, combined with limited grocery options, restricts youth diet to cheaper, low-nutrient ultra-processed food in remote areas, Including in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region (CSUBR) (CBT, 2018a; Skinner et al., 2012). Food insecurity among residents, including youth has been reported in CSUBR, on the west coast of Vancouver Island (CBT, 2018a; CBT 2018b). In addition, the loss of food knowledge and decline in the practice of intergenerational transfer of food knowledge has also been reported in the area (CBT, 2018b). Indigenous youth face additional barriers from legacies of colonial policies that affect access to harvesting sights and knowledge transfer (Kamal et al., 2015). To address these challenges, the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust initiated a community-driven food preservation program to support residents build food preservation knowledge and skills. The rationale being that building safe food preservation skills could empower residents to access affordable and healthy seasonal traditional and local food to preserve for later use. My research extended this initiative to youth in the community. I plan on sharing my work with one of the youth groups I worked with – Warriors from Tlao-qui-aht First Nation (TFN).
Conspiring to be Convivial: How the Material Practices of Fermentation Come to Matter
Maya Hey, PhD Candidate
Microbes are both an invisible threat and an invisible aide. Whether we are aware of them or not, microbes are omnipresent, affecting food matters from human physiology, to agroecology, to food safety protocols, and biomedical microbiome research. Throughout history, microbes have and will continue to live without human presence; that the converse is not true points to matters of concern and pose disquieting notions about dependency and control. Given this uncanny reminder, I ask:
How can the material practices of fermentation change the way we think of (continuing) life with microbes?
By studying the material practices of fermentation, I examine the specific entanglements that result from working with what we cannot easily see or sense. I call upon feminist thinkers such as Karen Barad, Anna Tsing, and Donna Haraway to unpack the following three concepts—the ambient, attunement, and conviviality—as answers to what the material practices of fermentation can show us. The ambient is a physical and conceptual space that can decenter human agency, reminding us that we are predicated on the environments from which we emerge. Attunement is the sense of oneself in space and enables inter-species communication by sensing and ‘listening’ for microbial others. Etymologically, conviviality signals living well with others, remaining open to the ever-latent possibility of encounter. In sum, I argue that fermentation can be an act of space-making (ambient), it can be a process of interspecies dialog (attunement), and it can be a way to practice collective ethics (conviviality).
“Healthy” for Whom? “Healthy” Food’s Effectivities, Avocados, and the Production of Differentiated Bodies
Myriam Durocher, Postdoctoral fellow
Current “healthy” food knowledge revolves around characterizing food by its purported direct, causal effects on the body that ingests it, following a biomedical approach informed by nutritionism (Scrinis, 2013). As long as the focus is on the effects given foods or nutrients have on the ingesting body, a whole array of other effects that produce differentiated bodies beyond ingestion processes receive little attention. I propose the concept of “effectivities” as a way of taking into account the heterogeneous “effects” “healthy” food – as a discursive construct and a physical material – have, and which occur in different realms (economic, political, agricultural, interspecies, health-related). Using the avocado as a means to illustrate my broader theoretical argument, I contend that “healthy” foods’ effectivities can be observed in how they materialize in differentiated – here racialized – bodies. This raises the key question that permeates the critical stance of this talk: whose health matters when it comes to defining “healthy” food?
Wild Matters on the Montreal Shores of the St. Lawrence
Natalie Doonan, Assistant Professor
My current research is located on the Montreal section of the St. Lawrence River, where I have been studying various forms of inter-species communication that have been developed especially for purposes of consumption — for example, through fishing, foraging, and hunting. These fringe practices persist in the city, despite widespread development, constricted areas of wildlife habitat, and strict regulation of these self-provisioning practices. This paper seeks to understand the significance of “wild” food in this particular place, and the more-than-human communication systems through which such foods are produced. As urbanites, we are not accustomed to thinking about the city as a wild place. The COVID-19 pandemic however, is forcing us to acknowledge the fragile and even illusory barrier between humans and wilderness. The ecological crises facing our planet are demanding that we develop better modes of inter-species communication and co-habitation. What better place to investigate this subject than the shores of the St. Lawrence River? A place of inter-cultural and inter-species meeting and exchange, a channel for food, waste, commerce, shelter, migration, breeding, and adventure. The question of how to define wild-ness is inseparable from questions of inter-species relations, food systems, food security, food sovereignty, industrial and residential development, and colonial-capitalism. In this paper, I will draw from sensory-ethnographic fieldwork and interviews to examine techniques for inter-species communication that are enacted in the production of wild food on the shores of the St. Lawrence in Montreal.
Eating Apart Together: Online Foodways in a Time of Social Distancing
Nicholas Bascuñan Wiley, PhD Candidate
Since mid-March 2020, social distancing measures have been put in place throughout the United States in an effort to mitigate and control the spread of COVID-19. Staying at home and avoiding public congregation has forced many adjustments in work life, cultural practices, and social interaction. Everyday foodways— or the sociocultural practices involved in preparing and consuming food— have been greatly affected by these measures as physically gathering presents serious health risks. Yet, many have found ways to continue meeting, celebrating, and sharing with others through food during these times of social distancing—online foodways. This project explores the intricacies of these online foodways through digital ethnography of virtual meetings and interviews with participants throughout the United States. Digital platforms are new ways of experiencing communality at a distance and present interesting potential for studying togetherness through food. People have moved online to reunite with family and friends during communal cooking and eating. This project observes these new online foodways to see how communities are adjusting their cultural practices to fit social distancing restrictions. I address questions including: Who participates in online socialization through food and what does communal eating entail? What is lost or gained through the move to digital connectivity, particularly in the realms of sensation, embodiment, and physicality? How will these online foodways shape the future of communal cooking and eating after social distance restrictions are lifted?
Food Safety Practices in Ho Chi Minh City: Urban Gardening, Direct Marketing, and the Crisis of Confidence in Farming
Nora Faltmann, PhD Candidate
In recent years, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, has seen a proliferation of urban gardening, ranging from home-growing herbs to company rooftop gardens for employees while a growing number of start-ups provide urbanites with chemical-free or organic produce. What these phenomena have in common is the strive to reduce the distance between food production and consumption which is related to a large-scale crisis of confidence in farming in light of the country’s manifold food safety issues. Based on fieldwork in HCMC, my research looks into the material and immaterial aspects of food safety and asks how the city’s eaters can manoeuvre the ubiquitous topic in the face of growing socio-economic inequalities in the late socialist country.
As my ethnographic work shows, the turn towards different forms of gardens and direct marketing often occurs not simply out of a general fear of agrochemicals in produce, but is often coupled with a history of disease or the advent of children in the family, relating the food safety practises in focus to questions of body-politics and health concerns. Such food safety concerns are informed by imaginaries of purity of food, deeply personal medical histories, as well as the materiality of high agro-chemical residues in food.
Meanwhile, structural factors such as social networks, mobility, monetary capacities, as well as access to land create unequal access to ‘safe’ food. land use reforms and tensions between urban development projects, farm land, and public space further sharpen material and discursive competitions for space and access to land.
Encounters: Re-engaging With the Materials of Food and Waste
Pamela Tudge, PhD Candidate
Food waste is about gender, food and domestic labour as well as our relationship to material and the material itself. It is gaining attention globally as a significant environmental concern and as a source for material inquiry. For most of history, it was women’s knowledge and the practices with food materials that determined food waste. The post-war cultural shift in Canada reframed waste as a sign of privilege and modernity. The changes reduced material knowledges and devalued the associated work. My research explores how to redirect contemporary practices through implementing a critical design public pedagogy. Through this framework, I create a conversation with the results of two projects The Grandma Project and Eat, Make, Waste—with the objective to align the discursive with the material through examining practice and matter. I explore a pedagogy that re-orients attention towards the posthuman to realize the agency of waste materials in a non-hierarchical way. The results of the grandma’s life history narratives and the public workshop series contructs a method which untangles the relationship to waste and identifies a pedagogy for caring, learning, and material visibility. Through these projects, I aim to undo gendered labour and identify an inclusive materiality—to make do, to limit waste and to re-engage a public in practice.
What Does It Mean to Be a Plant, an Orphan, a Superfood and a Masculinist- Colonial-Capitalist Construct?
Priya Chandrasekaran, Visiting Professor of Environmental Studies
Plants categorized as “millets,” largely grown in Asia and Africa, have embodied contradictory identities over the past half-century. Shunned as poor person’s food and orphan crops in the Green Revolution, they have slowly risen to the status of climate resilient superfoods, which some hope will rival quinoa on the global market. This paper looks at how new nutritional and environmental measurements offer insight into the intrinsic qualities of plants overlooked in the push for scale. At the same time, this new value remains imprisoned within a masculinist-colonial-capitalist category, one that has denied these forms of life distinction, variability and heterogeneity. “Millets” do not necessarily share biological characteristics; rather, their fundamental commonality has been a subjugated relationship to colonial projects, global capitalist agriculture and marginalized farmers. This paper draws from research with small-scale women farmers in Uttarakhand, India to argue that the tensions between emerging scientific evaluations of worth and the lingering shadow of undifferentiated debasement reflects a broader moral dilemma of the present. Millets have long fed the forgotten of the Global South. As cultivated biodiversity, they have existed at the interface of human and plant evolution. In the places where they have sustained human life, they have claimed particular identities and cultural meanings. Their existence today manifests crises of our time, including climate change, malnutrition, feminized poverty, economic inequity and rural upheaval. As they have evolved over millennia intimately entangled with human society, what can we learn from these plants beyond what we can extract from them?
The Magic Leaf: Tea and Materiality
Ran Xiang, PhD Candidate
This paper follows a flat ontology of Deleuzian’s rhizomatic, Bruno Latour’s (2005) actor network theory and John Law (2019)’s material semiotics to trace the social as an interconnected web of relations that do not necessarily cohere. Tea is an essential actant in the tea ceremony, but tea itself is its own web. This paper works with both the concept and the empirical case (tea) of materiality , trying to bring them into conversation. To follow Law’s idea of patchwork, I propose an empirical-theoretical assemblage that does not follow a linear and smooth explanatory narrative. It aims to provide one among many webs of relations connected to tea: how the making process of tea affects the taste of tea, which is a complicated process involving human and non-human factors (environment, place, techniques etc.); the aging process of tea, which speaks to the agentic quality of object; how the taste of tea is able to affect people’s emotional and affective state and how people ascribe meanings to tea; how the consumption of tea leads to forgery on the part of the tea merchants and tea collection on the part of the tea connoisseurs, and gift giving among people that forges sociality; and how tea connoisseurs develop their own vocabulary in talking about tea and what they learned from professional tea persons. The competing theoretical discourse on materiality is brought together by the ANT material semiotics approach and the specific case of tea enriches our understanding of the theorical literature on materiality.
Food Matters at the Border Arab & Foodways in the Windsor/Detroit Region
Robert Nelson, Head of the Department of History
Newcomers to Windsor, Ontario today tend to believe that the strip of Arab supermarkets and shawarma shops along Wyandotte street has been a local fixture for a long time. Windsor-based Arab Canadians used to do their specialized shopping across the river in Dearborn, Detroit, where they usually also had family. They thus both ate and shopped in a relatively open international borderland. This changed on September 11th, 2001. With a newly thickened border, a major Arab Foodway has been created in the heart of Windsor overnight. Second only to Tex-Mex/Cal-Mex foodways on the southwestern border, the busiest and most complex ethnic border foodway in North America involves the substantial population of Arab decent on both sides of the northern border, encompassing Greater Detroit and Windsor. Dearborn is home to the largest population of Arab Americans, and Windsor has one of Canada’s most significant Arab Canadian populations. What is the daily grind like for the participants in a highly integrated international Arab food network, and how is the food-based identity of interlinked families on both sides of the border affected, in post 9/11, “Travel Ban” North America? This paper will explore how the American and Canadian Arab communities have developed historically in both similar and different ways, how this is expressed through food, and how significant a factor the border has been in the daily lives and foodways of these people.
Picnicking with Modernity: Milk, Public Memory and the Imagination of the Urban in 20th-century Bombay
Sanchia deSouza, PhD Student
In 1949, the city of Bombay saw the establishment of Aarey Milk Colony, India’s first municipal dairy. This suburban dairy production and processing farm supplied an urban milk distribution network under the municipal government – a new development for a city reliant on milk produced or transported in unsanitary conditions by individual milkmen or dairies. Aarey milk and dairy became a part of public memory and imagination through individual and collective experiences of the distribution network and the milk processing plant. Distribution booths dotted about city neighbourhoods brought the same rhythms of the network to everyday life across the city. City-dwellers were encouraged to view the milk colony as an urban showpiece to visit, and for many school children, visits to the plant became a first glimpse of food industrialization. In other words, embodied experiences beyond consumption of the liquid contributed to the understanding of this milk as a modern food belonging to the city. This paper analyses a series of oral history interviews and examines published promotional materials for the dairy. Through this, it argues that memories of food have much to do with taste and individuality, but that community imagination and the shared experience of urban space are also crucial, as seen in how this dairy project is constructed in Bombay’s memory as modern.
Dinner’s Ready! Or is It?: Food knowledge, Gender Roles and the Unruly Matter of Italian Cuisine in 1970s Cooking Game Shows
Simona Bondavalli, Associate Professor & Chair of Italian Language
The paper explores how a newly established canon of Italian cuisine was negotiated through trivia games and cooking contests on Italian public television in the 1970s. The cooking game show A tavola alle sette (Dinner’s ready at seven, RAI 1974) and its previous incarnation Colazione allo Studio 7 (Breakfast at Studio 7, RAI 1971-73), early forerunners to present-day transnational television cooking competitions, showcase both RAI’s moderating efforts in a society in which gender roles and power relations were being redefined, and the permanence of food as a site of pleasure and tension connected to the shape of women’s bodies. I argue that these successful shows projected and responded to a growing anxiety around Italian cuisine, women’s bodies, and domestic roles in an audience that was increasingly removed from food sources and concerned with the consequences of overeating. Attracting viewers with the familiar summoning call to the dinner table, A tavola educated, entertained, and comforted them with a surrogate of home cooking, performed live in front of a studio audience, and the ritual of sitting down to dinner. The playful onscreen banter between the co-hosts –eminent gastronome Luigi Veronelli and beloved character actress Ave Ninchi—and their interactions with guests and audience, however, reveal underlying gendered tensions between gastronomic erudition and home cooking practice; between contemporary women’s lifestyles and traditional expectations; between cooking as a hobby and as a duty.
Imagining a Disabled Diaspora: Reading Chronic Illness Through the Lens of Food in Porochista Khakpour’s Sick: A Memoir
Sohni Chakrabarti, PhD Candidate
Porochista Khakpour’s Sick: A Memoir chronicles the writer’s struggles with late-stage Lyme disease as well as with post-traumatic stress disorder and body dysmorphia. The book reveals a complex negotiation between gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and disability. My paper aims to critically analyse the multifarious ways in which food and cooking is utilised to reveal the intersections of gender, race, ethnicity, and disability. I argue that food forms an important focus in Khakpour’s text not only to highlight her struggles with chronic illness but also to bring out the social, political and cultural conditions of diasporic Muslim women in contemporary America. Khakpour uses food to explore the notion of the body both as space and within a space to construct diasporic identity and belonging. Khakpour’s memoir addresses the layered complexities of being a disabled diasporic Muslim woman in contemporary America. Moreover, it provides insight into the limitations faced by diasporic women navigating oppressive and hegemonic social, political, and cultural spaces in America. I believe that food serves as an important narrative strategy that enables the writer to underline the specificity of her struggles. Hence, my paper will critically analyse the ways in which food is creatively, discursively, and imaginatively used in Khakpour’s memoir to highlight the intersections of gender, race, ethnicity and disability. Furthermore, through a close focus on food, I will explore the writer’s diasporic feminist approach to disability, identity and belonging.
Sharing Skin, Tasting Wetness: Sago Palm as Food, Matter, and Kin in West Papua
Sophie Chao, Postdoctoral Fellow
This paper explores the entanglements of sago palms and Marind people West Papua. Returning to materiality’s Latin root, materia, meaning “the hard inner wood of a tree,” as well as “origin, source, and mother,” I examine how the starch obtained from the sago palm is imbued with nourishing qualities through its association with motherhood, ancestral spirits, and Marind’s intimate kinships with the more-than-human forest. In particular, I describe how Marind come to know sago’s “story” (cerita) through a range of physical activities that entail sensory immersion in, and attunement to, the lively world of sago palms and their symbiotes. In the grove, Marind scrutinize the skin of palms to discover their past relations and growths, and how these intersect with those of humans and other organisms. Tactile engagements with the palm’s pith connect plants and people across time and space through their shared bodily skin and wetness. Eating and knowing sago also become politically imbued acts, through which Marind affirm their relations as sago people to sago palms, in opposition to the foreign foodways of non-Papuan peoples and the colonial-capitalist regimes that they incarnate. At the same time, the grove is a gender-inflected realm, where women celebrate their bodily capacities and social roles as mothers based on affinities between their life-giving form and fluids, and those of the sago palm. Forest sounds and songs further enhance the phenomenological textures of human-sago encounters. These material, sensory, and affective dimensions of being-in-the-grove are what endow sago pith with its distinctive ‘social taste’.
Pathways to Revitalization of Indigenous Food Systems: Decolonizing Diets Through Indigenous-Focused Food Guides
Taylor Wilson, Master’s in Development Practice
The 2019 Canadian Food Guide (CFG) has recently been launched with a promise to be inclusive of multicultural diets and diverse perspectives on food, including the food systems of Indigenous communities. Some scholars argue that federally designed standard food guides often fail to address the myriad and complex issues of food security, well-being, and nutritional needs of Canadian Indigenous communities and imposes a dominant and westernized worldview of food and nutrition. In a parallel development, Indigenous food systems and associated knowledges and perspectives are being re-discovered as hope and ways to improve current and future food security. Based on a review of relevant literature and our long-term collaborative learning and community-based research engagements with Indigenous communities from Manitoba, we propose that Indigenous communities should develop their food guides considering their contexts, needs, and preferences. We discuss the scope and limitations of the most recent Canadian food guide and opportunities to decolonize it through Indigenous food guides, including their potential benefits in enhancing Indigenous communities’ food security and well-being. We propose to design and pilot-test such Indigenous food guides in communities Fisher River Cree Nation in Manitoba as community-based case study research that supports Indigenous-led and community-based resurgence and decolonization of food guides.