Patricia A. Stapleton
Patricia A. Stapleton is a comparative political science and public policy scholar. She currently teaches at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, where she is the director of the Society, Technology, and Policy Program. Her research interests cover the regulation of biotechnology, both in food and reproductive medicine. In addition to a Ph.D. in political science, Patricia has an M.A. in French literature. When possible, she writes on the intersection of literature and politics, especially in the context of utopian/dystopian fiction.
Abstract: GMO Trade Negotiations as Proxy for Cultural Differences
Over the last three decades, the main producers of genetically modified (GM) crops have found themselves at odds with the European Union, which has largely taken a more precautionary approach to GM crop approval and cultivation. The United States—the biggest producer of GM crops in the world—has pushed states worldwide to adopt its standards regarding GMOs. The spread of these American standards concerns health and environmental groups, who question the safety of GM food and whether GMOs actually address sustainability, hunger, and malnutrition concerns. This paper contrasts the US stance on GMOs and its interest in their worldwide promulgation with the European regulatory framework to examine how negotiations about GMOs actually serve as proxies for conflicting cultural and social perceptions of food, hunger, and risk. Finally, the paper considers how widespread adoption of American standards might affect food security by concentrating power among a few, multinational food conglomerates.
Charalampos (Harry) Konstantinidis is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His research lies in the intersection of political economy and ecological economics. His recent work examines the socio-economic dimensions of the growth of organic farming in the EU, as well as the inverse relationship between farm size and productivity in rural Kenya. His work has appeared, among others, in Feminist Economics, and the Review of Radical Political Economics.
Abstract: “Erst kommt das Fressen”: Food Insecurity and Food Sovereignty in Greece
One of the striking and often overlooked consequences of the ongoing Greek crisis is the sharp increase in hunger and food insecurity, the latter doubling over the last five years. This paper traces the central position of food and agriculture in the post-2010 structural adjustment programs, which suggested that internal devaluation and liberalization would restore Greek competitiveness and solve the Greek crisis. The austerity programs, however, reduced access to food for large parts of the population. This paper examines the role of formal and informal security mechanisms, as well as the new movements around food that developed during the crisis to help Greek households cope with material deprivation. The paper concludes by discussing food sovereignty as an economic and political project in Greece, its role in the productive reconstruction of the Greek economy, and its potential for alleviating food insecurity and the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Tomiko Yamaguchi specializes in the sociology of knowledge, the sociology of agriculture and food, and science and technology studies. She has worked on a range of research projects examining the ways in which social reality is constructed in situations involving conflict and controversy; her primary focus has been the ways in which scientific knowledge is interpreted, reaffirmed, and altered in day-to-day interactions between stakeholders attempting to exert influence in a situation, and how and why dominant interpretations give power to some stakeholders and not others. She has examined social conflicts concerning GM cotton in India, nutritionally enhanced GMOs, BSE (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy), nanotechnology in food, and functional foods. She is currently working on food safety/risk debates with respect to radioactive nuclides.
Abstract: Scientification and Social Control: Radiation Contamination in Food and Farms in Japan
In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s already-difficult problem of food self-sufficiency has been exacerbated by the contamination of a region that was crucial to Japanese agriculture and by the perceived threat of radiation contamination in food. The government pursues various strategies to contain the social fallout and persuade the public that its fears of ionized radiation in food are unfounded. Yet, despite incontrovertible evidence of widespread concern about the issue, overt public protests are rarely heard. This paper asks why the public is not more vocal, and sheds light on political and social factors that tend to suppress the expression of concerns about food safety. The data is drawn from in-depth interviews with farmers and consumers in Fukushima and participant observations in public forums. The study indicates that various methods of social control form part of a phenomenon the author calls “the scientification of food and agriculture.”
Hanna Garth is a sociocultural and medical anthropologist broadly interested in how marginalized communities struggle to overcome structural violence. Her recent research focuses on the ways in which changes in the global food system, international trade, and shifts in local food distribution systems impact communities, families, and individuals. Using feminist methodologies and critical race theory, Hanna focuses on how food scarcity and reduced access to affordable food influence individual and household stress levels. Her regional interests include Latin America and the Caribbean—in particular Cuba—as well as Latino and black communities in the United States. Hanna holds a BA in anthropology and Hispanic studies from Rice University, an MPH in international health from Boston University, and a PhD in anthropology from UCLA. She has an edited volume, Food and Identity in the Caribbean (2013) with Bloomsbury and a recent article in Food, Culture & Society.
Abstract: The Politics of Adequacy: Food Provisioning, Entitlements, and Everyday Life in Post-Soviet Cuba
This paper examines how families struggle to maintain their local ways of eating and a decent quality of life as the socialist welfare state declines in post-Soviet era Cuba. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Cuba entered a period of economic hardship, forcing the government to make cutbacks to the fifty-year-old food ration, still the central source of food for most households. Based on 16 months of fieldwork within 22 households in Santiago de Cuba, this paper details how families engage in a stressful struggle to acquire food, including efforts to assemble a “decent meal,” one that meets families’ standards of food quality and cultural appropriateness. This paper introduces “politics of adequacy” to detail the social and emotional dimensions of the practices of acquisition. These ongoing struggles give rise to a “change in character,” placing strain on family and community relationships.
Nir Avieli is a cultural anthropologist and a senior lecturer at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben Gurion University, Israel. Nir is mainly interested in the anthropology of food and in the anthropology of tourism. He has been conducting ethnographic research in the central Vietnamese town of Hoi An since 1998. His book, Rice Talks: Food and Community in a Vietnamese Town (2012, Indiana University Press) is a culinary ethnography of Hoi An. Currently he is a visiting Israel Institute Professor at Middlebury College, where he is completing a manuscript on “Food and Power: A Culinary Ethnography of Israel.”
Abstract: “No Roi (already full)”: Dealing with Food Insecurity in Contemporary Vietnamese Rituals
Food insecurity has long been a fact of life in Vietnam, and in response, the Vietnamese have devised elaborate mechanisms of food sharing in public rituals. Vietnamese life cycle events involve sumptuous feasts that are nutritionally structured in opposition to daily meals. While these events are organized around social hierarchies that privilege the elderly and the male, those of higher social status must refrain from using their privileged access to food if they wish to retain their elevated social position, an example of what James Anderson labels “economy of prestige.” This paper—based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the Central Vietnamese town of Hoi An since 1998—presents the ethnography of eating etiquette, social structure, and these mechanisms of food distribution, arguing that they might be an effective way of dealing with food insecurity.
Birgit Schmook is engaged in a large range of research activities focused on the theme of human-environment relationships. Her research interests range from smallholder farming behavior in Mexico, with focus on shifting cultivation systems, labor out-migration and its relationship to environmental change in southern Mexico and Nicaragua, drivers and magnitude of tropical deforestation, social and physical impacts of large scale natural disturbances and more recently food security and land tenure regimes. A significant portion of her work combines natural, human and remote sensing/geographical information sciences to address problems of human-environment systems, including cultural and political ecology, land change science, and global environmental and climate change.
Abstract: Hunger and Land in Neoliberal Nicaragua: the Collision of Past and Present
Despite Nicaragua’s considerable improvements in average calorie intake and the incidence of poverty since 1990, 23% of the population is still chronically undernourished. After the Sandinista revolution, most cooperative lands were privatized by subsequent neoliberal governments and distributed among members. Many ex-cooperativistas, left without state support for agriculture, sold their land shares. Other communities, without access to communal or private land, are still dependent on big landowners to rent or lend them a miniscule plot for subsistence production. This paper uses data from focus group discussions, household surveys, and in-depth interviews with residents of two case study villages in the Department of Madriz in 2014–2015. One village is a former Sandinista cooperative and the other a remote village caught in feudal agrarian structures, and both suffer from severe lack of food. In both cases, food insecurity has been caused by inequities in land assets and a lack of entitlements in the neoliberal context.
Adam is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and a research associate of Oxford’s School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography. Adam’s doctoral research (2013) focused on the relationship between food insecurity, everyday food practices, and experiences of intimate partner violence within Kenyan informal settlements. His current work at UNC considers the social and ethical implications of existing (and future) efforts to cure HIV.
Abstract: The Causes and Consequences of Njaa (hunger) in the Household: Food Insecurity and Intimate Partner Violence within a Kenyan Informal Settlement
In Kenya, informal settlements or “slums” are residential spaces characterized by poverty, high population densities, undeveloped infrastructure, sub-standard housing, tenuous land rights, increased rates of infectious diseases, and food insecurity. In these informal settlements, pesa (money), sex, food, and gender are intimately connected to domestic power relations. Experiences of hunger following instances of spousal conflict contribute to feelings of domestic uncertainty and further friction in the household, thereby creating cycles of violence and insecurity. When utilized as an instrument of abuse, food takes on exaggerated significance for intimate relationships within households that struggle (and often fail) to make ends meet. Using data gathered over 15 months through participant observation, questionnaires, and 109 in-depth interviews with 67 participants, this paper provides an ethnographic account of the relationship between everyday food practices and experiences of intimate partner violence using an anthropological approach informed by ecological and biocultural perspectives.
Ashanté M. Reese
Ashanté M. Reese joined the department of sociology and anthropology at Spelman College as an assistant professor in 2015. She completed her doctorate in anthropology (with a specialization in race, gender, and social justice) at American University in 2015 where she also earned a master’s in public anthropology in 2013. Her research examines food access and consumption at the intersections of race, class, and place. Specifically, her ethnographic research focuses on Washington, DC, where she situates the local food system as a “racial project” within larger sociopolitical shifts in U.S. food production and consumption.
Abstract: Embodied Inequalities: Race, Class, and Food Access in Washington, DC
In food studies, particularly in the United States, focus on health and fixing a broken food system often obscures the ways in which race and class are integral components of the food system rather than tangential additives. Using ethnographic and archival data collected in Washington, DC, this paper explores race, systematic divestment of grocery stores in Washington, DC, and shifts away from individual food production as interrelated processes that influence the contemporary food landscape. The paper examines the ways the neighborhood food system changed in three key time periods—1930–1968 (the establishment of a black enclave), 1968–1990 (white and middle class flight) and 1990–present (beginnings of gentrification)—and explores how these changes influenced both community cohesiveness and the embodied experience of procuring food and eating.
Jessie is a graduate student working towards receiving an M.S. in food systems. She has been working on an applied research project in Vermont since 2011 that investigates food access strategies among Latino/a migrant farm workers. She has co-facilitated a community-based food access project, called Huertas, that helps to plant kitchen gardens with fresh, culturally familiar vegetables and herbs on farms where farm workers are living and working. She has received support through a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NE-SARE) grant, and recently was awarded the Thomas Marchione Food as a Human Right Prize from the Society of Anthropology of Food and Nutrition.
Abstract: Seeds Sent from Home: Migrant Farm Worker Gardens and Food Security in Vermont
Vermont prides itself on being a national role model in developing innovative models for community-supportive, ecologically responsible agricultural practices. However, the dairy industry—Vermont’s largest agricultural sector—has increasingly relied on Latino/a migrant farm laborers. Many of these workers are unable to access basic rights, including nutritious, fresh, and culturally relevant food. This paper examines systemic barriers, complex relationships, and resilient responses in the food system by investigating food access strategies and food security among Vermont’s Latino/a farm workers. Huertas—an ongoing gardening and community food access project—enables farm workers living and working on Vermont dairy farms to install and cultivate gardens, with the goal of increasing access to fresher, culturally familiar food. This paper utilizes the Huertas project, the USDA household food security survey module, and in-depth interviews with farm workers and service-providers to explore the complicated negotiations and barriers, farm workers encounter when trying to access, cook, and gather around food.
Colleen Hammelman is a Ph.D. candidate in geography and urban studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Her research interests include critical food studies, intersectionality, political ecology, and qualitative GIS. Her dissertation uses relational poverty analysis to better understand the role of mobility and social ties in implementing food insecurity coping strategies among migrant women in Medellín, Colombia, and Washington, DC. She is also engaging in new research on urban agricultural practices in migrant communities with a focus on how these projects are influenced by local government image-making, particularly with regard to sustainability, and the ways migrant identity is shaped by public rhetoric about them.
Abstract: Insecure Urban Foodscapes
Relying on conversations with 72 migrant women living in poverty in Medellín, Colombia, and Washington, DC, this paper traces the urban foodscapes which migrant women living in urban poverty seek to navigate in order to survive. Both Medellín and DC struggle to meet the needs of growing marginalized groups living in poverty. In these cities, migrant women undertake complex, interconnected strategies to cope with food insecurity influenced by various factors such as affordability, transportation, safety, and availability of desired goods. Tracing the foodscapes of low-income, food insecure, urban migrants demonstrates the interconnectivity of survival strategies and particularly the ways in which they are both social and mobile. Better understanding these foodscapes and their spatial implications enables a critical reading of policy and practitioner responses to food insecurity—particularly food desert policy and transportation innovations—and may highlight improvements to those policy responses.
Paula Schwartz is the Lois B. Watson Professor of French Studies at Middlebury College, where she teaches courses on twentieth-century French history and culture. Her scholarship focuses on the Resistance movement of the Second World War, food studies and food protests, gender studies, and French communism. Her long-standing passion for food also finds expression in teaching: “I eat therefore I am: Food and Culture in France,” (a course in the Department of French and Francophone Studies), and with Ellen Oxfeld, an International and Global Studies seminar titled “Global Consumptions: Food and Eating in Comparative Perspective.” She eats pasta almost every day.
Abstract: “Groveling for Lentils”: Hunger and Memory in Occupied France
Hunger was the single most powerful memory of everyday life during the Second World War for millions of French and other Europeans who lived under German occupation. The direct or indirect result of total war, hunger reached well beyond the European continent, from shortages in Great Britain to full-blown famine in India and China. This paper examines how the production, distribution, and consumption of food figured in German occupation policies and practice, and whether mass hunger and starvation were the fortuitous by-products of German war aims, or intentionally used as a weapon against France and the other occupied nations and territories of Europe. This paper assesses these questions primarily as they pertain to occupied France (1940-1944), where German requisitions of foodstuffs and other commodities fueled popular perceptions that the enemy was out to starve and humiliate the people.
Ellen Oxfeld is a professor of anthropology at Middlebury College. She is currently finishing revisions on an ethnography of food culture in rural southeastern China titled Bitter and Sweet: Food, Meaning and Modernity in Rural China (to be published by University of California Press next year). She is also the author of Blood, Sweat and Mahjong: Family and Enterprise in an Overseas Chinese Community (Cornell University Press, 1993) and “Drink Water, but Remember the Source”: Moral Discourse in a Chinese Village (University of California Press, 2010). She is co-editor, along with Lynellyn Long, of Coming Home? Refugees, Immigrants and Those Who Stayed Behind (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).
Abstract: Bitter Greens and Sweet Potatoes: Food as Embodied Memory in Rural China
This paper investigates how particular food substances in rural China embody historical memory and become markers of the historical transformation from food shortage to food abundance. In particular, the paper examines how villagers in rural Meixian, a county in Guangdong, China, find significance in, and indeed remember the past, through their discussion of common foodstuffs. The meanings of these foodstuffs are not merely fixed in an overarching semiotic system—although such meanings are part of the story—but in addition, their significance has changed over time as these foods interact with historical events and transformations. Furthermore, the village residents heavily view the historical changes themselves through the lens of food.
Mark Chatarpal is a researcher from Guyana, South America. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a specialization in Caribbean studies and was the recipient of the Frederick Ivor Case Book Prize. He is currently pursuing a PhD in food studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Abstract: The Maya Land Rights Struggle: A Framework for Operationalizing “Foodways with Identity”
This study of food insecurity and climate in three Maya communities in southern Belize suggests threats to food security as a result of increased challenges in the production of corn associated with climate change and a decline in the production and consumption of traditional foods associated with social, economic, and political structures. At the same time, important local actions at the individual and collective level have been central to “food security” and reveal the concept of food security fails to address broader social, economic, and political structures. They also reveal the limitations of conventional development as opposed to more appropriate concepts such as food sovereignty and development with identity. This paper reflects on two narratives associated with the Maya in Belize: marginalization and resurgence. On one hand, the Maya experience a high level of poverty. On the other, the Maya have been resurgent, with a recent court ruling recognizing indigenous land rights.
Laurel’s dissertation research focuses on the impacts of drought, agricultural development, and sociopolitical change on corn farmers in Chiapas, Mexico, and the social movements emerging in response to these challenges. She has been involved in multiple research endeavors related to food security and climate justice, including work on alternative food networks in Mexico, poverty and climate change in the Southwestern U.S., and food and water security in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Laurel works passionately to understand the complexity of food systems and promote positive innovations therein. In addition to academic pursuits, Laurel is a member of multiple food justice groups and enjoys using digital storytelling to share research results in a more compelling format.
Abstract: Food Security, Agro-biodiversity, and the State: The Struggle to Defend Native Corn Systems in Southern Mexico
The results of agricultural initiatives focusing on small farmers vary greatly depending on whether they originate from government policy, private enterprise, or civil society. Drawing on ongoing dissertation research, this paper traces the progressive decline of seed sovereignty in Chiapas, Mexico, as well as new efforts to defend and recover native corn varieties. It explores the increasing role of transnational corporations in corn systems and the difficulties encountered by groups intent on counteracting these processes. The paper contrasts the unique challenges confronting highland subsistence farmers with those facing lowland commercial producers. It evaluates how struggles over seeds are linked to a long history of inequalities wrought upon the small farming sector by the Green Revolution and the subsequent neoliberalization of agriculture. It discusses the challenges of developing culturally and environmentally appropriate rural extension models in Mexico, and how these local experiences relate to food security concerns and struggles on a global scale.
Margarita Fernandez has over 15 years of experience working on agroecology, livelihoods, food sovereignty, and biodiversity conservation initiatives in urban and rural landscapes of Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Laos, and the US. She recently became the executive director of a small non-profit, the Vermont Caribbean Institute, where she leads the organization’s work in Cuba. She holds a PhD in agroecology from the University of Vermont, where she worked with coffee communities in Chiapas, Mexico and northern Nicaragua. She holds a Masters from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where she studied urban agriculture in Havana, Cuba and New York City, and a BS from Tufts University.
Abstract: Subsistence under the Canopy: Agroecology’s Contributions to Food and Nutrition Security amongst Coffee Communitites of Mesoamerica
One of the most pressing challenges facing the world today is how to sustainably feed a growing population while conserving the ecosystem services that we depend on. Increasingly, global governance structures, academics, non-governmental organizations, and farmer associations recognize that agroecology must play a central role in a transition towards a more sustainable global agrifood system, one that will both maintain healthy ecosystems and ensure food and nutrition security for a growing population. This presentation outlines the evolving conceptualization of agroecology as a science, movement, and practice with emphasis on its contributions to food and nutrition security, presenting case studies from Mesoamerica that demonstrate how agroecology in practice contributes to conservation of biodiversity, improved dietary diversity, and overall livelihood resilience.
David A. Cleveland
David Cleveland is professor of environmental studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. His research and teaching focus on small-scale, sustainable food systems, and he has worked with farmers in Ghana, Mexico, Zuni, Hopi, Pakistan, and California. His current focus is the potential contributions of diet change and local food systems to climate change mitigation, improved nutrition, and food justice. His 2014 book, Balancing on a Planet: The future of food and agriculture, is a guide to thinking critically about how to achieve the local and global agrifood systems we want, based on understanding their biological and sociocultural roots.
Abstract: What’s on Your Plate? Is Global Diet Change the Key to Food and Climate Justice?
Climate change is a major threat to the food system, making it harder to grow and distribute food. There is also a major crisis in the food system, increasingly dominated by central governments and multinational corporations—over consumption, under consumption, and unhealthy foods. And the food system is also a threat to the climate system because it contributes at least 30% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE). The food and climate crises are intimately linked, and need to be understood and solved together. Limits to resources and sinks for pollution in the Anthropocene mean that the supply side Neolithic solutions, currently “green growth,” must be replaced with solutions that address the environmental and social roots of the problem. We will need to greatly decrease the GHGE of highest emitting populations to allow some increase by least emitting populations, and reduce food consumption of highest consuming populations to allow increase by the least consuming populations: climate justice equals food justice. This paper discusses why diet change is key to these solutions.
Molly D. Anderson
Molly D. Anderson teaches about food security, food justice, and food system transitions at Middlebury College and is developing a new food studies program. She is involved in food system planning at the state and regional scales, participating in Food Solutions New England network and the Inter-Institutional Network for Food, Agriculture & Sustainability; and she is a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems. She has worked for Oxfam America and Tufts University, where she was the founding director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment Graduate Program and directed Tufts Institute of the Environment.
Abstract: Who Decides Who Eats What?
This paper examines how governance affects food security and food system sustainability, specifically achieving the right to adequate food and nutrition (RtAFN). The 2009 reform of the Committee on World Food Security established a unique governance structure, allowing much greater participation by civil society and setting up a “Civil Society Mechanism” and “Private Sector Mechanism” with equal formal space for participation in debates and setting the agenda. The role granted to the private sector has become increasingly contentious, since civil society actors argue that the private sector has exacerbated food insecurity and poor nutrition through its political and market actions. This paper describes how inclusive governance with checks and balances of corporate power has contributed to opening the space for negotiation of policies driving food insecurity, and contrasts the impacts of inclusive and exclusive governance mechanisms.