Eating the State: foodways and the making (and unmaking) of state power

Catie Gressier (University of Notre Dame Australia)
David Giles (Deakin University)
Corinna Howland (University of Cambridge)
Carolyn Morris (Massey University, Palmerston North)
Ligertwood 113
Start time:
12 December, 2017 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

What food systems un/make the state? Through practices of producing, distributing, consuming or destroying food, the state is variously embodied and challenged by its citizens. We explore the politics of state and non-state food systems—with an eye for productive moments of friction between them.

Long abstract:

What food systems make the state—or unmake it? How is the 'state effect', as Timothy Mitchell calls it, reproduced in the regulation, discipline, and biopolitical production of our foodways? As neoliberal principles lead states to outsource many of their quotidian functions to third parties (NGOs, private sector actors, etcetera), how might state effects shape the subjectivities and materialities at work in our food systems? In contrast, how might less hegemonic forms of growing, making, or procuring food undermine or reconfigure these state effects? This panel explores the interplay between state and non-state foodways, with an eye for productive moments of friction. How, for example, do producers, distributors, and consumers variously reproduce or contest neoliberal regulation? What hidden actors or "conducers" (Legun 2016) manifest this regulation? Why might armed SWAT teams raid raw milk facilities? Why do city ordinances prohibit emergency meal services from distributing free food in public places? What kinds of politics are reflected in the cultivation or criticism of free 'food forests' in urban spaces? How are our foodways transformed when breast-feeding is banned in public? And so on. This panel welcomes a range of approaches to these issues. Our title (borrowed from the political magazine Eat the State) playfully responds to the traditional anarchist invocation to "smash the state" with a more complex dialectic in which consumption—eating—implies paradoxically both the state's embodiment and its supersession. Our panel seeks to explore precisely this sort of productive tension, and the politics that it makes possible.