EASA2018: Staying, Moving, Settling

(P033)
Moving on: Food Futures and Reimagining Uncertainty [Anthropology of Food]
Location
Date and Start Time [TBD] at [TBD]
Sessions [TBD]

Convenors

  • Petra Matijevic (SOAS, University of London) email
  • Camelia Dewan (Stockholm University) email
  • Mukta Das (SOAS University of London) email
  • Katharina Graf (SOAS, University of London) email

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Discussant Nefissa Naguib (University of Oslo)

Short abstract

This panel addresses how food 'moves on' across time and space, borders and bodies. From everyday practices to overarching value systems, we consider foodways as human contemplations of the future: as sources of uncertainty, as cushions against it and as speculations in search of opportunities.

Long abstract

The movement of human bodies through space is enmeshed in worries and anticipations, plans and policies, and visions of a better life. This panel addresses the imaginaries of 'moving forward' by considering food as standing at the forefront of human contemplations of the future. Uncertainties of nourishment in the immediate and far futures animate anticipatory behaviour and range from coping with urban poverty to tackling the future of agriculture in the Anthropocene. Through structuring everyday foodways or relying on overarching value systems like science and ritual, food is also enlisted to offset the uncertainties of life. Furthermore, reigning in food uncertainties can help turn disruptions into profit. Food is both the most basic source of human uncertainty and a basic way of mitigating it.

By focusing on foodways in temporal mobilities, this panel hopes to 'move on' and make food and future an anthropological theme in its own right. We aim to showcase a variety of local and global ways in which futures are imagined and uncertainties reimagined through food. We invite papers that address staying, moving or settling of foods from field to table, fork and bodies. This includes the role of food in economic crises; food anxieties, food safety and (mis)trust; industrial food regimes in a changing climate and degraded environment, global food commodity chains as subject of financial speculation; value accumulation through food growing, ripening or ageing; food in the technologies of planning such as policy-making and agricultural development; alternative food movements; and aspirational dieting.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Empowering residents to co-design their food systems: experimenting with future-oriented methods in Japan and Thailand

Authors: Christoph Rupprecht (Research Institute for Humanity and Nature) email
Joost Vervoort (Utrecht University) email
Astrid Mangnus email
Steven McGreevy (Research Institute for Humanity and Nature) email
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Short abstract

How can future-oriented participative methods empower residents to take ownership of their rapidly changing food systems? We showcase results from Japan and Thailand, from visioning workshops and backcasting to "serious games" and social media-based collective reflections on "good food".

Long abstract

Rapidly changing local and global food systems as well as changing food practices create uncertainty that often leave us with the feeling that we are not in control of what, where and how we eat. Here we introduce a variety of future-oriented participative methods that aim to empower residents to co-design and co-produce their food systems and thereby increase food sovereignty. These methods were tested across sites in Japan and Thailand as part of the FEAST project ("Lifeworlds of Sustainable Food Consumption and Production: Agrifood Systems in Transition") from 2016 to 2018. We showcase visioning workshops to identify ideal diets of the future, backcasting to identify pathways for implementation, personal foodshed mapping, "serious games" from Food Policy Council roleplaying to group-based video games, and collective reflections on what "good food" means crowd-sourced via public transport advertising and social media. We discuss insights gained and lessons learned as our participants and us traveled to imaginary food futures — how they approached the uncertainty of living in a changing world as well as the fundamental uncertainty of future-oriented methods, but also how such uncertainties can create space for new ideas and visions of a better life.

Making cheese - repositioning the country: the embargo, import substitution, and visions of Russia's development

Author: Volha Biziukova (University of Vienna ) email
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Short abstract

The paper explores how developments in cheese consumption and production in Russia, which gained salience amid the embargo and import substitution, function as a milieu for negotiating contradictions of Russia's development and global positionality as well as expressing aspirations for its future.

Long abstract

In the context of the embargo on food imports and the policy of import substitution, which signal a shift in the state strategy of Russia's socioeconomic development, cheese has gained an unprecedented prominence in consumers' narratives, media reports, and public discussions. Drawing on data collected in 2015-2018, this paper addresses changes in cheese consumption and production and approaches the narratives about cheese as an entry point to explore people's expectations regarding Russia's future development and its repositioning in the global hierarchies of power. Due to the place of cheese in Russia's system of provision (Fine 1995) along with the meanings and symbolic value attached to this product, its substitution is perceived as both indicative of ongoing changes and problematic.

Consumption of cheese, once a top import, has been undergoing significant changes and middle-class consumers are adjusting their consumption habits. The developments in the domestic cheese production simultaneously symbolize the ambitions of restoring the manufacturing capacity of Russia's resource-dependent economy and pose a tough challenge for these aspirations. Widespread doubts regarding quality, safety, and taste of domestic cheese persist, questioning the feasibility of the entire initiative. This paper argues that controversies surrounding cheese became a milieu for expressing and negotiating contradictions of Russia's development and position in the global hierarchies, especially vis-à-vis its technological inferiority, deindustrialization, and import-dependence. It analyzes how experiences of Russia's societal transformations, entangled with particular representations of the Soviet and Imperial past, inform uncertain images of the future, infused with hopes and fears, ambitions and skepticism.

From source of life to embodiment of an uncertain and dangerous future: changes in the perception of rice in a South Indian village

Author: Heribert Beckmann (Heidelberg University) email
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Short abstract

This paper describes how in a rice-cultivating village in South India the meaning of the staple food rice for residents increasingly shifts from constituting a source of certainty and stability to becoming the embodiment of bodily and ecological decay and an uncertain future.

Long abstract

In the Kaveri River Delta in rural Tamil Nadu, India, rice has been cultivated for over two millennia. As it is their main food crop, villagers perceive rice as the main physical connection between their bodies and their social and ecological environment. They further consider it the main source of bodily health (Sujatha 2002).

Within the last 15 years, rice production, distribution, and consumption have become increasingly commodified and villagers have lost control over and knowledge of the cultivation and processing of the rice they now purchase for consumption and of the agro-chemical substances applied to the rice. Simultaneously, there has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes and other "diseases of modernity" (Shetty 2012), which villagers attribute to the application of mineral fertilisers and agro-chemicals to the rice.

Based on fieldwork in a rice-cultivating village, I show that, while villagers continue to enact rice as a life-giving and auspicious source of certainty in rituals, rice has also become a major source of anxiety and fear for them. I argue that, due to being their main food, rice has become the main material and discursive means for villagers to experience and articulate what they perceive as the increasing decay of their bodies and their environment due to being infested with alien chemicals. I show how through their engagement with rice they come to imagine their life world as a "traditional" social-ecological system, the future of which is increasingly threatened by a destructive and invasive "modernity."

Strategic Ignorance and Crises of Trust: Horsemeat, global supply chains and the making unforeseeable of food futures

Author: Jeremy Brice (London School of Economics) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores the negotiation of anxieties about risk, responsibility and the anticipation of possible futures through the 2013 horsemeat scandal. Examining why food businesses did not foresee the adulteration of meat products, it explores the role of ignorance in making and managing futures.

Long abstract

This paper considers how the anticipation of futures is problematised through food by examining the legacy of the revelation, in early 2013, that processed beef products sold by leading European supermarkets had been adulterated with horsemeat. These events spawned both public anxiety over the composition and mobilities of foodstuffs and official inquiries into the governance of risk within international food supply chains, which portrayed food manufacturers and retailers as insufficiently attentive to their meat suppliers' activities and the composition of their products. Out of these discussions emerged a trenchant question: why had major food businesses failed to anticipate that their suppliers might adulterate meat products, and to take precautions against this possibility?

This paper draws on interviews with employees of food businesses and providers of risk management services to understand the reasons for food businesses' apparent disinterest in their suppliers' activities. I will argue that food businesses' seeming ignorance of their supply chains is a response to a legal regime in which prior knowledge of threats to food safety or authenticity can carry a risk of prosecution. Through limiting their knowledge of potentially unsavoury practices among their suppliers, food businesses also manipulate their ability to foresee potential lapses, incidents and breaches of law. In exploring this process, I will show how the production of ignorance about the origins of foodstuffs, and about their attendant risks, becomes part of food businesses' anticipation and management of potential risks - and thus paradoxically becomes an active part of the process of making futures.

Embedded Foodways. Exploring the "avant-garde" of Styrian family farmers

Authors: Elisabeth Kosnik (University of Graz) email
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Short abstract

Our research explores foodways as embedded in multi-dimensional ways in response to food related anxieties. For small-scale farmers this might prove an opportunity to make a livelihood through alternative schemes, whereby food is less considered as disembedded commodity than as 'total social fact'.

Long abstract

Like many other regions of Europe and elsewhere, rural Styria (Austria) suffers from de-population and its associated problems, from declining infrastructure to neglected landscapes. As farms disappear, consumers (and governments) increasingly worry about where their food will come from in the future. Combined with an increasing mistrust among consumers of food solely produced for profit, the demand for "local" and "safe" food is on the rise. Our inter-disciplinary research project (agricultural science, cultural anthropology and European ethnology) explores the "avant-garde" of family farmers in Styria - in-migrants as well as long-term residents - who see this development as an opportunity to make a new life as small-scale farmers, creating household-scale livelihoods that feed themselves as well as revive their local communities, imagining a future of local (food) resilience. Based on in-depth biographical interviews, the research project investigates foodways as embedded in multi-dimensional, environmental, social and cultural ways (Sorgo 2014). These smallholders aim to build trust relationships with their consumers based on reciprocity, through alternative schemes of production and distribution, thereby counter-acting food anxieties while also sharing responsibilities. Food, in this context, is less considered as disembedded commodity than as a 'total social fact', a notion further explored in our ongoing research project.

Being in and belonging to the future - food, eclecticism identity in Hong Kong and Macau

Author: Mukta Das (SOAS University of London) email
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Short abstract

Hong Kong and Macau are counting down to 2047 and 2049 and full integration with China. The cultural uncertainty of this - and what it will mean to be and belong to a port city with eclectic culinary practices in the future - plays out in the daily work of local South Asians cooks.

Long abstract

In 2047 and 2049, Hong Kong and Macau will be fully integrated with China. Up until that point, the Basic Laws which were put into place straight after the handover by Britain and Portugal in the late 1990s continue the cities' open ports for various international passport holders, foods and other substances.

Hong Kong and Macau have interpreted and reinterpreted cultural difference with mainland China in these post-colonial times, particularly as socio-economic differences have flattened, and mostly through the language of food, its quality and taste, its sheer abundance and eclecticism, diversity and its safety.

There is a great deal of cultural uncertainty of what it will mean to be Cantonese, Macanese, Portuguese, a British National Overseas and a host of other identities after the Basic laws are repealed. Such uncertainties are a daily negotiation, within which food plays a major role in navigating confluences and contradictions offered by ethnolinguistic nationalisms and eclecticism. Examples include the valorisation of tea cafes hybrid staples as working class heritage, the politics of Michelin in Cantonese cities with global culinary ambitions, and in the plans of a new class of South Asian restaurateurs launching or extending global restaurant chains in China.

South Asian cooks and South Asian flavours, condiments and materials represent much that is opportunistic and problematic about this temporal space leading up to integration. By exploring the everyday use and sensory impact of their work on daily cultural negotiations in the cities, I examine the temporal culinary mechanics of cultural difference.

The Imagination and Creation of a Levantine Cuisine and Taste in Argentina.

Authors: Lorenzo Cañás Bottos (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) email
Tanja Plasil (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores the transformation of migrant food practices and the creation of a Levantine-Argentine cuisine, based on shared taste, authenticity and memory.

Long abstract

This paper focuses on the food practices of the descendants of Levantine immigrants to Argentina since the beginning of the twentieth century. The construction of the Argentine nation was based on very explicit future-oriented ideological projects where immigrants would settle and enter a melting pot out of which the modern nation would emerge (Archetti, 1999; Halperín Donghi, 1982; Schneider, 1996; Shumway, 1991). Four mechanisms that were set in motion in Argentina in the process of assimilation of immigrants in order to standardize them as Argentine citizens, and how the Levantine immigrants adapted, resisted and contributed in their own ways in an attempt at securing their future. Food and cuisine, became an area tucked away from the standardizing interests of the state. We use four gastronomic operations ('packaging', 'grinding', 'blending' and 'mixing') as metaphors for exploring processes of integration and the development of the Argentine-Levantine cuisine:. It was precisely in this area that different attempts at "standardization from below" were set in motion, by constructing and imagining an Argentine-Levantine cuisine with its own senses of taste, memory and authenticity.

Flour Martyrs? Fighting Food Insecurity from within the Urban Moroccan Home

Author: Katharina Graf (SOAS, University of London) email
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Short abstract

In urban Morocco, socioeconomic uncertainty and especially food insecurity are engaged with and fought in daily life by women, especially mothers, whose daily practices of breadmaking reveal the hidden nature of poverty and precariousness in a rapidly liberalising economy.

Long abstract

On 19th November 2017, 15 women - mostly mothers - died in a stampede in a small Moroccan town trying to obtain privately distributed food aid in the form of flour, cooking oil and sugar. It hadn't rained in most of Morocco for nearly six months and producers and consumers feared that another year of drought would diminish cereal availability and critically raise the prices of grains, flour and bread - the unchallenged staple of the Moroccan diet and (food) culture.

Although this event fits into the larger picture of civil society filling the gaps left by liberalising governments, the Moroccan government still controls the production, distribution and price of wheat and increasingly relies on imports to feed the rapidly growing population. However, since the global food prices spikes in the last decade, the import of wheat has become more costly for the government, threatening the collapse of its historical social contract to provide food security especially to its urban poor.

Whereas in neighbouring countries poverty, unemployment and a lack of political representation manifested themselves in the form of protests largely driven by young men, the deaths of these mothers seeking free flour is symbolic of the different form that precariousness and food insecurity take in Morocco - they are hidden within the domestic sphere and appear disconnected from governmental policies. Through exploring the daily preparation of bread in this context, I consider poor urban women, especially mothers, as key actors in engaging with poverty and everyday socioeconomic uncertainty.

Rice Going Wrong and On - Realizing Burkina Faso's Rice Promise in Bagré

Author: Janine Hauer (Humboldt University) email
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Short abstract

Drawing on fieldwork in Bagré, I examine the role rice plays throughout changing political regimes and project conditions. I argue that the notion of the boundary object provides a useful lens to grasp the temporal dimension of rice-associated transformations of lands and livelihoods.

Long abstract

Rice is the most rapidly growing food source in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, countries across the region depend on imports. Increasing the production thus is a priority on political agendas, especially since the global food price crisis in 2007/08. Realizing Africa's rice promise (Wopereis et al. 2013) constitutes a joint venture that challenges people and places, individuals and institutions etc. I draw on research in Ouagadougou and the Bagré region - a major rice producing area that has been undergoing massive transformations since the construction of the Bagré dam in the 1990s - in the South of Burkina Faso where land is converted into irrigated rice fields. I conducted fieldwork among rice farmers and processors, in cooperative offices and government institutions. In this paper I grapple with the puzzle of why and how rice simultaneously goes wrong - meaning that despite considerable efforts the actual success lacks behind expectations, projections and calculations - and goes on - across shifting political regimes and project conditions 'rice stays in place', serving and linking various global discourses and associated strategies such as accelerating growth, pushing sustainable development, fighting poverty, adapting to climate change, etc. as well individual hopes and struggles for making a living. I suggest to conceptualize rice as boundary object (Star & Griesemer 1989) to account for the diverging perceptions and practices that mark current realities in Bagré as well as the sociotechnical imaginaries (Jasanoff & Kim 2009) of the future under way. I argue for the concept's usefulness to grasp the temporal dimensions of rice farming across the region.

Cultivating possibilities: The reconfiguration of rice cultivation activities in Ifugao, Philippines

Author: Kathrine Ann Cagat (University of Utah Asia Campus) email
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Short abstract

In an examination of how the Ifugao have reconfigured rice cultivation activities, this paper discusses how the potential of people and rice are indelibly linked and considers how people's visualization of past agricultural practices is shaped by future aspirations.

Long abstract

Ifugao wet-rice cultivation practices have garnered international attention in the inscription of the Ifugao Rice Terraces into the UNESCO World Heritage Site. A key factor in its inscription is the link between the environmental soundness of the Ifugao wet-rice terrace cultivation and the richness of rituals undertaken for planting rice. Currently, municipal festivals, as well as touristic activities have co-opted agricultural activities. These co-optations are not without debates amongst community members as Ifugao residents contemplate their socioeconomic advancement amidst socio-ecological transformations in their province. As such, this paper examines how Ifugao community members reconfigure rice cultivation activities to negotiate access to resources, build local and international alliances and expand livelihood opportunities. The aim is to discuss how the potential of people and rice are indelibly linked and how people's visualization of past practices is shaped by future aspirations for themselves and Ifugao Province.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.