- Catie Gressier (University of Notre Dame Australia) email
- David Giles (Deakin University) email
- Corinna Howland (University of Cambridge) email
- Carolyn Morris (Massey University, Palmerston North) email
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.
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.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Brewing beyond the state: beer, anarchism and confluent labour
Focusing on clandestine cooperativist beer manufacturers, this presentation explores how anti-state beer production contributes towards meaningful and value-driven forms of work and solidarity in an autonomous region in Spain.
Beer has long been a staple, both economically and socially, within illegally occupied and self-managed social centres in Spain. Until recently, this beer has predominantly been sourced from large corporations - some of which have ties to Spain's fascist past. Recent developments have seen the emergence of clandestine, artisanal breweries grounded in anarchist and cooperativist principles. These breweries provide their communities with high quality, affordable alternatives to corporate beer while bolstering support for local projects, struggles and organization. This presentation explores the role of clandestine cooperativist beer manufacturers in creating meaningful forms of work and solidarity in an autonomous region in Spain.
Drawing on 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork within one clandestine brewery and associated anarchist collectives, cooperatives and social centres, I explore how this social and gastronomic staple has been leveraged to secure and circulate economic and social resources within the region's anarchist and left-libertarian network. While the clandestine nature of these brewing projects is currently essential to their operation, and lends them legitimacy within an anti-state context, their informal status presents long-term challenges and ambiguity in how their products are interpreted and distributed.
Moving beyond a focus on legality and interactions with the state, I explore how foodways here are mobilized to embolden realities beyond the state. Commenting on the importance of establishing value-consistent forms of work within this politically-charged field, I focus on the brewers' ability to establish confluence between their strong political ideals, the structures of the cooperatives in which they operate, and their distribution networks.
Wild food fermentations and the challenges of regulation
Governments regulate ingredients and processes in food production for safe and defined foods. The rise of wild fermentations have challenged the definitions of purity and microbiological safety. This paper is an exploration of the small producers reviving the tradition of wild fermentation.
One of the most ancient forms of food preservation, much is known about the cultural practice of fermentation. Little focus is directed towards the distinction between the 'wild' and commercially fermented foods and beverages. The industrialisation of food production has ensured that products of wild ferments are less prevalent in our diets. Fermented foods such as bread and sauerkraut are now made from single-strain yeast and bacteria monocultures. There is limited evidence that the flavors and health benefits of fermented foods produced from monocultures rival those produced from 'wild' ferments, favoring a revival of traditional fermentation methods. Wild ferments still carry a negative stigma attached to the resident microbes. Government regulation plays a significant role in consumer acceptance of wild ferments, perpetuating the belief that if a product is not completely sterile, we should not eat it. In the post-Pasteurian world where food substrates are sterilized in factories before single, defined cultures of microbes are added to food, the virtue of 'wild' fermentations are attractive. To the small-scale fermenters, foods and beverages produced from wild ferments taste better and are vital to human health. This paper investigates the social practice of fermentation by small-scale food manufacturers, focusing on the cultural understanding of wild ferments in the food system. This paper will explore the work of these artisans, and their motivations for reviving food and beverage production through 'wild' fermentation, as well as the limitations and restrictions imposed by government regulations.
Drinking the divine: wine, religiosity, and the nation-state
Late settler nationalism is underpinned by shifting, explicit/implicit notions of divine provenance and legitimacy which are, in part, reflected and generated within discourses of wine production and consumption.
The 17th century emergence of nation-states - and more latterly, the rise of colonising and imperialistic late-settler states such as New Zealand, Australia and the United States of America - are underpinned by shifting assertions of divine legitimacy. Early nation-states pressed into service the explicit avowals of divine provenance that monarchical and theocratic political hierarchies had previously petitioned. Whereas modern nation-states are typified by discourses of romantic nationalism, which are entwined with the rise of secularism, and that are also marked by a shift toward implicit forms of religiosity in which 'folk' assertions of place and people are celebrated as natural, unique and banally sacred (Billig 2014 ; Brubaker 2012; Gellner 1983; Smith 1990).
Using New Zealand as a case study I examine how the development of the wine industry over time reflects these historical shifts from explicit to implicit, overt to banal, forms of divine provenance and ordination. To this end I discuss James Busby's and Samuel Marsden's unequivocal goal of introducing wine cultivation to New Zealand in the 1830s as a proselytising and civilising practice for both indigenous and new settler populations; how the folk nationalism of place and people is particularly evident from the 1970s onwards and variably so in wine discourses expressed in national, regional and terroir-specific registers; and finally how the contemporary adulation of boutique winemakers and reflexive wine consumers manifests as an implicit, collective religiosity foreshadowed in Durkheim's (1969 ) theory of the 'cult of the individual'.
Performing the nation through food: celebrating Yalda in New Zealand
This paper will present the ways in which national identity is performed among the Iranian diaspora in New Zealand by having a look at their food practices and discourses within a celebratory context.
This paper will present the ways in which national identity is performed among the Iranian diaspora in New Zealand by having a look at their food practices and discourses within a celebratory context. One of the most evident meeting point of these three fields (diaspora, national identity and food) is the celebration of the ancient Persian festival of Yalda, celebrated today as a national event with many customs, traditions and rituals associated with food and eating, all of which carrying great symbolic significance. The paper shows how Iranians in New Zealand practice and sometimes 'invent' Yalda food traditions to gain a sense of belonging and 'Iranianness' as well as re-produce and re-define their national identity, thus contributing to an existing scholarship in cultural food studies in diasporic and transnational contexts among one of the least studied populations in the field of Food Studies.
Resistance and the garden: food cultivation, public housing and the state
This paper is an ethnographic account of resistance found in a public housing community garden. The garden is state-funded and managed by a not-for-profit. I explore the contradictions of and resistance to this formal government initiative, particularly when it is carried out in the third sector.
Community gardens, particularly those targeted at individuals and communities suffering from the effects of poverty, are often advocated as a means to address urban food insecurity. The gardeners that are the informants for this paper are all residents of the public housing estate and live on low incomes. Additionally, they are predominantly elderly, first-generation migrants.
In this paper, I explore the attempt to control space, which is founded in the physical limitations established by those who have authority over the community garden. How does the control over this space represent a model that replicates neoliberal governmentality? And, moreover, what are the gardeners' responses to this governance model?
I examine the everyday behaviours and interpersonal relationships of the gardeners. I argue that the gardeners' seemingly mundane values and actions actually constitute a form of resistance to the not-for-profit organisation and thus, the state. I highlight the system of control that exists within this space and the tensions this system cultivates between the community gardeners and the state. What does this attempt at creating a food system tell us about the relationship between the state and its marginalised citizens?
Stone Age economics: the Paleo diet, populism and resistance in Australia
Populist Paleo promoters construct their dietary approach as oppositional to the state and biomedicine's neoliberal turn. Yet, alternative health is big business, and I suggest Paleo reproduces as much as resists neoliberal values and practices.
In our age of affluence, excessive or damaged flesh is subject to stigma and disdain. Average body size and rates of chronic illness have increased in tandem with neoliberal policies engendering the prevalence of polluted environments, precarious work conditions, and the unregulated sale of junk foods. Yet, the individual is consistently cast as responsible for their health and weight. Internalising such values, the ill and body-conscious seek redemption from their fleshly challenges through dietary disciplines. With its nostalgic appeal to an idyllic past, and eschewal of the unfavourable fare of the present, the Paleo approach is constructed as oppositional to the state and biomedicine's neoliberal turn. However, weight loss is big business in Australia, and populist Paleo leaders have built alternative health empires on the back of anti-elite sentiments stemming from the perceived health crisis. Favouring the anecdotal over the evidence-based, the diet's promoters tap into consumer anxieties and frustrations through social media platforms that provide both a sense of community for Paleo dieters, and a source of knowledge, labour and revenue for their founders. Based on ethnographic research in Melbourne, Sydney and online, I argue that despite its oppositional self-styling, the Paleo diet's market orientation, and focus on individual health in lieu of social reform, ensures it reproduces more than resists neoliberal values and practices.
Eating the favela: the good life in contemporary Brazil
In this paper, I take on 'eating' as a model for the management of social relations. I hope to offer insight into the vulnerable, fragile dimensions of agency, in a context of great social inequality, with a Rio de Janeiro favela as the ethnographic setting.
This paper explores the everyday experiences of a group of youths in a Complex of favelas in Rio de Janeiro, and the work they invest into attaining "a vida boa", the good life, through the various sorts of alliances, networks and exchanges they seek to maintain in order to foster their aspirations. One focus is placed on bodies and bodily becomings, considering the circumstances which configure the body into an arena for self-realization, and the stakes which are at hand. I also take on 'eating', in terms of the nutritional practice that sustains us as living beings, but also as a social model for the management of social relations. These threads come together and offer insight into the vulnerable, fragile dimensions of agency, in a context of great social inequality, coupled with an unprecedented amount of violence unleashed by armed state and non - state actors.
Fear of a free lunch: urban gift economies and the right to the city
Grassroots soup kitchens and food forests redistribute wasted surpluses, making thinkable new ways of sharing the city. Through a comparison of the prohibitions they provoke, this paper explores urban apparatuses of biopolitical governance and non-market forms of economy against which they militate.
In 1980, the first chapter of Food Not Bombs—a decentralised movement of grassroots, antiwar soup kitchens—began sharing free meals in Cambridge, Massachusetts, protesting militarism, poverty, and homelessness. Since then, hundreds of autonomous chapters have formed across the globe—earning the group a place on the FBI's terrorist watch list, and over one thousand arrests for violating municipal food sharing prohibitions that have proliferated during the same timeframe in the name of public health and public safety.
Three decades later, urban permaculture movements have successfully lobbied to establish free, self-renewing, edible landscapes—"food forests"—on disused public lands in several major cities, including Seattle and Christchurch. Almost immediately, these projects have elicited suspicion from neighbours and public officials alike towards the beneficiaries of such ecological commons. What sort of people would they attract, they wondered? Who would come to "steal" this free food?
Why should simply sharing food mobilise such prohibition and distrust? Through a comparative analysis of Food Not Bombs, food forest collectives, and the responses they provoke, this paper develops a composite genealogy of urban apparatuses of biopolitical governance that underwrite market exchange, and the non-market forms of economy against which they militate. Both movements redistribute wasted surpluses (donated food and derelict land) and, I argue, articulate prefigurative forms of economic value and illiberal agency—remaking the affective and institutional landscape of urban food systems, and making thinkable new ways of sharing the city in the twenty-first century.
Seeing the state through the Denheath custard square
In order to open up the question of the state effect we explore the activities of a small New Zealand cake maker, Denheath, as they work to make an export market for their gourmet custard squares.
What is the "state effect" in Aotearoa New Zealand? How do people experience that effect, and how do they understand the relationship between the state and themselves? In the highly neo-liberalised context of Aotearoa New Zealand, where the (supposedly) free market reigns, how do people engage the state and how, in turn, does the state enrol them in its projects?
In order to open up the question of the state effect we explore the activities of a small New Zealand cake maker, Denheath, as they work to make an export market for their gourmet custard squares, attending to when and how they connect with institutions, agents and things that they understand as state-things. In this paper we explore how Denheath works to mobilise state investment and expertise to achieve their goals, illuminating the diverse actors involved in the state's economic projects, and revealing it's enabling as well as thwarting potentialities.
The work of attracting state support for their export strategy required Denheath to present itself as a particular kind of subject, one able to engage the multiplicity of the state in ways recognisable to it. This meant looking like an innovative entrepreneur, a subjectivity potentially at odds with the small town, family origin story wrapped around the custard square.
Food during pregnancy: a sole, social or state choice
This paper discuss the regimes of production,distribution to consumption of foodways at family as well as state level,which are directly or indirectly affecting the health of pregnant women in particular and resultant is the maternal illhealth & deaths.The data based on my PhD field work in Pakistan
The present paper would discuss the impact of personal, familial, societal and governmental (state) food-ways related choices, restrictions, policies, and practices, on the pregnant woman in southern areas of Pakistan. It would elaborate the difference between need and choice at individual level in the absence of sufficient resources, and presence of family dictations to a woman in terms of what, how, where and when to eat. Moreover, at state level, the paper would touch the ongoing different nutritional programs for the improvement of health of neonatal and pregnant women. The programs are aid-supported, provided by various (I)NGOs such as WHO, UNICEF, DFID. The paper will study how these initiatives are determining the food choices for a pregnant woman. However, the paper would attempt to unpack the socio-economic situation of these women, which is caused by the lack of effective state-run policies and practices regarding food systems, responsible for the vicious circle of poverty. When the sufficient food lacks due to unequal distribution of the resources, it is not a justified way to talk about the quality food. Nevertheless, a pregnant woman needs food in terms of quantity and quality. It means, this paper would highlight these three levels, i.e., family, state and global, which leave strong impressions on the health of a woman, specially a pregnant one. These impressions may appear in the form of food choices and availability leading towards malnutrition, maternal ill-health.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.