Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Culture and Agriculture
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Materiality
Secondary Theme: Borders
This panel investigates the question of what moral and political shifts can occur when we rethink the familiar boundaries of bodies in the productive and consumptive transformations of food. Exploring a variety of geographic and historical contexts, the panelists draw out the multi-species processes of co-constitution, collaboration, and transubstantiation central to the acts of eating, ingesting substances, and agricultural production. The papers explore how digestion and metabolization destabilize the discreet boundaries between individual bodies and the foods they consume. Importantly, they expand outwards to argue that such physiological transference can become political platforms for unlikely alliances and community-building. The soil, the mouth, the intestine, the stomach, the farm, and the community, as these papers argue, can be made into linked ethical frontiers, especially against the backdrop of industrial agriculture. How might anthropology activate these sites, too often viewed as the “somatic political unconscious” or “alimentary habitus” (Roy 2010)?
As multi-species ethnography becomes an increasingly widespread methodological tool in anthropology, this panel seeks to develop methods to connect such conceptual approaches with broader political projects. To do so, it asks: What does it mean to eat and to be eaten (Derrida 1991, Nash 1979)? How and when are boundaries drawn within and between species and environments, and how and when are they usefully broken down (Barad 2007)? How can “making kin” with the nonhuman (Haraway 2016) shift the ways humans identify, connect, and collaborate with each other and beings beyond the human? In an era of ecological crisis, what conceptual models are available to push beyond “modest examples of biocultural hope” (Kirksey and Helmreich 2010)? To address these issues, the papers brought together in this panel will use ethnographic and archaeological approaches to deeply engage plant, animal, human, microbial, fungal, and molecular life across space and time.
Barad K (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Derrida J (1991) Eating Well, or the Calculation of the Subject: An Interview with Jacques Derrida. In E. Cadava, J-L. Nancy, & P. Conner (Eds.), Who Comes Aſter the Subject? (pp. 96–119). New York: Routledge.
Haraway D (2016) Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.
Kirksey E, Helmreich S (2010) The Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography. Cultural Anthropology. 25:545–76.
Nash J (1979) We Eat the Mines and the Mines Eat Us: Dependency and Exploitation in Bolivian Tin Mines. New York: Columbia University Press.
Roy P (2010) Alimentary Tracts. Appetites, Aversions, and the Postcolonial. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.