Non-Fiction Friday: Critical Food Studies and Intersectionality

NonfictionFriday

Here’s the next round of non-fiction reads and I have to confess there are lots of academic texts in this post. Funny thing is, for all that my city’s library is so badly stocked, I have access to a university library and cheap ILL. That means it’s often easier for me to get my hands on academic books than the latest fiction and so I like to indulge. Of course it takes me ages to actually read them cover to cover, but don’t worry, I’ll soon bore you with a review. But never fear, it will involve dinosaurs! (yes I never grew out of that phase)

After focusing on the body in my last post, I want to list some intriguing titles from critical food studies. I almost went into that direction with my thesis, but it’s a pretty new field over here and I would have had no guidance. Didn’t keep me from ogling food studies publications though. Critical food studies is an interdisciplinary field of study in the social sciences and humanities, examining food-related issues from cooking and eating to production and foodways. Important work also pays close attention to how gender, race and class amongst other axes of oppression are implicated in these issues. Thus, necessary systemic critique comes from feminist and anti-racist directions in critical food studies and subsets further connect with animal studies. My own interest comes in at these intersections of intersectional feminism and critical food studies. This is not an introductory reading list but just 3 works from different directions that have caught my interest:

sugar

Sugar. A Bittersweet History by Elizabeth Abbott is a social history of one of our most important food products today. I have a soft spot for these microhistories that take one product/aspect as a critical entry point to demonstrate that these can never be taken outside of the social context. Like chocolate, sugar is an important aspect of the world’s history of racism and slavery. This is a Penguin publication but I’ve heard people saying the writing is somewhat dry. I can’t really say that I agree, but maybe I have a high threshold or the history of racism is never dry to me. Perhaps readers should know that this is a history of the slave trade, examined through sugar. Consider yourselves warned I guess.

racial indigestion

Racial Indigestion by Kyla Wazana Tompkins, too, focuses on the food-related racial history of the 19th century. However, Tompkins takes a literary and media studies approach to this. As the title reveals, she focuses on consumption and calls for a turn to “critical eating studies.” Can you hear the echo of bell hooks’ “Eating the Other” in this!? Tompkins analyses case studies where Black Americans and especially Black women become posited as consumable in the eyes of white supremacy. I’ve only read excerpts of this text but I’m looking forward to having the time to finish this one. You’ll like this one if you enjoyed Building Houses Made of Chicken Legs.

cultivating

Cultivating Food Justice is a collection about food production and distribution, focusing on how low-income and communities of color are disproportionately hit by current policies of the industry. Thus, the food system reproduces hierarchies of race and class and these effects can be see in access to food, health and environmental issues. By and large the face of the food movement had been presented as white  and this collection seeks to challenge this image and bring a social justice perspective to food studies. I especially like that this book gathers work from activists who work in the food justice movement and not just academics!

What are your favorite food-related non-fiction reads? Let me know in the comments!

Note: I wanted to make non-fiction post something regular and while googling about non-fiction in the book blogosphere, I stumbled on the wonderful Non-Fiction Friday series by DoingDewey. It seemed perfect and so here I am joining in on the non-fiction love.