Second Printing!

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Racial Indigestion has entered its second printing, and with full color insert again. My latte runneth over. You can buy Racial Indigestion here, on kindle here and at an independent bookstore, here.

New Book Series! Ecologies of Consumption: Cultures of Food, Hunger and Appetite

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I am excited to let people know that I have started a new book series with NYU Press, entitled Ecologies of Consumption: Cultures of Food, Hunger and Appetite. The series is aimed at pushing the limits of food studies as a field. Consider sending in your proposals! I will be taking meetings at the American Studies Association conference. 

Ecologies of Consumption will publish interdisciplinary scholarship in food studies, with particular attention to work that expands the boundaries of the field. We are interested in research that interrogates the relationship between production and consumption, as well as projects that explore the definitional boundaries of food itself.
 
The circulation of food and labor between continents was at the heart of colonialism and thus conditional to the birth of biopolitics and agribusiness; hunger and plenitude continue to be unevenly mapped onto that colonial history. Building on a materialist understanding of this history, this series asks: How does what is edible become palatable? How has the meaning of food and eating changed over time? What, given the current planetary crisis, will eating and food become?
 
This series will track shifts in the global and transnational politics of food, hunger and eating as they map onto older circuits of trade and empire. Scholarship will investigate the texture, flavor, and sensorial affects that adhere to eating as well as hunger, life as well as death. We seek to publish work that explores the material world as it is shaped between humans, animals and the biological.
 
SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS:
 
Submissions should take the form of a 3-5 page proposal outlining the intent and scope of the project, its merits in comparison to existing texts, and the audience it is designed to reach. You should also include a detailed Table of Contents, 2-3 sample chapters, and a current copy of your curriculum vitae. Please refer to NYU Press’s submission guidelines.
 
Please send submission materials to:
 
Kyla Wazana Tompkins
℅ Department of English
Pomona College
140 West 6th St.
Claremont, CA 91711

Lora Romero First Book Prize

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I am utterly humbled to announce that my book Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the Nineteenth Century won the Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize from the American Studies Association. Lora Romero was feminist faculty at Stanford where I did my doctoral work so that makes this award especially gratifying and moving. I’m just amazed; I hope to use my work to earn the right to have my name listed below hers.

Lora Romero, presente.

(New) Dates for Upcoming Talks

imageI will be giving talks about my book and presenting some new work at the following institutions this year. I’ll post details as I get them.

2013    Colby College, February 12.

2013    Bowdoin College, February 13.

2013    University of Pennsylvania Americanists Group. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. February 20.

2013   University of Maryland, American Studies. Baltimore, Maryland. March 8.

2013    College of William and Mary. Keynote address. Williamsburg, Virginia. March 14.

2013    Harvard University; Charles Warren Center. March 28.

2013    Simmons College, April 17.

2013    NYU and The New School Food Studies, co-sponsored. May 1.

2013    Stanford University. May 10.

2013    ACCUTE plenary address, Victoria, B.C. June 1-4.

2013    Washington University in Saint Louis, October 10-11.

I was recently asked to write a response to Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism, a book that has been intensely formative for me, and to whose standards I aspire in my work. The response was posted at the Social Text blog, Periscope, alongside a group of amazing and smart intellectuals and academics. 
Here is a link to the blog and here is a link to my article, which takes up questions about eating, obesity, food and the politics of precarity and pleasure. Cruel Optimism won the Allan Bray Memorial Book Prize for 2012. High-res

I was recently asked to write a response to Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism, a book that has been intensely formative for me, and to whose standards I aspire in my work. The response was posted at the Social Text blog, Periscope, alongside a group of amazing and smart intellectuals and academics. 

Here is a link to the blog and here is a link to my article, which takes up questions about eating, obesity, food and the politics of precarity and pleasure. Cruel Optimism won the Allan Bray Memorial Book Prize for 2012.

Above is a picture of morcilla, a kind of blood sausage made in Puerto Rico. The idea of innards, guts and offal is central to one of my upcoming projects, a co-edited special issue of GLQ: The Gay and Lesbian Quarterly, entitled On The Visceral. The cfp has its own tumblr here. Please visit: the deadline for abstracts is February 15th. High-res

Above is a picture of morcilla, a kind of blood sausage made in Puerto Rico. The idea of innards, guts and offal is central to one of my upcoming projects, a co-edited special issue of GLQ: The Gay and Lesbian Quarterly, entitled On The Visceral. The cfp has its own tumblr here. Please visit: the deadline for abstracts is February 15th.

The introduction to Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in The Nineteenth Century lays out the fundamentals of my argument and the outline of the chapters. You can find it here.

The introduction to Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in The Nineteenth Century lays out the fundamentals of my argument and the outline of the chapters. You can find it here.

This is one of my favorite images in the book. It’s an image of the black theatre in the late nineteenth century. The image is being used to advertise a product but more importantly for my purposes, it shows an active and vital black cultural sphere, one in which the historical relationship between the black subject and food is picked up and used in theatrical production as an affirmation of desire.  High-res

This is one of my favorite images in the book. It’s an image of the black theatre in the late nineteenth century. The image is being used to advertise a product but more importantly for my purposes, it shows an active and vital black cultural sphere, one in which the historical relationship between the black subject and food is picked up and used in theatrical production as an affirmation of desire. 

What the Book is About

There are five very different chapters in the book, with very different casts of characters. But across the book, there are really a few central questions: how do people use eating to tell stories about who they are? why and how did food become a way of telling stories about racial difference? why is eating often a metaphor for, or itself a mode of expressing, erotic or sexual feelings?

The impetus for the book came from my feeling that what we now recognize as two major ways of relating to food and eating in the contemporary United States -  foodie-ism (the performance of personal specialness and class privilege via elite knowledges about food and/or wine) and localism (the political movement to cut down on pollution, oppose industrial food and agribusiness, and support local economies) - had a shared history in the consolidation of the United States as a nation organized around the idea that whiteness would be its ideal and most privileged racial identity.

I began with two lines of inquiry, but three texts: the fourth chapter of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and two books written by the nineteenth-century dietetic reformer Sylvester Graham. In future posts, I’ll talk more about where these texts led me…..

* - the image above is from a short story by Louisa May Alcott that I discuss in a forthcoming book chapter. The image is of a little white girl sitting on a cake toadstool, being served by a man named, and made up of, brownies.

Back of the Book

The act of eating is both erotic and violent, as one wholly consumes the object being eaten. At the same time, eating performs a kind of vulnerability to the world, revealing a fundamental interdependence between the eater and that which exists outside her body. Racial Indigestion explores the links between food and visual and literary culture in the nineteenth-century United States to reveal how eating produces political subjects by justifying the social discourses that create bodily meaning.

Combing through a visually stunning and rare archive of children’s literature, architectural history, domestic manuals, dietetic tracts, novels and advertising, Racial Indigestion tells the story of the consolidation of nationalist mythologies of whiteness via the erotic politics of consumption. Less a history of commodities than a history of eating itself, the book seeks to understand how eating became a political act, linked to appetite, vice, virtue, race and class inequality and, finally, the queer pleasures and pitfalls of a burgeoning commodity culture. In so doing, Racial Indigestion sheds light on contemporary “foodie” culture’s vexed relationship to nativism, nationalism, and race privilege.

I found the cover image for Racial Indigestion while browsing at an online auction site, Ben Crane’s Trade Card Place. I love the playfulness and latent eroticism of the image, and I was particularly intrigued by what remains unsaid: why is the girl’s face covered when the boy’s face is not? Is this image taken from a popular play or song or children’s story? Then too, in a period that frowned upon interracial relations so much, what do we say about the fact that these two figures are facing each other, straddling a peppermint stick?
Images like this one were stock images, that advertisers bought from publishers. They then either bought an image for the back of the card or they stamped the name of their store on the front image. There are about 42 images in Racial Indigestion, most of them reprinted in these rich chromoliothographic colors. I’ll be posting more of them in the days to come. High-res

I found the cover image for Racial Indigestion while browsing at an online auction site, Ben Crane’s Trade Card Place. I love the playfulness and latent eroticism of the image, and I was particularly intrigued by what remains unsaid: why is the girl’s face covered when the boy’s face is not? Is this image taken from a popular play or song or children’s story? Then too, in a period that frowned upon interracial relations so much, what do we say about the fact that these two figures are facing each other, straddling a peppermint stick?

Images like this one were stock images, that advertisers bought from publishers. They then either bought an image for the back of the card or they stamped the name of their store on the front image. There are about 42 images in Racial Indigestion, most of them reprinted in these rich chromoliothographic colors. I’ll be posting more of them in the days to come.

Eating Race

A few months ago the latest scandal related to an image that I have spent quite a few years researching and writing about - the African or African-American body as an edible object exploded into the media. The New York University Press blog On The Square asked me to contribute a piece, which is linked above.