Racial Indigestion in the New York Times ~ latte critiques
I’m quoted in today’s New York Times discussing coffee, class and the dumb ideas that come at us from the Right. The amazing and generous reporter Anna North kindly included a link to Racial Indigestion too!
Racial Indigestion on public radio - The History Guys on Health Nuts
Follow this link to hear me talking about my book, about Sylvester Graham, masturbation and the genocidal dietetic impulses of the 1830s. I come in around 5:30 and the kind producers made me sound pretty good. Please share!
Next week I will be appearing on Backstory, a public radio history show out of the University of Virginia, to talk about my book and about Sylvester Graham, who appears as a main character in the second chapter.
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.
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.
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.
Book Prize - Best Publication in Food Studies, 2012
I’m so pleased to announce that Racial Indigestion has won the best food studies publication 2012, awarded from the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) an organization I’ve been affiliated with for many year. ASFS was one of the first professional organizations where my work on food was welcomed, and I’m really humbled and honored to have received this award.
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.
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.
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.
Chapter Four of Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the eponymous chapter, and it takes us deep into, as many scholars and critics have discussed, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s ideas about domesticity, family and personhood - that is, the right of every human to have feelings and thus political rights.
When I began to write about that chapter as a graduate student I was caught by how Stowe used the language of food to talk about racial difference. I noticed that food was used to describe slave bodies with a kind of familiarity and intimacy that evoked both desire - that slave bodies were sweet and thus, perhaps, delicious - but also disgust - that the language of food in the chapter also allowed for a kind of distancing from those characters, as though they were both desirable and less-than-human.
How has the language of food come to be attached to race in America? When I began to study and write about food I was living a double and triple life: as a graduate student, as someone very active in anti-racist and anti-violence movements, and as a die-hard aesthete and food writer. In many senses, writing Racial Indigestion has been about answering the question: why are people willing to eat food that is somehow linked to or representative of the same people they might never know, or for that matter, love? What is it about eating that allows for that contradiction?
In Racial Indigestion I try to get at some answers to those questions by thinking about eating as a historical act, that is, an act that often seems as natural, as universal, a mode of relating to the world as one could possibly imagine. Everyone eats, right? But then again, perhaps eating is an act, a gesture, a behavior, that has a story to tell about how this thing we call a self, the “me” that is apparently contained inside of my body and skin, relates to everything and everyone that is outside of it.