A Taste for Palestine: The Politics of Consumption for a Disappearing Landscape

Mar 17, 2016 | - Mar 17, 2016 | 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Anthony Hall

A Taste for Palestine: The Politics of Consumption for a Disappearing Landscape
Co-sponsored by the Queer Transgender Advocacy Project at the Graduate Assembly

Dr. Lila Sharif, Gender Women’s Studies
Prof. Minoo Moallem, Gender Women’s Studies

What happens when indigenous commodities become consumed transnationally through fair trade, organic, and other alternative food movement circuits? What are the impacts of these evolving consumption practices on native producers and consumers, and how can this contribute to what we know about the processes of settler-colonialism? In my work, I use the olive as an optic to analyze the production, circulation, and consumption of indigenous commodities from farmers in the West Bank. Through a transnational feminist framework that ties materiality of land loss and environmental degradation with ideas about indigeneity and authenticity, this presentation explores the ways in which neoliberal multiculturalism is able to co-reside with settler-colonialism.

Palestinian livelihoods are contingent upon the thriving of the olive and its extractions for culinary, bodily, spiritual, and cultural purposes. As Palestinians continue to experience the decimation of their lands, the consumption of Palestinian olive oil has become increasingly popular through transnational fair trade circuits that have allowed Palestinian olive oils, soaps, and tapenades to appear on shelves at Whole Foods markets and elsewhere. In this presentation, I examine the racialized and gendered tropes of Palestinian indigeneity through which Palestine is made brandable and digestible to Western consumers. As such, I introduce the concept of vanishment as a way to describe the processes of transforming, disappearing, replacing, and depoliticizing native subjectivities and claims to land.

This presentation offers new ways of understanding the complexities of settler-colonialism, one in which the olive tree and the hearth can be understood as a site of knowledge and struggle. Through in-depth and precarious ethnography, I offer insight into the ways in which settler colonialism, and the processes of vanishing native peoples and their subjectivities, co-resides with neoliberal multiculturalism. In this way, this presentations illuminates the ways in which settler-colonialism is both material and cultural—racial and gendered formulations of abject native subjects contributes to their disappearance. However, I show how native subjects are not dormant or passive recipients of vanishment; instead, they act against vanishment in the most intimate moments and sites: where food is prepared, where stories are told, and where olives are picked.

BIO: Lila Sharif is a U.C. President’s Postdoctoral Diversity Fellow in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned a dual Ph.D. in Sociology and Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego. She is the first Palestinian American to earn a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies.

What happens when indigenous commodities become consumed transnationally through fair trade, organic, and other alternative food movement circuits? What are the impacts of these evolving consumption practices on native producers and consumers, and how can this contribute to what we know about the processes of settler-colonialism? Through fine-grained, in-depth ethnography in the West Bank, Lila Sharif explores production, circulation and consumption of fair trade olive oil from Palestine in order to analyze the cultural, labor, economic, and gender politics of commodities from settler-colonial contexts.

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