Market/Place: The Structural & Emotional Violence of Food Politics

Apr 21, 2016 | - Apr 21, 2016 | 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

691 Barrows Hall

Market/Place: The Structural Emotional Violence of Food Politics

Bodyscapes in Transformation; An Intersectional Feminist Political Ecology of Capitalist Agriculture and Environmental Epigenetics
Melina Packer, Environmental Science, Policy, Management

Capitalism has operated in tension with agriculture since its earliest inceptions, and contemporary food production continues to provoke socio-environmental crises and Marxist critique. Even as various peasant communities and ecological phenomena resist and thwart differentiation and commodification, post-industrial capitalist agriculture evolves to newly transfigure (rural) livelihoods along with their entangled social relations and “natural” landscapes. Whether via direct contact with toxic pesticides, consumption of industrially produced food, or genetic modification, “natural” bodies and “social” constructs fundamentally and continuously (re-)shape one another. Moreover, the intersections of structural racism, classism, and sexism produce disproportionate body burdens for women, people of color, and (im)migrant laborers. The nascent field of environmental epigenetics brings an additional web of complexity to this socionature (Harvey 1996), revealing how environmental traumas (from warfare to Welfare) affect gene expression and phenotype development, both within a lifetimeand across generations, without altering DNA code. A political ecology of the body (Hayes-Conroy and Hayes-Conroy 2015) analysis further reveals the power asymmetries behind the porous boundaries of human/animal bodies, social institutions, and the so-called natural environment. Combining this scholarly perspective with that of feminist science and technology studies (STS), I seek to unveil how human/animal health is both socially (re)produced and viscerally embodied. For example, given that exposure to toxic pesticides on California’s industrial strawberry farms can negatively affect not only the health of a migrant woman farmworker, but also that of her future granddaughter, arguably individual well-being is less a matter of personal agency, or neo-Darwinian genetics, than an outcome of structural violence.

BIO: Melina Packer is a second-year PhD student in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (Society and Environment Division), where she studies food and health-related social movements through an intersectional feminist lens. Guided by political ecology and feminist science and technology studies, Melina is especially interested in how the agricultural landscape and “bodyscape” dialectically come into being.

“They don’t even sell Black water”: Boundaries, Belonging and Food Choice
Kara A. Young, Sociology

How do race and class shape what individuals think they should be eating from day to day and where they choose to buy their food? There is a growing body of literature addressing the connections between food choice, race and class disparities, and health outcomes in the United States. This literature suggests that race and class inform our food choices by shaping what we can afford to consume, the kinds of foods available in the neighborhoods in which we live, and differential levels of human capital such as education. However, these studies say little about the symbolic and emotional experience of eating food and how these dimensions interact with structural constraints or possibilities. Through in-depth interviews and extended ethnographies with a race and class diverse sample of individuals in one food dense neighborhood of Oakland, California, I find that race and class inform where individuals feel comfortable eating and shopping for food as well as the kinds of foods that they believe belong to them. These symbolic and affective meanings reinforced structural constraints in profound ways. In this presentation, I will explore how respondents came to understand where they belonged and where they didn’t belong with regards to eating and shopping for food and the boundaries that they constructed in order to make meaning out of their choices and constraints. I will then consider the implications of these findings for understanding food related health disparities.

BIO: Kara Young is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Sociology at Berkeley. Her research focuses on the moral and emotional dimensions of food choice in two neighborhoods of Oakland, California. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Kara holds a BA in sociology from Brown University and an MA in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a graduate fellow at the Berkeley Food Institute on a project called Building Equity and Inclusion Food Programming at UC Berkeley as well as a past fellow at the Center for Research on Social Change.

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