Bodies | Caring | Eating: Gender in food provisioning

Tuesday 24 November 2015
9.00 - 5.00pm

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Seminar Room 115, Veterinary School Conference Centre, Regimental Drive , The University of Sydney


Understanding the gendered labour behind food cultures

Bodies eat; bodies feed other bodies; bodies drink; bodies produce bodies of waste. In Annemarie Mol’s formulation these are all forms of doing, of being, of relating – to mothers, farm workers, processors, grocery checkout “chicks”, waitresses, cooks … the list is long. Mol and her “the Eating body” team “explore other modes of doing, such as affording, responding, caring, tinkering, and eating” (Abrahamsson et al. 2015, 6). In their lovely phrase, “Matters may engage in relations of ever so many kinds.” (Abrahamsson et al. 2015, 6). Through this optic, different scales become visible, and visceral. In eating we are entangled in the simultaneous relations of the local, global, regional, terrestrial and oceanic. In this symposium we excavate the seemingly invisible, gendered labouring bodies. The forms of labour are diverse: from exploited migrant workers picking, packing and processing foods that are sold to the time-poor middle class mothers caught in the bind of providing healthy and ethically responsible food to their families to the rice farmers in Cambodia or the tuna fishermen in Sicily.

Examining food provisioning as an assemblage of economic, cultural, social and more-than human forms of doing and relating compels analyses moves away from the current paradigm of food politics that is wedded to representational logics, or in Julie Guthman’s terms, “neoliberal regulatory transformations.” Focusing on the doing of caring and eating may afford us a way to dismantle the rhetoric of choice that pervades and simplifies food ethics. To again quote Guthman, “I don’t harbor the fantasy that individual, yuppified, organic, slow food consumption choices are the vehicles to move toward a more just and ecological way of producing and consuming food. To the contrary, I think that structures of inequality must necessarily be addressed so that others may eat well.” (Guthman 2007, 263).

Keynote Presenters:

Dr. Julie Guthman is a geographer and professor of social sciences at the University of California at Santa Cruz where she teaches courses primarily in global political economy and the politics of food and agriculture. She has published extensively on contemporary efforts to transform the way food is produced, distributed, and consumed, with a particular focus on voluntary food labels, community food security, farm-to-school programs, and the race and class politics of “alternative food.” Her publications include two multi-award winning books: Agrarian Dreams: the Paradox of Organic Farming in California, and Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism.

Annemarie Mol is professor of Anthropology of the Body at the University of Amsterdam. She is author of The body multiple: Ontology in medical practice and The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient Choice.In her work she combines the ethnographic study of practices with the task of shifting our theoretical repertoires. The engagement – eating as relating.

What happens if we take ‘eating’ as a model of what it is to know, to act and/or to relate? This is the research project that Mol currently works on with the Eating Bodies in Practice and Theory team. As a part of this project we take a fresh look at what it is to eat. What, in practice, are tasting, digesting, wasting, thriving, appreciating? What kind of  relations between organisms does ‘eating’ craft and encourage? What is ‘an eating body’ and where does it begin and end? How does ‘eating’ enduringly change the world?