The Politics of Food
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Is shopping for food really a political act? Why is it that, in a world with enough food for everyone, more people than ever go hungry? Why did the French resistance against genetically modified foods become a fight against McDonalds? Why did the foot-and-mouth epidemic in the Uk become a problem for consumers?
Capable of connecting human bodies to abstract nations, and techno-science to moral concerns, food has become one of the most contested fields of our time. It is high on the political agenda throughout the world. With disease, contamination, famine, hunger and imbalanced food markets all unfortunate realities, a book that interrogates the politics of food is long overdue. From the Bse outbreak in the 1990s through to cultural taboos and the genetic modification of produce and livestock, this timely book raises provocative questions about how we relate to food in the 21st century. Recent food scandals and genetically modified organism controversies have shattered the idea that 'food is food' as we have always known it, and exposed fundamental dilemmas related to risk and control.
Taking as its starting point the premise that food is politicized in arenas not commonly thought of as political, The Politics of Food explores issues surrounding the development of global food markets in underdeveloped nations and addresses recent events that have had a profound impact on how consumers feel about what they eat. The epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease that swept through the Uk in 2001 spawned a series of questions concerning the real costs of cheap food. What lessons have been learned? And how are food choices linked to the politics of food markets? With globalization, food has increasingly become entangled in webs of political significance.
Through ethnographic case studies, this book reveals how food has come to serve a key role in political resistance, grassroots activism and nation-building.
into pigswill. From then onward the disease spread quickly throughout the UK. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) (now Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA) made efforts to trace the spread of the disease and eliminate it, applying the traditional methods of slaughter and livestock-movement restrictions (see Woods 2002). By the end of March 2001, however, FMD cases were still on the increase. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, postponed a general election, the
by what would become his most typical costume – a swallow-tail uniform fastened with hooks. The following year, his hair was cut and he grew a beard and moustache (Keene 2002: 213, 237). These changes were echoed by equipping the empress with a corset, a crinoline and a bonnet. Soon, similar alterations were undertaken by members of the court and by government officials. As a British contemporary pointedly observed, ‘this revolution in clothes helped powerfully in the recognition by the whole
defilement also according to Shinto- – Japan’s aboriginal religion (Ishige 2000: 1176). From the seventeenth century onward, the meat-eating taboo had begun to spread nationwide (Harada 1993: 257), but it is not entirely clear whether religious prejudice can be held primarily responsible for its diffusion. According to Hanley, it was the concern to maintain and increase agricultural production, rather than religious considerations, which inspired the authorities of the sho-gun to issue in 1612 a
Palestinians strive to maintain traditional kinship patterns and the prominent role of the extended family. In this context, the community from one’s place of origin in Palestine – the village, the 02 Politics of Food 28/7/04 5:32 pm Page 143 The Politics of Taste and Smell • 143 town, the locality – is a salient feature. In refugee camps in particular, the Palestinian landscape is recreated by a residence pattern that imitates that of the place of origin and by the naming of quarters after
turned into an act of resistance, though he did not necessarily plan it as such. What attracts his generation to visit the sites of their obliterated villages is not necessarily this act of resistance. Rather, it stems from a universal kind of 02 Politics of Food 28/7/04 5:32 pm Page 145 The Politics of Taste and Smell • 145 longing for one’s place of origin and for the tastes and the smells that one has left behind. Marcel Proust’s famous description of the ‘petite Madeleine’ epitomizes