Cross-Cultural Perspectives On Women, Identity, Food.
Project leaders: Prof. Sneja Gunew (English and Women's Studies and Professor Shirley Neuman, Dean of Arts)
On May 13-15 a workshop was held at UBC on this topic funded by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. We are grateful as well for financial help from the office of the Vice-President, Research, the Dean of Arts, the Centre for Research in Women's Studies and Gender Relations and the Programme in Women's Studies.
Below are some notes resulting from this workshop which we hope will be a continuing project in the future in various forms.
Definition of the Topic
This project situates itself at the juncture of a number of new and rapidly growing areas of scholarship: women's narratives of identity, theories about the body, multiculturalism, and writing about food. We are interested in the literature about the history and representation of food as well as in the psychological literature about eating disorders and "abjection".
A good deal of work on women's narratives of identity has appeared over the last decade and, increasingly, this work has addressed questions about the representation of women's bodies and the sociocultural values and identity-formations those representations reveal. (See Smith's Subjectivity, Identity and the Body; chapters in Buss, Gagnier, Gilmore; and selected essays in collections edited by Ashley et al., Neuman, and Smith and Watson.) But while the body in such narratives receives increased scrutiny (Bordo, Suleiman), its sustenance has gone largely unremarked: scholars have paid virtually no attention to the great variety of representations of food in women's narratives of identity.
This is not, of course, to say that food has not been the subject of a great deal of medical scholarship and even some scholarship in cultural studies (Lupton). Recent work in relation to women's bodies and eating disorders has traced many different bodies of theory to explain anorexia and bulimia (Brumberg; Fallon et al.; Weiss et al.). A significant portion of this work situates mothers as the nexus between food and pathology. Indeed, since the advent of Freudian psychoanalysis with its focus on oedipal narratives of subject formation, mothers have been a particular focal point and the move from this to women and food has often been made, both in the negative terms which "blame" mothers for eating disorders and in the more positive social goals that inform movements such as La Leche.
In some recent poststructuralist work, food (and the mother's breast) has also been specifically associated with words and self-representation. This association is foregrounded in Kristeva's scenario of abjection in which food symbolically competes with words (Powers of Horror). But we also find it articulated in recent work addressing prohibitions or disciplinary protocols used to control groups who might other wise be perceived as unruly. Thus minority or ethnic groups become the target of edicts relating to diet and the general rules governing the handling of food (ranging from Leviticus to local, often ethnically insensitive by-laws governing the preparation and sale of food. See Brown & Mussell). Less well theorized, but certainly evident in a wide range of narratives about the forging of individual, national and diasporic identities are more positive definitions and descriptions of food as consolidating communities or genealogies ranging from the family to the nation (Ohnuki-Tierney, Avakian).
In a more controversial manifestation of anxieties about how what is consumed may either bring people together (the Eucharist) or set them beyond the pale, cannibalism has recently (re)surfaced as a subject of writerly and scholarly interest (Medeiros, Root). Where the interest of the nineteenth and early twentieth-century in cannibalism was literal and anthropological, and was heavily marked by the construction of the racialized "other" as cannibal, current interest tends to construct cannibalism more as metaphorical than historical truth. While postcolonial critiques draw attention to the ways in which cannibalism has been the mark of monstrosity ("foreigners" practice cannibalism), some contemporary writing metaphorizes cannibalism as a demonstration of desire and respect (see Drakulic; Smith anthology).
A critical literature about the representation of food and food practices is just beginning to emerge (e.g. some of the essays in the collections edited by Curtin and Heldke, by Furst and Graham and by Counihan and Van Esterik). There is no sustained critical writing or theory which specifically analyses such representations in narratives of identity, despite the centrality of food traditions to our conceptions of personal and national identity and despite the rich variety of such writing, ranging from "multicultural" autobiographies, through autobiographical food writing (e.g. some cookbooks, Gourmet magazine), through confessional narratives such as those of survivors of various accidents who owe their lives to cannibalism.
Another significant and emerging body of theory and writing central to our subject is that of multiculturalism and cross-cultural studies (Orbaugh). The literature of multiculturalism tends to celebrate ethnicity on the one hand, and to either lament the loss of a homeland or describe the formation of a new hybrid subject in narratives of diaspora on the other hand. Critical writing about multiculturalism has been more rarefied, focussing on definitions of multiculturalism, on multicultural and immigration policy, on the construction of the ethnic subject as "contrapuntally" inhabiting more than one ethnic consciousness (Said). Despite the frequency of food as a positive marker of ethnicity in fictional and autobiographical writing by "ethnic" and "diasporic" subjects (and, despite the fact that official multicultural policy finds its most obvious and banal embodiment in summer "multicultural festivals" which are little more than a temporary tent mall selling ethnic fast food), scholarly cross-cultural work has restrained itself to a rather glib coupling of food with multiculturalism/ethnicity. Most often this coupling is negatively conceived: "ethnic" food is seen through the lens of cultural tourism and becomes a snapshot figuring forth cultural and racial difference (Gunew). We propose to turn to the large, and growing, number of narratives of identity by so-called "minority" women which describe food in order to register positive differences from "western" cultures as well as assimilation to them, and in order to assert positive personal and national subject formations. (One thinks of Sara Suleri's Meatless Days, Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim's Among the White Moon Faces, and films such as Mina Shum's Double Happiness.)
Ashley, Kathleen, Leigh Gilmore, Gerald Peters, eds. Autobiography and
Postmodernism. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1994.
Avakian, A.V. ed. Through the Kitchen: Women Explore the Intimate Meanings of Food and Cooking, Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.
Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1993.
Brown, L.K. and Mussell, K. eds. Ethnic and Regional Foodways in the United States, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984.
Brumberg, J. J. (1989) Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa, NY: Penguin, 1989.
Buss, Helen. Mapping Our Selves: Canadian Women's Autobiography. Montreal-Kingston: McGill-Queen's, 1993.
Counihan, C. & P. Van Esterik, eds. Food and Culture: A Reader. NY: Routledge, 1997.
Curtin, D. & L.M. Heldke, eds. Cooking, Eating, Thinking: Transformative Philosophies of Food, Bloomington: Indiana U.P., 1992.
Drakulic, S. The Taste of a Man. London: Abacus, 1997.
Ellmann, Maud. The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing, and Imprisonment, Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993.
Fallon, P. , M. Katzman & S.C. Wooley, eds. Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders. NY: Guilford Press, 1994.
Furst, L. & P. W. Graham, eds. Disorderly Eaters: Texts in Self-Empowerment, Pennsylvania : Pennsylvania State University Press, pp. 61-78, 1992.
Gagnier, Regenia. Subjectivities: A History of Self-Representation in Britain, 1832-1920. New York: OUP, 1991.
Gilmore, Leigh. Autobiographics. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994.
Gunew, S. "Against Multiculturalism: Rhetorical Images." In G. L. Clark, D.Forbes & R. Francis (eds) Multiculturalism, Difference and Postmodernism. Melbourne:Longman Cheshire, pp. 38-53, 1993.
Kristeva, J. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1982.
Lupton, D. Food, the Body and the Self. London: Sage, 1996.
Medeiros, P. " Cannibalism and Starvation: The Parameters of Eating Disorders in Literature", L.Furst & P. W. Graham (eds) Disorderly Eaters: Texts in Self-Empowerment. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press:, pp. 11-27, 1992.
Neuman, Shirley, ed. Autobiography and Questions of Gender. London: Frank Cass, 1991.
Ohnuki-Tierney, E. Rice as Self: Japanese Identity Through Time. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1993.
Orbaugh, Sharalyn. "The Body in Contemporary Japanese Women's Fiction." In
The Woman's hand: Gender and Theory in Japanese Women's Writing, ed. Paul
G. Schalow and Janet A. Walker. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.
Root, D. Cannibal Culture: Art, Appropriation and the Commodification of Difference. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996.
Said, E. "Reflections on Exile", Granta, 13, U.K., 1984.
Smith, J. ed. Hungry for You: From Cannibalism to Seduction. A Book of Food. Random House:London, 1997.
Smith, Sidonie. Subjectivity, Identity, and the Body: Women's Autobiographical Practice in the Twentieth Century. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1993.
Smith, Sidonie and Julia Watson, eds. De/Colonizing the Subject: The Politics of Gender in Women's Autobiography. Minnesota: U of Minnesota P,1992.
Smith, Sidonie and Julia Watson, eds. Getting a Life: Everyday Uses of Autobiography. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1996.
Suleiman S.R. ed. The Female Body in Western Culture. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1986.
Weiss, L. , M. Katzman & S. Wolchik. Treating Bulimia. NY: Pergamon, 1985.
Food Group: Statements of Interest
Gwen Chapman (Nutritional Sciences)
My research interests focus on questions of how women's food practices and concerns are shaped by socially constructed notions of food, health, bodies, and social roles. Although my background as a nutritionist and nutritional scientist involved training in biological sciences, I have become increasingly interested in the social aspects of eating and integration of social constructionist, feminist, and poststructuralist theory in the study of women's food concerns.
Specific areas that I have explored include the meanings of food and body in adolescent women's lives, women's experiences of dieting, and university students' understandings of links between eating, health, and their bodies. The themes that I have explored in analyzing interviews conducted for these
studies illustrate interrelationships between food habits and identity construction. With adolescent women, for example, consumption of 'junk food' can be seen as enacting developmental transitions in family and peer group relationships. The interviews with adult women, most of whom were middle to upper class Caucasians, illustrate the role of food an eating in these women's efforts to construct selves that can be seen as 'healthy' and 'good'. I am primarily interested in contributing to the 'identity' group, but see intersections between my interests and all three workshop themes.
My background is too eclectic to be pertinent here except to say I am trained in research and spent some 19 years in (mostly) electrochemical research. For the past 15 years I have been a chef and have continued informal studies in food and domestic history. At present I am taking a Ph.D. through the Interdisciplinary Program at Green. My subject is the articulation of the subjective aesthetic experience and the particular enquiry is a comparative study of food and landscape. It may be an understatement to say that my life revolves around food. Professionally I am conscious of food and "special needs" in the North American culture particularly by way of euphemisms and other metaphors. I have one cookbook.
My particular interest lies in the relationship of food and the individual, primarily as metaphor, though I am also concerned with the political, religious and corporate influences on food as they impact on the individual. This will range from "the abominable pig" to the Iceberg Lettuce Marketing Board of California's hegemony on the idea of a salad. Count me in on identity.
I am a dietitian with a background in eating disorders, interested in the role of food in women's lives and consequently the way in which women use food and eating, or not eating, to construct and express
'self'. In researching the myriad theories attempting to explain eating disorders, I have been interested in the many ways in which food, hunger, and restraint have been seen to be used by women. I have also been interested in the cultural and historical aspects of self-starvation and especially in the medicalization of self-starvation with the ascendancy of the medical profession. Joan Jacobs Brumberg's Fasting Girls: The Emergence of Anorexia Nervosa as a Modern Disease has been a great introductory text for me.
I too have had my appetite whetted for things 'cannibal' with all its complicated meanings. I am hoping to chase up a reference to anorexia nervosa as 'self-cannibalism.'
Lately I have been looking at anorexia nervosa as manifested by different cultures and am interested in the concept of it as a 'culture-bound' phenomenon. This examination addresses issues of anorexia nervosa, and eating disorders in general, as a cultural/medical construct and helps deconstuct some of the underlying, taken-for-granted assumptions about women, food, and eating/not eating.
Please enter me under Identity: I have been working with representations of identity in literature, film, drama, and comics, and have some passing acquaintance with photography. I am currently proposing new work on identity and nation--focussed on Canada and Australia.
I am interested in cannibalism as a discourse, particularly as it pertains to Aboriginal peoples, where it becomes a way to discriminate between the civilized settlers and the uncivilized savages. Whether the discourse is adopted by the indigene or not (Kiri Te Kanawa once said of a reviewer who had criticized one of her performances that he was lucky--her ancestors would have eaten him), whether it ever actually occurred or not (William Arens has become widely known for arguing that cannibalism is a Western trope, rather than an indigenous practice), it has had considerable impact on particular groups. For example, the suspicion of cannibalism, bolstered in part by the writings of Frantz Boas (despite his protests and later retraction) supported government bans on the potlatch on the West Coast.
"The Body as Food, or, the Fear of Eating/Being Eaten"
I wish to explore the discourse on cannibalism, as repesented within Canadian northern folklore, fictional narrative and poetry, and history. At the same time, I hope to gain a richer, more nuanced understanding of my topic by placing it in relation to the wider range of discussion and research of the group. My specific focus is on a set of Windigo and Snow Walker texts, many of which have been gathered by John Colombo in "Windigo," other pieces from Native oral tradition (especially by Ojibway and northern Cree peoples), creative works by non-Natives (poetry by Bowering, Jiles, Drummond, etc., novels and short stories by Tracy, Wayland, Atwood, Richler, Mowat, etc., possibly plays, and historical accounts (the last Franklin expedition, for example). It is already clear to me that a set of tropes recurs through this wide range of discourse, regardless of intended audience or ostensible purpose of the discourse; these include--taboo, the glacial/monstrous body, fear of eating and of being eaten, community/species relations, rituals of destruction/purgation, and, most importantly, the fact or fear of starvation, which is ever-present in a seasonal cycle in northern and arctic zones. How does my topic relate to the larger one of "Food"? Well, obviously the body is the contested site of eating/being eaten in my texts, but it is already clear
to me that what I am tentatively calling a Windigo/cannibal discourse is central to northern myth and cultures in Canada and that it has been used to define ideas of national identity and racial superiority in very precise ways. In Native versions, the Windigo can be male or female, but when non-Natives exploit the discourse they do so within well established western, patriarchal parameters; gender, therefore, needs to be examined as well.
The topic was formulated out of frustration. Having worked for two decades in Australia trying to gain recognition for the cultural productions of the 'multicultural others' I kept finding that the most positive formulation in hegemonic Australian culture concerning the effects of postwar immigration/multiculturalism was that it had improved the Australian cuisine. My perception was that everything was being 'reduced' to food. When it came to multicultural texts, on the other hand, there was deep resistance. So what was the relationship between food and words? Hence the notion of exploring how food as a cultural ritual functions with respect to representations of the nation and belonging. Why women? My work has been situated in feminist theory and women's studies for over two decades and I wanted to find a project (don't we all) which seamlessly joined reading for pleasure with reading for research.
'European women and hunger in Japanese internment camps in South-East Asia'.
I will examine the discourse around food, hunger, and survival among European women in Southeast Asia (Indonesia) who were made prisoners of war by the Japanese during the Second World War for more than three years. My point of departure will be two accounts by Helen Colijn of her experiences in Japanese internment camps (De Kracht van een Lied, 1989, in Dutch, and Song of Survival, 1995, in English), the documentary video Song of Survival, and the Hollywood movie Paradise Road. I may also include Jan Ruff-O'Herne's 50 Years of Silence (book and video documentary) on the abuse she experienced as a European "comfort woman" (rape victim) of the Japanese.
I am currently working on contemporary life-writing genres in Canada. My focus is on writers who transgress generic boundaries and combine multiple generic conventions. These writers' simultaneous complicity with and resistance to traditional genre conventions are closely linked with their concurrent desire to rely on and challenge experience. How exactly do these writers understand and represent experience? I believe that it is a new/different conceptualization of experience that leads to the generic instability of these texts. Since food is an important element in many of the texts I have looked at so far, I think it would be a productive way of focusing my analysis of experience.
I am interested in the place of confinement in narratives of identity by First Nations and Japanese Canadian women. For this purpose, I'm studying autobiographical accounts by women who were sent to Indian Residential Schools, or were uprooted and interned during the Second World War. I have several questions regarding women's responses to the matter of food in that environment. For instance, how are women affected by being forced to sacrifice the food of their group, and then prepare, serve, and eat the food of their oppressors? How do women subvert and resist these practices? When familiar food is unavailable, what effect does substitution have on the formation of individual and group identity, and on concrete cultural practices? What pathologies result from being forced to eat the 'wrong' food? How is identity affected by official policies and practices (such as the assimilation projects of residential school and internment) that redefine the good food of a group as 'un-Canadian'? What do the narrative traces of hunger for 'our' food look/sound/taste like?
With respect the brief statement of interest in the themes I enclose the following for your information:
a} I became interested in the role of women in my studies of the urbanization process in Southeast Asia in the sixties which led me into a series of studies of food distribution systems in 6 Southeast Asian cities in the early seventies. Since women play a major role in these food systems we focused a great deal on their contribution and the gendering of activities in these systems. Several of my students have followed up on
these activities: Wong on Hong Kong, Lisa Drummond in Vietnam, Deirdre McKay
on gendering of agricultural production processes, and Gisele Yasmeen who is
part of your group.
b] It is not clear to me how these interests will jell with the group butmy current research on the increase of urban poverty in Indonesia and the role of NGOs is emphasing the dominant role of women in leading strategies of response ( survival strategies) at the grassroots level.
As far as the food project--it sounds fascinating. My most recent would-be interest/project is the phenomenon of 'girl power' in its present incarnation. I think that if the group was interested in having another participant I could at least bring some familiarity with some of the psychoanalytic work on milk and mothering (Irigaray) and milk as the 'ink' of 'écriture féminine' (Cixous).
I would really be interested in pursuing the trope of "sugar and spice and everything nice" or sweetness and girl-hood/girl power. It fascinates me that one of the ways in which girl power is eminently (and literally) consumable is the cadburry line of chocolate spice girl bars which come with images of individual spice girls molded on the bar itself(not to mention lollipops and gum).
One of my principle problems with the girl power phenomenon is that it seems to encourage the maintenance of the status quo as regards adolescent north american femininity. The message is that you have power by being exactly who you are and behaving in exactly the same way that you have behaved--in particular by buying cosmetic and clothing products and consuming the plethora of girl power magazines (the Spice Girl fanzines, Jane, Sassy and most recently "Girl") and CDs. This undermines any contrary message which says "let's take the power that others have from them and make claims for our own right to have access to political and economic power.
I would certainly be interested in pursuing constructions of femininity in relation to the trope and the actual marketing and consumming of 'sugar and spice'. I would think that this could also provoke post-colonial theoretical interest in relation to the history of the traffic in sugar, not to mention the trope of 'spice' and 'spiciness' as a racialized metaphor.
As part of my research on East Asian and South East Asian writing, I want to look at enforced hunger suffered by ethnic Chinese during the '40s and'50s for political and racial reasons. Of special interest are the reasons for the lack of food and the different strategies of survival. Works which record these experiences are Shirley Geok-Lin Lim's Among the White Moon Faces and Emily Hahn's China to Me.
To extend this discussion of "ethnic hunger" into the '90s, I also intend to analyse the trendiness of the slim body in the fashion industry. East Asian women are desirable commodities among retailers because their body types are suitable to wear the current fashion as dictated by the market. Thus, while their mothers and grandmothers might dread losing weight due to a lack of food, young East Asian women are encouraged to stay size 2 or 4.
Eating the (m)Other: Breastfeeding and the Construction of the ModernSubject in Japan.
My project falls somewhere between Gastro-politics and Identity, because I am interested in the ways in which the body of the mother/woman is figured as edible in Japanese literary and political/medical/juridical writings of the mid-19th to mid-20th century. In fact a strong push for the conceptualization of the maternal body as edible is a fundamental part of the attempts at various historical moments to create a modern Japanese (male) subject capable of responding to specific political needs-to respond to the threat of colonization by anglo-european powers in the mid-1800s, to forward Japan's own imperialist/colonialist ventures in the 1890s-1920s, and to provide military might in the 1930s and 40s. After World War Two the edibility of the body of the mother was again invoked in attempts to refigure Japanese identity in a new world order, even up to the present day where Japan's economic structure is predicated on the construction of a lifelong mother-son relationship centered around the breast.
In all of these cases the construction of the subject is a matter of response to an outside force. In the mid 1800s, for example, this was the recognition by Japanese groups (governmental and otherwise) that the modern-that is, anglo-european-way of doing things must be proactively and systematically either imitated or countered if Japan was to survive uncolonized and enter the modern world as an "autonomous subject-nation." It was therefore largely in imitation of or reaction against anglo-european figurations of the maternal body that Japan created its modern discourses of edible maternity. In turn, women writers and policy makers acted in response to the discourses constructed by men to attempt to construct a modern female subject, either in compliance with or resistance to the figurations of the female in the general (male) discourse. Women writers and policy makers had to confront a set of terms that had already been set out. It was not possible for them to dismiss the paradigms of maternal edibility; and yet the relationship of the female to her mother's or her own "edibility" was so much more complicated that it was also not possible to accept them unchanged. Even those women who supported Japan's colonialist and militarist goals had to reconfigure the discussion of the maternal body to promote a rhetoric that would accommodate a woman's point of view. In my exploration of breastfeeding and other aspects of maternal edibility in modern Japan I will be addressing the ways in which the female body's relationship to food is used by various groups explicitly to promote mainstream political goals or, alternatively, to promote an identity politics for women resistant to the ideological status quo.
I've been led to my interest in food by informants and colleagues. This happened first during a series of workshops with Filipina domestic workers, that I held at and in collaboration with the Philippine Women Centre. Domestic workers were invited to tell stories about coming to and living in Vancouver as domestic workers. They filtered their histories through narratives about food: about hating their employers' diet of pasta and vegetables, about the comfort of food served at the Centre. Questions of racism and cultural difference seemed more easily broached through the medium of food. Second, my colleague, Cole Harris, engaged me in the task of writing for B.C. Studies a review of 18 cookbooks published in British Columbia in recent years. I tried to read the cookbooks as cultural texts. My efforts were preliminary but they whetted my appetite for further work in the area.
My interests and studies have focussed on the related issues of hunger, welfare and food security in 'first world' societies and since the mid 1980s I have researched and written about questions such as: the rise of food banks and emergency relief systems as evidence of the breakdown of Canada's safety net (and in other 'first world' societies); welfare reform and the role of the state and the non-government sector in contributing to increasing hunger in Canada; Canada's international human rights obligations in terms of the right to food and its expression (or lack of expression) in domestic legislation; the relationship between hunger and food security as ways of organising around issues of poverty/hunger, adequate incomes and social security benefits and human rights; and the role of the community based food policy networks and councils. I understand food as an 'intimate commodity' and a 'social and cultural good' (Winson, 1993). Key conceptual terms in addressing hunger and achieving food security are: 'depoliticisation'of hunger; the commodification of welfare and food; food policy (does Canada have one?) and the idea of food democracy or food sovereignty.
Key area of research: anorexia nervosa. I'm primarily taking a psychoanalytic approach, but am interested in other theoretical frameworks as well. I'd like to be involved in the "Hunger" group.
My background is in the study of the nexus between gender, food and place: that is, the spatiality of foodways and its implications for gender relations within a specific geographic and historical context. I have studied the gendering of "public eating" (ie. restaurant culture, streetstalls, etc.) in Bangkok and other parts of Southeast Asia and looked at what this distinctive constellation of gender, food and place has meant for notions of public and private within Thai society and ideologies of nurturing in of Southeast Asia compared to neighbouring regions (Ph.D. dissertation in Geography, UBC, Nov. 1996). Recently (under the auspices of a CIDA-funded project), I have turned to more practical policy-oriented research on the impact of the economic crisis on small scale food retailing (most of it done by women) in the Philippines and Thailand. Due to involvements over the past year in southern India, I am considering extending this research interest on food and livelihood to the subcontinent. Strategies of organization to strengthen the abilities of women micro-entrepreneurs to earn their living have come to interest me including the role of NGOs, people's organizations, micro-credit schemes and other ways of improving social capital.
I would therefore like to contribute to the group on identity and I think this whole section as it stands in the application might be extended to deal with a larger range of issues such as labour/livelihood, urbanization & changing food/family patterns, modernity, capitalism, ideologies of femininity/masculinity etc. These are just random thoughts and I welcome the opportunity of discussing them and my involvement in workshop preparation at the Sunday evening meeting.
Grace, Gunew,,Hellwig, Ng, Neuman, Duff, Soros
Chapman, Egan, Gunew, Neuman, Pratt, Crumblehulme, Helms, Iwama, McInturff
Fee, Gunew, McGee, Neuman, Orbaugh, Riches,Yasmeen,
Theoretical Importance of the Topic
What we are proposing, then, is an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural study situated at the (so far) unoccupied junction where we see these various areas of scholarship with something to say about the question of women's self-representation, bodies, and food coming together. No larger topics than food or women, one might argue. As the introduction to a recent collection of critical articles states, "Food touches everything. Food is the foundation of every economy. It is a central pawn in political strategies of states and household. Food marks social differences, boundaries, bonds, and contradictions. Eating is an endlessly evolving enactment of gender, family, and community relationships." (Counihan and Van Esterik). We propose to focus these topics through cross-cultural comparison and, further, to focus the cross-cultural comparison through the question of self-representation through narratives of identity.
The workshop ran over three days, involved around 50 scholars and was broadly organized around the following topics, between which overlaps and convergences were deliberately sought:
i) Hunger, ii) Identity, and iii) the Gastro-Politics of Food, Women, Nation.
To make maximum use of the workshop and the visiting scholars we held a series of bi-monthly meetings in which we read general work relating to the themes and the work of each of the scholars who was invited. This generated a series of questions which were forwarded to the scholars. The workshop comprised intensive seminars on each of their work.
General Questions for all presenters:
1. Does writing about food represent a specific textual form? To what extent is hunger a "textually transmitted disease"? To what extent does reading itself comprise a hunger or a sating of hunger?
2. How does food function as a boundary marker of body, culture, and/or identity? To what extent does food preparation and eating recapitulate certain forms of passage or transition (into maturity, into another culture, into health or sickness)?
3. Is food something which is only narrated to the extent that it forms a problem or a point of loss, conflict or resistance? Are there instances of the absence of the concern with food? What would that absence, in turn, mark?
Questions for Maud Ellmann
Maud Ellmann (King's College, Cambridge) works on modern literature and literary
theory. Her publications include The Poetics of Impersonality: T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound (1987); The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing, and Imprisonment (1993); and edited Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism (1994). She travels frequently to the United States, where her books are published by Harvard University Press; she has taught at Smith and Amherst Colleges, and was awarded a Mellon Faculty Fellowship in 1989 at Harvard University.
The group read the following: Maud Ellmann: The Hunger Artists
1. Could you talk a bit about the challenges of reading across so many different forms of texts (literature, historical documents, case study). For example, what about the literariness of the case study or how does one identify and interpret the case studies found in literature? In particular, what would be the different or similar ways you would approach these structures of writing?
2. Anorexia nervosa seems to be a thin line of contradictions: a collusion and a resistance, a refusal of gender and an effort to match its codes, an attempt to have a body [partaking of the "nostalgia for the lost experience of need" (7)] and an attempt to eradicate the body; a form of speech and a refusal of language. "If eating, therefore, is imprisonment, self-starvation seems to represent the extirpation of the other from the self. Yet starving also keeps the other in and fortifies the stronghold of the ego, lest the ghosts within the self should break out of their tomb." (95) Again, another contradiction--anorexia always appears to be one thing and its opposite. Can you please elaborate on how these binary constructions function and also collapse in the manifestation of an eating disorder?
3. You focussed primarily on the concept of how language and eating compete over the same zone, that one must stop eating in order to start writing, and vice versa. It has been suggested that in the experience of some eating becomes a way into the writing-- food being a way to take language in, while the fingers process it back onto the page. You say that, for Rimbaud, to write "is to hunger" (13), but can writing also be a way to eat? If "food-refusal is a metaphor for word-refusal" then eating can also become a means to writing and not its replacement (24). Can you please comment on this contradiction? You say that "the vampiric relationship of words to flesh typifies the literature of self-starvation," (22) but what about the experience of self-starvation, does this same relationship persevere?
4. You challenge the dominance of certain models of sexuality in psychoanalytic theory, or the privileging of sexuality as the "cultural" manifestations of the body, as opposed to hunger's more "natural" manifestation. Freud argues that sexuality is propped on those zones used in the digestive process: he both privileges eating as the'origin' and structures it as a process inferior to sexuality, as a kind of historical first step, a need that must be overtaken by that which makes us human. Can you elaborate on how you are challenging this model--and its binaries: need/desire, food/sex, nature/culture? ["culture precedes nature, and . . .addiction is earlier than need." (57)] And how does this challenge relate to your critique of castration, where you say "Castration is too small a sacrifice, too mild a violence, to account for the initiation of the body into language, which demands the forfeiture of every pound of flesh" (27). Do you think that castration has been structured as the primary loss because this other essential loss--that of the body itself--is too frightening? And could this other more total loss be aligned with the necessary bodily loss that occurs at birth--the loss of the mother's body? And where is the breast configured in such a loss? How can we think these losses without structuring the maternal body as an origin or as an essentialist essence? You suggest the possibility that "food is the repressed in Freud, and that his vast encyclopedia of sexual malaise was constructed to evade the everyday catastrophe of eating" (36). What do you think inspires this repression of food?
5. You suggest that perhaps a desire for more milk from the mother--this"insatiable form of hunger" is "specific to the tragedy of femininity" and that "femininity is hunger" (43). Can you please elaborate?
6. The idea of 'nothingness': ("addicted to the nothingness that she had learned to substitute for food, (1)" Can you elaborate on this nothingness, this something as nothing? How does this relate to Lacan's argument that what the anorexic eats is the nothing? He says that the 'objet a', the lost object, can be "the nothing"--as well as the breast, the faeces, etc. In Lacan's work the 'objet a' slides from being the lost object to being its representatives: can the nothing that an anorexic eats be both an attempt to 'feel' the gap and a something/nothing with which to fill it?
7. Cross-cultural issues: "...because the meanings of starvation differ so profoundly according to the social contexts in which it is endured..." (4) You suggest that all eating is a form of Eucharist but how do you see this structure functioning in cultures where eating the host is not the primary religious ritual? Have you done any cross-cultural work to examine how food and eating are influenced by other frameworks of spirituality?
8. Hilda Bruch attempts to distinguish "real" anorexia from "copy cat" anorexia, to hold the original apart from its representative, an impossible task given that the specific practices of the disorder might be described as passing on from woman to woman, learned from the other like any other language. Can you elaborate on what you identify as a kind of collapsing of the "fictive and the real"--does literature then become real? [ " . . . the drama of starvation unsettles the dichotomy between the fictive and the real, between the world of language and the world of violence. It is obvious, for instance, that any form of inanition eventually leads to death, and in this sense the mimed or fictional starvation of a hunger strike ultimately converges with the real privations that it imitates. More important, the starving body is itself a text, the living dossier of its discontents, for the injustices of power are encoded in the savage hieroglyphics of its suffering." (16-17)]. And if so, is there a difference between a novel about a starving woman and the life of an anorexic? How might one think this difference without positing an extra-textual reality, a kind of suffering without story?
9. "... Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, and Freud, in spite of their divergences, agree that eating is the origin of subjectivity. For it is by ingesting the external world that the subject establishes his body as his own, distinguishing its inside from its outside" (30). Is anorexia then an exaggeration of the attempt to hold onto a humanist self--a subject separate from the other? And if so, then would a therapeutic process where one affirms and defends one's "self" simply reinforce anorexia rather than undo it? How, then, to heal? How to shift to a subjectivity that allows the other inside, without such an entry being some kind of haemorrhaging of selves? And how can anorexia function both as a refusal of the other and as a spectacle that "deranges the distinction between self and other" (54): if anorexia is both, in which direction does one move to undo this pathology? ". . .ingestion and starvation are less opposed than they may seem, for both are destined to undo the self in the very process of confirming its identity" (31). Can you please elaborate, on the similarities, differences, and again, how to move from one to the other, from a state of self-starvation to a state of...what?
10. You suggest that all eating is in essence force-feeding but clearly we have to eat, we have to let in the other. How might we think this structure in a way that does not result in anorexia, in the refusal of the other as invader/intruder?
Questions for Melanie Katzman
Dr. Melanie A. Katzman is currently and Consultant Psychologist and Senior Lecturer in Psychology, The Institute of Psychiatry, London, England. She is also on the faculty of the Cornell Medical Centre in
NYC. She is the co-author of two books on the treatment of eating disorders as well as the co-editor of Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders and the newly released volume, The Integration of Neurobiology in the Treatment of Eating Disorders. In addition to being on the scientific advisory boards of the American Anorexia and Bulima Association (AABA) and the Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention Council (EDAP) she is the co-chair of the Academy for Eating Disorder's International Task Force, a founding member of the Eating Disorder Research Society and member of the editorial board of
Eating Disorders the Journal of Treatment and Prevention where she is
the editor of the multi-disciplinary series. She is currently working on a new book called Cultural Debates.
The group read the following:
Katzman, M. A. and Lee, S. (1997). "Beyond body image: The integration of feminist and transcultural theories in the understanding of self starvation." Int. J. Eat Disorders 22:385-394.
Katzman, M. A. (1997) "Getting the Difference Right: It's Power not Gender that Matters." European Eating Disorders Review (Viewpoints) 5 (2), pp. 71-74.
Katzman, M A (1994). "When reproduction and productive worlds meet: Collision or growth?" In Fallon, P, Katzman, M A, and Woolley, S C (eds), Feminist Perspectives in Eating Disorders (pp.132-151). New York: Guildford Press.
Raymond, N C, Mitchell, J E, Fallon, P, and Katzman, M A (1994). "A collaborative approach to the use of medication." In Fallon, P, Katzman, M A, and Woolley, S C (eds), Feminist Perspectives in Eating Disorders (pp. 231-250). New York: Guildford Press.
1. What about the contention that the anorexic is the paradigmatic therapeutic patient because the diagnostic criteria themselves posit a lack of the ability to see herself (i.e. the many representations of anorexia as a failure to see the thin body in the mirror). She needs an "other" to see her and help her see what she is. But this assumes that others do see themselves, that we are somehow protected from the delusion represented in anorexia. And it also undermines the self-awareness the anorexic patient brings to the functions of her disorder. Can you comment?
2. We were particularly interested in your critique of some of the orthodoxies of anorexia (the adherence to Western diagnostic criteria, i.e. fear of fatness), and were interested in your discussion of the 'affect' of Westernization on other cultures, but wanted to know what you meant (more specifically) by the term "Westernization" (which remains at a rather general level in the papers we read)?
3. In the analysis of the relationship between power and anorexia nervosa (i.e. power rather than gender) we were interested especially in the discussion of anorexia nervosa as a response to transition--in terms of class, culture, sexual development etc. But why should this take the form of self-starvation, why not overeating or drinking or acting out in other ways? Why is anorexia the privileged response for women in these transitions? What is the mechanism that leads one specifically to anorexia? And what exactly does someone achieve through starving? Control? Is it a form of ecstasy? And to what extent are men falling prey to these ailments (It has been suggested that male anorexia is a problem, for example, in the Philippines)?
4. In light of your critique of the assumption that anorexia nervosa represents a fear of fat (even in Western contexts such a fear may not be the dominant manifestation of the disorder. For example, some anorexic women were in fact already thin as teenagers, and were in fact teased for being thin, years before the disorder--it doesn't seem satisfactory to see anorexia as an attempt to fit a media image of femininity). Is it a possibility that a patient may say "I feel fat" because fat becomes the language for something else, a way of saying something by not saying it? In this case, diagnosing a fear of fatness would be a failure to do
the translation. And what does "fat" mean--do we understand this, even in a Western context? What does obesity signify?
5. To what extent are societal influences taken into account with treatment? (Cultural theory, feminism, etc.) How do these analyses inform treatment at both the theoretical and practical level? For example, some (most) Asian cultures are extremely private and reticent regarding personal problems. In China, sociological study of sexual relationship between couples is often quite challenging, because
Chinese find it impossible to talk about such private matters to outsiders. Also, figures in authority, a doctor is one, are often feared and not warmly trusted.
6. What about the 'ethnographic eye' of the therapist in the context of the politics discussed within anthropology? Given self-reflexive critiques in anthropology of the construction of an identified and analysed "other"--that what is searched for is exactly--and only--what will be found--have there been any reflections within contemporary work on anorexia nervosa about the clinical practice of writing essays "about" the anorexic without participation from the subject being studied? Are there critiques of this model of representation? Have there been moves, for example, toward collaborative research, with patients or recovered anorexics? How does this issue relate to your concerns about the agency of the patients? There seems to be a contradiction here between the aimed-for agency of the patient and the inherent passivity of being represented by someone else.
7. You mention in your article on medication and anorexia that the issue of control can often play a role--how do you work through that, given that both anorexics and bulimics focus on controlling what comes into their mouth? How do you know the anorexic patient isn't hiding the pill, or the bulimic throwing it up? If they want to lose weight, why would they take a pill that would "make them fat"? How do you negotiate
the struggle for agency with an acceptance of a medication that must mediate this agency somewhat?
8. You describe some of the historical context of anorexia nervosa: it's interesting that the self-imposed rules around what an anorexic will or will not eat are now in a medicalized language (i.e. calories, fat grams etc.) and that the process of contemporary starvation integrates the technologies and suggestions of modern medicine (scales, laxatives, emetics, obsessive exercise ). Brumberg explains that in the medieval ages the rules for what had been permissible to digest had been coded in religious terms (the host, wine, scabs from those whom the saints were assisting) and that the rituals around starvation were religious ones (the wearing of hair shirts, the fasting around religious days, obsessive prayer). Given the medicalized nature of contemporary self-starvation, is there any reflection in the medical system or in medical treatment centres about their paradoxical role in this disorder?
9. It's interesting that there have been some significant cultural shifts in terms of how self-starvation has manifested itself over the centuries, yet in modern anorexia there also seems to be an echo of former configurations. For example, the idea that not eating is somehow more "pure" (saint-like, as in Medieval times). For example, the vocabulary associated with food that have few calories--i.e. "Angel food cake" vs. "Devil's food cake." Also, the need to "punish" the body might be described as analogous to flagellation. (And do you have any comments about the 'Breatharians'?) To what extent do you such religious connotations arising in your case studies?
10. Have you noticed whether anorexic women attach greater importance to certain parts of the body than others? (We discussed stomach, inner thigh, outer thigh.) What are the narratives attached to these parts?
11. Has there been much discussion or analysis of the inter-generational context for this disorder? Discussion of past familial relationships around food, body, trauma? What about class transition--when perhaps earlier generations were hungry for financial reasons. Or holocaust survivors? Also, what about the anorexic woman's siblings--are there manifestations of similar or different ways of acting out? Holocaust survivors (survivor guilt?)
12. You challenge the assumption that anorexia nervosa was primarily a middle or upper class disorder. To what extent is it the case that it was this class of society that was being written up in case studies simply because this class could afford to bring their daughters to treatment--and were even aware that such treatment was there to serve their needs? (i.e. versus a working class or poor families who
might see "the authorities" as a threat rather than a source of assistance). Also, to what extent does class transition play a role, or ethnic assimilation? A Hunger So Wide and So Deep explores how families can see their daughter's body as a marker that the family has "arrived"--in a case, or a culture; all the contradictory expectations imposed, in terms of adherence to an old culture and acceptance of a new one. There is an increase in anorexia nervosa in Asian immigrants--why? What does this signify? One could suggest that young Asian women feel the need to fit in and of course, there is a certain cachet in bragging that one wears a size 0 or even minus 2. However, is it possible that immigrants can't eat because they don't like the food and cannot acculturate to western diet?
13. Is there much discussion about the capitalist production of food and its relationship to eating disorders--particularly bulimia? To some extent food sales are limited to how much we can eat--our daily nutritional and caloric needs are finite--but when companies can make food that is not filling (like potato chips) or food that has no calories (like diet coke) or food with no nutritional value, then they have replaced need with desire. There doesn't have to be an end to how much we can eat. Isn't bulimia a reflection or manifestation of this industry, to some extent? It would be very hard to "binge" on apples and
brown rice -- fibrous foods are too filling and don't come up very well. Junk food is now readily available--there is no work involved in getting it (no physical labour, no preparation, no ritual meals). And a food like potato chips made with Olestra in fact seems like socially sanctioned bulimia--it's low cal. and gives you diarrhea! You get to binge and purge at the same time!
Questions for Shirley Geok-lin Lim
Shirley Geok-lin Lim is Chair of Women's Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Professor of English and Women's Studies, and soon to be Chair Professor of English at the University of Hong Kong. She has published five books of poetry. Crossing the Peninsula (Heinemann), received the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1980, and her recent volume, What the Fortune Teller Didn't Say, is featured in Bill Moyers' PBS special, Fooling with Words (broadcast date September 21, 1999). She
received the American Book Award for her memoirs, Among the White Moon Faces: An Asian American Memoir of Homelands, in 1997. In 1989, shen received the American Book Award for editing The Forbidden Stitch: An Asian American Women's Anthology. She has published two critical studies,
Nationalism and Literature: English-language Writing from the Philippines and Singapore and Against the Grain: Writing South/East Asia in English, and her articles and creative work have appeared in numerous jorunals, including Tulsa Studies, Feminist Studies, New Literary History, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, ARIEL, Kunapipi, Manoa, and New Literatures Review. A Malaysian-born writer, she is also recognized as an Asian American author.
The group read the following:
Lim, Shirley Geok-lin. "American Higher Education."
---. "Chillies and Dried Anchovies."
---. "Boiled Chicken Feet and Hundred-Year-Old Eggs: Poor Chinese Feasting." Through the Kitchen Window: Women Explore the Intimate Meanings of Food and Cooking. Ed. Arlene Voski Avakian. Boston: Beacon, 1997. 217-25.
---. Selections from What the Fortune Teller Didn't Say and Two Dreams.
[A number of us were also familiar with Among the White Moon Faces.]
1.Taking into account Sau-ling Cynthia Wong's work, to what extent do you consider 'food prostitution' (e.g. in the short story 'Hunger') or 'food pornography' (the idea that cooking for outsiders always involves the production of a deliberate inauthenticity) useful concepts for applying to the analysis of food images in ethnic minority writing? How can we make a distinction between erotic food and food pornography, a distinction Wong elides?
2. To what extent do you agree with Wong's claims that there are very specific ways in which food images function in Chinese American writing (or even broadly Asian American writing)? Apart from the specificities of the foods themselves does their metaphorical or semiotic functioning indicate ethnic specificities or do they function more generally to indicate ethnic alienation and displacement (or assimilation) for a whole range of groups?
3. Are you conscious of using food imagery in gender specific ways in your writing? Can you elaborate? What about class distinctions? Do these only work intra- rather than inter-socially? In other words is it difficult to indicate class between very different cultures but easier within particular cultural entities?
4. To what extent does food imagery become one of the primary ways of indicating the nuances of nostalgia and displacement in your writing? Do you find Freud's notion of the 'uncanny' a useful concept here? Or Julia Kristeva's concept of the 'abject'? (For example, in your Memoirs, the protagonist experiences revulsion and a threat to her body's boundaries: when mother leaves, she feels neglected (abjection), and that her body is no longer clean and 'appropriate').
5. To what extent is food indissolubly tied to the maternal in your Memoirs? Consider the following examples: food replaces the mother; the abject script is seen in the maternal/motherhood; a comparison of first and second mother's cooking styles suggests that the difference is related to identity; you seem to become self-nurturing when you cook for yourself.
6. The materiality of food, its preparation and consumption are central in your writing. Why are these details important? Are you more interested in the actual handling and preparation of the food or its presentation and consumption?
7. Is there a perspective other than the ironic from which "minority" women can write about "their" food?
8. The distinction between need and desire or between hunger and craving appears to be central to your treatment of eating and food preparation (or absence)? How does this distinction mark the boundaries of class, gender, ethnicity, belonging etc.?
9. The Western tradition of autobiography has been linked to the Christian tradition of suppressing corporeality. Can one extrapolate from this that food plays a less important role in Western autobiography and, concomitantly, a more important role in non-Western autobiography?
10. It has been suggested that food images proliferate in self-writing (Western and non-Western) in the context of cultural transition but don't appear as often when the protagonist is firmly embedded in a culture. Can you comment?
Questions for Sidonie Smith
Sidonie Smith is Director of Women's Studies and Professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan. She is the author most recently of Subjectivity, Identity, and the Body: Women's Autobiographical Practices in the Twentieth Century (1993); co-editor with Julia Watson of De/Colonizing the Subject: The Policies of Gender in Women's Autobiography (1992), and Getting a Life: Everyday Uses of Autobiography (1996); co-editor with Gisela Brinker-Gabler of Writing New identities: Gender Nation, and Immigration in Contemporary Europe (1997) and co-editor with Julia Watson of Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader (1998)
The group read the following:
Smith, Sidonie. "The Autobiographical Manifesto: Identities, Temporalities, Politics." Subjectivity, Identity, and the Body: Women's Autobiographical Practices in the Twentieth Century. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1993. 154-82.
---. "Taking It to a Limit One More Time: Autobiography and Autism." Getting a Life: Everyday Uses of Autobiography. Ed. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1996. 226-46.
1. In "The Autobiographical Manifesto," you point out that autobiographical writing has played an important role in emancipatory politics. What role can food play in the autobiographer's rethinking of the relationship to subjectivity, identity, and the body? Can you think of a particular reason why you have not more explicitly considered the role of food in this process?
2. What does it mean for an autobiographer to leave behind such fixed identifications as "anorexic," "vegetarian," or "obese"? Are the challenges to these cultural identities different from those of "woman," "black," or "lesbian"? Does their unsettling require different textual strategies?
3. To what extent can the preparation and eating of food anchor the autobiographer's narrative by specifying time and space, and the material ground?
4. Does the representation of food, its preparation and consumption, reinforce or challenge the public/private dichotomy? Can it become a tool of subversion for the autobiographer in writing an autobiographical manifesto? Does the everyday practice of cooking and eating lend itself to such a revolutionary undertaking because of its overtly performative nature?
5. In your analysis of Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands, you emphasize the importance of the bodied subject. What role(s) can food play in the borderlands? Is the depiction of food a way of recognizing the centrality of the bodied subject? Can food contribute to the "new nationalism of transformative 'hybridization'" ("The Autobiographical Manifesto" 172)?
6. The Western tradition of autobiography has been linked to the Christian tradition of suppressing corporeality. Can one extrapolate from this that food plays a less important role in Western autobiography and, concomitantly, a more important role in non-Western autobiography?
7. It has been suggested that food images proliferate in self-writing (Western and non-Western) in the context of cultural transition but don't appear as often when the protagonist is firmly embedded in a culture. Can you comment?
8. Both Cixous and Irigaray invoke mother's milk as a form of maternal writing. How do these configurations challenge or adhere to traditional metaphors of the writer as parent and the text as child? To what extent does this metaphor suggest that the text consumes the author or that writing is a form of purging?
9. Cixous urges the production of an embodied text. To what extent does the notion of text as body reframe a Christian notion of the role of the Eucharist? Does the reader 'eat' the author? Do the metaphors of consumption that are often invoked in relation to reading have their basis in a specifically Western Christian tradition of early writings about the church as (in Augustine) a mouth which consumes the individual Christian? How do non-western autobiographies challenge this metaphorics of textual
consumption, or do they?
GASTRO-POLITICS OF FOOD, WOMEN, NATION
Questions for Penny Van Esterik
Penny Van Esterik is a cultural anthropologist teaching at York University in Toronto, Canada. She has long-term interests in infant-feeding practices, food advocacy, and Thai food. Her books include Beyond the Breast-Bottle Controversy; Women, Work, and Breastfeeding; and Taking Refuge: Lao Buddhists in North America. She co-ordinates the Taskforce on Breastfeeding and Women's Work for the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA).
The group read the following:
From Food and Culture: A Reader: "The politics of breastfeeding."
"From Marco Polo to McDonald's: Thai Cuisine in Transition", Food and Foodways, 1992, vol. 5(2), pp. 177-193.
"Food and the Refugee Experience: Gender and food in exile, asylum and repatriation" from P.Van Esterik, W. Giles and H. Moussa (eds.) Development and Diaspora. Dundas, Ontario: Artemis Press. pp. 61-74.
"Feeding their faith: recipe knowledge among Thai Buddhist women", Food and Foodways, 1986 vol. pp. 197-215.
"Nurturance and Reciprocity in Thai Studies" In P. Durrenberger, ed.State, Power and Culture in Thailand. New Haven: Yale University, Southeast Asian Studies Monograph 44.22- 46.
1. Your writing has focused on women's knowledge in a range of practices. For example, of Theravada Buddhism with respect to food praxis which is expressed though locally-specific patterns of nurturance (liang in Thai). How can we protect and promote recognition of women's knowledge with respect to food and foodways? In your work on women as refugees you suggest that this be dealt with through intellectual property rights but are there other strategies which might be considered?
2. In terms of your pioneering work on breastfeeding, can you talk about the various spatial and socio-cultural contexts associated with infant feeding practices? For example, does the Thai case illustrate a different cultural context with respect to how the female body is viewed with respect to breastfeeding?
3. What about "cultural imperialism" issues which result in Third World peoples feeling as though they must bottle-feed or breast-feed to be fashionable?
4. What sort of socio-economic constraints can be identified in Southeast Asia which make breastfeeding difficult (e.g. high female labour force participation rates).
5. Finally, with respect to your attention to migrant foodways, particularly of Lao immigrants in North America, can you talk more about the reciprocal influence of the host country's culture and foodways and those of the immigrant community? For example, how are Lao foodways and their gendering modified by North American patterns of sex and gender (which in some ways are arguably more regressive than Lao patterns)? Similarly, have Southeast Asian immigrant foodways - beyond the obvious reference to more Southeast Asian grocery stores and restaurants - influenced the constellation of food-sex-gender relations in the host society?
6. Can you go into more detail about how your work on diasporic Southeast Asian communities and their foodways touches on themes of exile, mourning, and nostalgia.
a) To what extent are these themes incorporated in the writings of those of Southeast Asian background?
b) As an anthropologist, how does your sense of exile, nostalgia and mourning with respect to food permeate your research and writing (given that these emotional themes and rituals are important to those you study in Southeast Asia)?
7. In light of your piece for Food and Foodways entitled "From Marco Polo to McDonald's" and of the edited collection by Watson et al. titled Golden Arches East which argues that international fast food chains such as McDonald's have been local institutions rather than representing a straightforward process of cultural imperialism:
a) what is your "take" on the impacts of "Western" fast foods on Thai and larger Southeast Asian "foodscapes"?
b) what are the gender issues that surface as a result of the impact of Western fast foods?
c) how can the economic crisis and its obvious impacts on Southeast Asian food-systems be seen to re-articulate the food, gender, power matrix?
8. To what extent have women's own narratives (oral or written) played a role in your work? To what extent do you differentiate amongst a variety of textual genres and interpretive practices?