Together with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the Food Politics and Culture Project (FPCP) convened an interactive knowledge-sharing platform, which attracted a sizeable audience of academics, students, intellectual activists and members of the general. The event was initiated as an outcome of conversations among Professor John II Stanfield, a distinguished Research Fellow at the HSRC, Professor Desiree Lewis, the principal researcher of the FPCP and Dr. Lynn Mafofo, a postdoctoral researcher on the project who shared their interests in collaborative spaces and sites for thinking through the interdisciplinary and intersectorial meanings of food in our current political economy and cultural context. The theme of the “futures of food” seemed suited to inputs from intellectuals from very diverse backgrounds. The panelists were (1). Donna Andrews, a feminist intellectual activist with years of research experience in NGOs and women’s organisations such as the Rita Edwards Collective, Rural Women’s Assembly, Feminist Table, WoMin and in academic institutions. (2). Angelo Fick, a resident current affairs and news analyst with several years of academic teaching and research experience on the South African media, the politics of cooking and cuisine; and popular culture. (3). Ben Cousins a SARCHI chair at the School of Government at the University of the Western Cape and a leading scholar on land struggles and agrarian politics. (4). Stephen Greenberg who has had many years of involvement in NGOs, with his research focusing on food, agriculture, land and agrarian studies. With such diverse backgrounds, these selected panelists divulged different but eye opening points ranging from land to issues pertaining to distribution of food, ecology, marketing and consumption practices.
The panel discussion aimed to mark the beginning of food related conversations that bring together academics, policy makers, activists and many others. This vibrant discussion was, as termed by Stanfield, “an appetizer” for the possible upcoming discussions around food. Audience and followers interacted with the discussants during and after the discussion on both physical and virtual communication spaces in which this website was the main vehicle disseminating the information.
As senior researcher in the Food Politics and Culture Project, Donna Andrews, had this to say: “… food is life” in which “women and nature are the source …” She discussed the importance of demystifying women’s imposed “labours of love” and care of household work as an important contribution in understanding food politics. She argued that “problematizing the kitchen and the home as private and off-bound, brings unequal social class reproductions and relations to the centre of [food] study.” In making the audience aware of the gendered ideology underlying food production, transportation, cooking and consumption, she drew attention to power struggles that are often ignored by “experts” who focus on masculine realms. Her style of delivery was also significant. By incorporating poetry and biographical fragments into her talk, she enlisted registers that often convey a great deal about how marginalized groups (especially women) experience food as politics. She drew attention to the way that food is often spoken about by experts – both on the left and the right in ways that remove knowledge about food from the hands of the women who have traditionally been the appropriate traditional custodians of food production and consumption. Bemoaning the cunning industrialization controlling ideologies that marginalise women when it comes to innovative food production, distribution and consumption practices, she highlights how regardless of being left out, women in the rural areas are still striving in showing that food is part of the “body, nature and community” and taking it away in disguise of global management of food is just a capitalist agenda that creates inequalities in the society.
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View our gallery for pictures from the panel discussion
*Dr Lynn Mafofo is a Post -Doctoral Fellow in the Food Politics and Cultures Project. Her research broadly engages with issues of food branding, advertising, positioning, and consumption in the formal and informal sector particularly in the Western Cape province of South Africa.