Research Log: Food Globalization

The globalization of food is an immensely confusing topic. Trying to trace where a single item came from, let alone, how it was  handled, shipped and grown by whom and the monitory, ecological, cultural and political ripples created by you buying it is mind boggling. Not to mention the personal effects of consumption social, metaphysical and bodily effects in eating that a holistic eater can’t shun. How can we begin to navigate such a complicated global way of eating? This book is a good start.

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The Globalization of Food (review)

From: Technology and Culture
Volume 52, Number 1, January 2011
pp. 210-211 | 10.1353/tech.2011.0013

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Food, it turns out, is a particularly fruitful topic for exploring the meaning of globalization, not because it leads to any simple explanation but because it exposes the complexities of a process popularly described in simple terms. Deeply embedded in local culture but made portable by technology, food is both necessity and symbol. It is tied to economic developments and ecology, political policy and religion, taste and tradition. And, in the modern era, it has been subject to rapid change. The twenty-one essays in this volume show in multiple ways that globalization is not just recent, that it does not produce only homogenization, and that it is much more than an economic phenomenon. David Inglis and Debra Gimlin begin the volume with a wide-ranging comment on what is now a very extensive literature. They insist on considering globalizations in the plural, and the essays that follow illustrate the point.

The local and global, it turns out, are not always easily distinguished. Reaction against globalization is itself an aspect of the global encounter, as Alison Letich demonstrates in a fine study of the slow-food movement in Italy, which began as an ideological denunciation of the power of international corporations and has grown into an international campaign promoting local foods. A number of subsequent chapters treat the spread of “foreign” foods, as well as the resulting reconsiderations of food as a marker of identity. Conceptions of the local differ, of course (Michaela DeSoucey and Isabelle Téchoueyres compare France and the United States), and international measures of what constitutes local food prove controversial (Marianne Elisabeth Lien on Atlantic salmon raised in Tasmania); in fact, even the very concept of local versus foreign food is doubtful (Branden Born and Mark Purcell). Similarly, fair trade in food means different things (Caroline Wright), and standards of quality not only differ but are often frankly subjective (Stefano Ponte on wine).

Questions about genetically modified seeds and attitudes toward cosmopolitanism and identity (discussed by Richard Wilt) all complicate questions of taste, as shown in American writing on food (Josée Johnston, Shyon Baumann, and Kate Cairns). Ideas of global citizenship (Danielle Gallegos) are reflected in responses to Indian cooking in New York (Krisnendu Ray) and produce different responses in Britain and France (Alan Warde) and among Chicanos in the United States (Carole Counihan). Many essays note the impact of economic and social structures on what people eat, none more dramatically than in a comparison of Tanzania and India (Pat Caplan).

Despite the emphasis on variation, some common themes emerge. The impacts of American tastes, agricultural production, and the corporate food industry recur throughout, for example, and obesity as a product of globalization (Jeffery Sobal and William Alex McIntosh) has become a famous concern. Health and diet, like the environment, have become matters of global discourse and policymaking. Most of the authors in this volume are anthropologists or sociologists, and they display the characteristics of their disciplines: ethnological immersion in the particular provides the core of some essays; in others the sociological burden of defining terms and method at times outweighs the available data. The major issues addressed in this volume have been elaborately studied, as evidenced by the extensive and valuable bibliographies that accompany each chapter. If there are few surprises in these chapters, the well-informed authors provide much to ponder regarding the nature of globalization and the role of food as an indicator of cultural, social, and economic trends in the contemporary world.

(http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/technology_and_culture/v052/52.1.grew.html)

On another food globalization note- history is food. Yale has a online quick history for some foods that might serve to contextualize some of our current tastes.

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http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/about/food.jsp

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