Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Side Note

No dishes this week (so far). There's something I read today that I want to comment about.

In Gastronomica; Winter 2008; Jessica Bagdonis wrote a note entitled, "Growing Food Citizens in Russia." The focus of this piece was about a new term that's been popping up a lot lately, food citizen. Basically a food citizen is a person who engages "in food related behaviors that support, rather than threaten, the development of a democratic, socially and economically just, and environmentally sustainable food system." I could break down this phrase for its subjectivity, but that's inevitable, and I do not want to bore you all since you came here to see pretty pictures. This description is from Jennifer Wilkins, who is the president of the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society. Basically, this society's goal is to educate people (at a higher academic level) on food and culture.
I guess I just wanted to say something about the dichotomy that exists between a 'well-rounded' education and the 'stay local' movement. To me, education's purpose, in a very broad sense is to broaden one's understanding of the world. We live in a very global environment, and this is because of education. The average level of education continues to go higher and higher, as does globalization. Now, people want us to think locally, yet the bright minds at work that are trying to change the legislation are usually so far removed from those on the ground actually sowing the crops that I would not trust their policies.
In my 'higher education' I encountered a lot of very bright people, yet I found that a low level understanding of what is going on in the world at large was slightly lacking. My question then, is how do we bridge this gap between a 'worldly education' and 'local thinking' as well as upper-level theory and ground-level understanding?

Ok, fine, I'll throw in one pretty picture:

Here's some sausages we made in the charcuterie class I just finished. There is spicy Italian, sweet Italian, jalapeno cheddar bratwurst, breakfast sausage, andouille and chorizo.


Crystal said...

Middle range theory!

I think you have understated this problem - the majority of people I have met in my...oh so many years of college...have a minimal understanding of what the global marketplace actually is and what it means for local growers (anywhere in the world). The average Iowan has a minimal understanding of what it is their crop growing neighbors (1/2 mile into the 'country') do, and how it is they affect local and global economy.

Even anthropologists not of the cultural persuasion have a poor grasp on what the global or local food-growing/buying/selling processes are in this nation.

How do we fix this problem?
1) Anthropologists should infiltrate the government. I mean this seriously. We are among the most knowledgeable individuals concerning local growing and trade.

Economic anthropologists such as Michael Chibnik at the U of Iowa have been examining problems facing local growers in places like the Peruvian Amazon for decades.

2)Anthropologists should become better sociologists (but, not exactly the kind of sociologists that are currently out there). The disjoint between these disciplines leaves a gap in how to properly deal with both the upper level theory and ground level understanding of which you are referring.

3) Better educate the public. This seems obvious, right? I think instead of increasing the amount of schooling that we give today's youth we ought to increase the quality of that education. Obviously, our nation has a serious issue with type and quantity of food consumption - particularly in our schools.

Part of this education should be a more thorough discussion of global economy from a non-eurocentric standpoint from an early age. Why did I learn so much about the destruction of the rainforest decreasing species diversity, but nothing about the affects on local slash and burn agriculturalists?

Neil Davidson said...

But how do we implement these issues? How do we get anthropologists to realize that they need to be more involved in government? Why are so many of them afraid of the system? Second, we would have to completely change curriculum to get the point through in education. I do like your point; we care more about the birds we will never see than people's livelihoods.

Crystal said...

Well, I would say that people in the top anthropology programs in the country (ahem...followed by pushing up of my glasses) should work with their colleagues to help each other realize that working for the US govt or social policy programs are not forms of 'selling out'.

The problem with anthropologists is that they all too often get caught up talking to each other and not the real world - publishing in journals and teaching at universities is admirable - but often separates us from the real world. (hence the notion of the ivory tower that I call home)

John said...

Holy crap I love sausage.