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A bit of reading before Tuesday’s talks–Michael Pollan

18 Oct

So, the organizer of Tuesday’s event told me that the basic theme of the 2 talks is the “industrial food structure.” It’s part of a series of talks on various kinds of infrastructure. Here is a chapter of Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, on industrial feedlots & ranching.It will give you a frame, or 3 frames, really, to customize it for OUR class and the questions we have been pursuing–

1) what industrial farming is, and how industrial ranching is part of that package;

2) how American his example is (or occasionally global), which may prompt you to reflect on what you have learned about Japanese contexts;

3) how our practice of local gardening differs in significant ways (magnitude, labor and skills, nutrition, variability, sustainability, social life, etc.) from this Hulk of an industrial model.

Pollan_Feedlot

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Reading ?s for Thursday, August 26

24 Aug

1.  MAFF video: I recommend watching the video first. When you watch it, it is much clearer why issues of the everyday person’s food and diet are  connected to  huge, national issues. Yoshikawa’s article assumes that people and large policy issues are connected, but her explicit connection is more about farmland (which may be for food, but may be for something else).

Here are the “viewing questions” posted with the YouTube link.

What signs of “crisis” does the video point to? What does it identify as problems? Do you find the (soothing) nationalism it expresses at all problematic? How does it connect food to topical issues? Does it work through cuteness (the aesthetic), fear (scary prophecies and statistics), or something else?

2.  YOSHIKAWA: A question to think about when reading Yoshikawa’s article: why is it a problem, in the writer’s mind, to have a “low food self-sufficiency rate”? Also, how does this compare to what you eat everyday?

3.  FOUCAULT: If you have not read much social theory, this one might be a bit dense. Foucault is a well-known (now deceased) French historian. He starts out by talking about periodization–the past was time, the present is space. He next introduces the idea of a utopia. And then he coins–invents–a new word, the “heterotopia.” The big question is what do his examples have in common, in terms of the special relation they have with the rest of the world? For a concrete example, you might think of the cemetery or the garden…

4.  POTTS: I picked this because it’s fun, and because it deals with how people might transform an overlooked urban space–a garden, not unlike our garden–into something more personal and satisfying. Potts makes a distinction between 2 kinds of creativity, one she calls “cool,” and one less cowed by taste, a heterotopic kind. When all is said and done, would you enjoy having the gnomes in your garden?

5.  BROMBERG (optional): Bromberg tells the story of a case study–a “space of possibility” (a more everyday way of saying heterotopia, with a few differences) from Chicago, Mess Hall. She starts with a basic observation about cities–that it’s hard to find spaces to just BE, without spending money–what she calls “existing spaces for non-market interactions” (215). Her piece describes how the bunch of people who run MH construct an “economy of generosity.” What kinds of benefits does she say this stance has for its participants?

Japan government video: “Ensuring the Future of Food”

19 Aug

“Food security” is a weird phrase. It may sound like someone is holding a gun to a head of broccoli. But it actually means something like “having sufficient resources to insure that you eat enough healthy food.” The J-government is interested in this issue because despite its super-organic image abroad, Japan imports a huge proportion of its foodstuffs from a very small number of countries, and its diet is changing rapidly to become very processed and less local. Panic!

What signs of “crisis” does the video point to? What does it identify as problems? Do you find the (soothing) nationalism it expresses at all problematic? How does it connect food to topical issues? Does it work through cuteness (the aesthetic), fear (scary prophecies and statistics), or something else?