Another direction my post-doctoral research would like to travel concerns choices about food-life styles as a form of lived-religion or lived ritual living. It’s really not far jump from sex to food afterall!
What I find fascinating about food as lived ritual performance is that in the United States, similar food choices are being engaged with fierce commitments by both liberally and conservatively identified communities. Of these two, I see the conservative engagement of whole foods and organic food movements as particularly unacknowledged and understudied. I have become aware of a strong current with fundamentalist Christian communities that favors whole foods, organic foods, and alternative economic systems for distributing such foods to increasingly larger and larger numbers of people.
As someone whose personal politics have gravitated to third parties and the in-between spaces of our increasingly polarizing political climate, I am drawn to the potential that foodways have to define a public space where different ideological commitments to a shared set of practices can work together because the ends they pursue together are so similar. Moreover, I suspect that their politically distinct ideologies from both sides can be constructively sublimated to the befit of the body politic as well as the particular interests of both sides.
For example, among more liberally identifying whole/organic food advocates, communal, urban gardens are the favored means of promoting awareness and distributing such produce. Among the more conservative identifying whole/organic food advocates, the individual rural and outer-suburban homesteading movement is the favored means of gaining and maintain access to such food. Both groups are seeking sustainable, and alternative economic models for whole and organic foods lifestyle; but they are seeking these in radically different geo-social economic spaces. Of course, the middle ground of community garden plots where individuals can rent garden space is yet another -arguably more conventional economic model, and one that doesn’t necessarily stipulate organic farm production. Outside these models, there are also movements within Native American Indian communities to revive their own traditional foods and agricultural practices. In the Southwest, where I am currently based, this includes radically different farming practices such as the sunken bed and flood harvesting techniques.
Behind all these approaches that get whole and organic foods to peoples’ plates, there are distinct religio-cultural priorities and commitments. What potential is there for these various approaches to join forces? To what degree are these groups’ end-goals and methods shared and complementary? Will their diverse religio-ideological commitments support or resist coalitional work to reform foodways across the USA?