Conference Program

Food Logo date3

Thursday, April 18, 2013

2:15-5:00 p.m. Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, Arnhold Hall, 55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor

Throughout history, lack of food has led to population migration. Today migrant workers play a crucial role in food production, often working under extreme conditions and out of the public eye.

A. Food Scarcity and Migration
Arup Maharatna, professor, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics (India); author, The Demography of Famines: An Indian Historical Perspective (OUP, 1996)

This paper reviews the diverse and complex ramifications and major issues—demographic, economic, social, and political—of migrations of people in the face of food scarcity in their own regions, from both historical and contemporary standpoints. It discusses the distinct changes in the nature and pattern of migration in response to food scarcity and their wider implications over the preceding two centuries.

B. Climate Change, Food and Livelihood Insecurity, and Human Mobility: New Findings and Implications for Policy
Koko Warner, head of the Environmental Migration, Social Vulnerability, and Adaptation Section, United Nations University–Institute for Environment and Human Security

New research findings illustrate ways in which climate stresses, such as rainfall variability, influence household migration decisions by negatively affecting household food consumption and incomes, particularly where livelihoods depend on rain-based agriculture. The key question explored in the research is: At what point do people migrate to manage risk or simply to survive in response to changing rainfall patterns and other climate-related pressures on food consumption and livelihood security? This research is beginning to shed light on the kinds of institutional and policy responses that can address the needs of vulnerable households facing increasing difficulty in managing climatic stresses on food production and livelihoods. After presenting the main findings from empirical research, the paper explores policy responses that can address this spectrum of needs from a human security perspective.

C. International Refugee Law and the Right to Food
James Hathaway, James E. and Sarah A. Degan Professor of Law and director of the Program in Refugee and Asylum Law, University of Michigan Law School

The classic paradigm of a refugee—based on the tradition of line drawing between "refugees" and "migrants"—may suggest that people forced to flee their homes because of food insecurity are not refugees. This would mean that they have no basis to claim asylum, but a significant judge-led revolution in refugee law has opened up space for those forced to flee their country because of lack of food to be recognized as refugees under international law. A successful claim to refugee status means not just the right to enter an asylum country and to be sheltered from return but more generally access to a number of enfranchisement rights—precisely the sorts of entitlements needed to enable victims of food insecurity to re-create home.

Moderator: Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, professor of international affairs, The New School for Public Engagement

6:00-7:30 p.m. Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street

In the United States, the restaurant industry and the agricultural industry, including the increasingly numerous farmers' markets, depend on migrant workers. They perform most of the hard physical work, usually out of view of the consumer, while their position in society is marginal at best.

Dolores Huerta, co-founder (with César Chávez) and first vice president emeritus, United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO (UFW); president, Dolores Huerta Foundation

Moderator: Saru Jayaraman, director, Food Labor Research Center, UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education; co-founder and co-director, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United); author, Behind the Kitchen Door (Cornell University Press)

Friday, April 19, 2013

10:00 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street
Migrants engage in small-scale food production and open small restaurants as a way of achieving economic independence and creating economic opportunities for their children.

A. Migrant Workers in the Kitchen
Saru Jayaraman, director, Food Labor Research Center, University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education; co-founder and co-director, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United); author, Behind the Kitchen Door (Cornell University Press)

The food service sector is one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors of the economy and the largest employer of immigrants in the United States, but it offers lower-paying jobs than any other sector. Food servers use food stamps at twice the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce, meaning that many immigrants who work in this industry feeding America cannot afford to feed themselves. How do restaurant workers live on some of the lowest wages in the United States? And how do poor working conditions—discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens—affect the meals that arrive at our restaurant tables? Saru Jayaraman, who launched the national restaurant workers' organization Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, describes the new movement of both workers and employers in this sector that is standing up for fair and decent wages and working conditions and for just immigration reform.

B. Migrant Women's Labor
Ellen Ernst Kossek, Basil S. Turner Professor of Management, Krannert School of Management, and research director, Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence, Purdue University

Drawing on theories of acculturative stress (Berry, 1987; in press: Bhagat & London, 1999) and conservation-of-resource views of stress (Hobfoll, 1989) as organizing frameworks, this presentation shares original qualitative data based on interviews conducted with Latino migrant farmworker mothers from five sites in Michigan. The subjects discuss their work and family experiences in terms of the demands, opportunities, and constraints they face as migrant workers. Their experiences are discussed in relation to public policy analyses of working mothers living in poverty and the need to shift away from individual deficit and toward positive resource views of low-income workers seeking to better their lives. The discussion concludes with suggestions for future research and practices that could allow for better management of work-family and acculturative stress-strain relationships and enhance resilience for low-skill migrant workers.

C. The Immigrant Restaurateur and the American City: Taste, Toil, and the Politics of Inhabitance
Krishnendu Ray, associate professor and chair, Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University; author, The Migrant's Table: Meals and Memories in Bengali-American Households (Temple University Press, 2004)

From the earliest census records we know that immigrants have numerically dominated feeding occupations in American cities. There is a rich seam of literature on ethnic entrepreneurship. Yet much of the ethnicity and entrepreneurship literature attends only to economics and politics, as if immigrants were creatures only of political economy who never thought about taste, beauty, and how these qualities might intersect with their practical-moral universe. The propensity to ignore immigrant aesthetics in the disciplinary discussion of taste is a product of the tendency to see taste as marginal to the real lives of marginalized peoples. As a consequence, taste loses its contested, dynamic, and transactional character. Using census data, interviews with immigrant restaurateurs, and documentary evidence from newspapers, city guides, telephone directories, and menus, I will show how engaging with the aesthetics of immigrant entrepreneurs can yield fresh insights into our theories and methodologies.

D. Hipsters and Hot Dogs: Immigrants Selling Food in Public Space
Sean Basinski, lawyer; founder and director, Street Vendor Project, Urban Justice Center

Ninety-nine percent of New York City’s 10,000 or so mobile food vendors are immigrants. The Italian and Jewish pushcart peddlers of the 1900s have been replaced by sidewalk chefs from Egypt, Bangladesh, Mexico, China, and many other countries. They work long hours in harsh conditions, making some of the best food our city has to offer at prices nearly everyone can afford. Yet city policy makes no allowance for vendors as immigrants. Health regulations are printed in English and enforced by English-speaking inspectors who often fail to understand immigrant food traditions and perpetuate the myth that street food prepared by immigrants is dirty and unsafe. City and state regulations privilege flea markets and farmers’ markets while encouraging conformity among immigrant vendors selling food on the street. At the same time, vendors’ status as recent immigrants has prevented them, until now, from attaining the political power necessary to influence their labor conditions vis-à-vis the state.

Moderator: Alexandra Délano, assistant professor of global studies and coordinator, International Center for Migration, Ethnicity, and Citizenship (ICMEC), The New School for Social Research; author, Mexico and Its Diaspora (CUP, 2011)

Your Food Is on Its Way
12:45-2:45 p.m. (Vera List Courtyard, adjacent to the Tishman Auditorium lobby)
The Vera List Center for Art and Politics presents a project by artist Annie Shaw on the livelihoods of deliverymen in the food industry. Food delivery is part of the fabric of life in New York City, a service provided by a transient workforce that remains largely invisible to the public it serves. The very statement “Your food is on its way” omits any reference to those delivering the meals. This project exposes the material reality of four deliverymen's physical labor through the tools they use, the routes they take, the money they make, the languages they speak, and the food they consume.

2:45-5:00 p.m. Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street
Many immigrants cope with the dislocation and disorientation they experience by using food to re-create a sense of home and identity. This panel explores how migrant cultures produce and reproduce a familiar sense of place in their domestic environment through cooking and other food-related practices.

A. Food, Identity, and Cultural Reproduction
Fabio Parasecoli, associate professor and coordinator of Food Studies, The New School for Public Engagement; author, The History of Food in Italy: Place, Power, Identity (forthcoming)

This talk examines how immigrants cope with feelings of dislocation and disorientation by using food production, preparation, and consumption to re-create a sense of place in their domestic environment. Personal, communal, collective, and institutional experiences highlight the dynamics that underlie the development of culinary traditions in migrant communities. As a consequence of these dynamics, some elements from the foodways in the migrants’ places of origin—objects, behaviors, norms, and values—are maintained, more or less transformed, while others disappear or resurface after periods of dormancy. The talk also explores the role cooking and other food-related practices play as migrant communities negotiate their presence in post-industrial societies where individuals define their identities through lifestyles and consumer goods.

B. "Old Stock" Tamales and Migrant Tacos: Preserving Traditions in the Nineteenth-Century Southwest and Re-creating Home in Present-Day “Manhatitlán”
Jeffrey Pilcher, professor of history, University of Minnesota; author, Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food (OUP, 2012)

In the 1970s and 1980s, historians of immigration replaced the “uprootedness” paradigm of assimilation with the metaphor of “transplantation,” which emphasizes the ability of migrants to re-create traditional cultures in new lands. Mexican-Americans offer a challenge to those approaches, as they include both “old stock” residents and new arrivals. More recent approaches to transnational circulation may better reveal the ways encounters between residents and migrants create new social and cultural patterns. This talk will use foodways to compare the experiences of Mexicans as residents of the Southwest confronting Anglo immigrants in the 19th century with those of Mexicans as migrants to late-20th-century New York City, which has been renamed in popular parlance after the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán. The talk focuses on agricultural production, food preparation, and communal eating.

C. "Roti and Doubles" as Comfort Foods for the Trinidadian Diaspora in Canada and the United States
Dwaine Plaza, professor of sociology, Oregon State University

This paper examines roti and doubles as comfort foods that remind Trinidadians in the diaspora of positive things about “home.” The paper is based on data collected from two sources: an online survey of (n=200) Trinidadians living in the diaspora and a content analysis of roti shops found on the Internet. Examining the pictures, text, and comments found on websites and the survey results, we find evidence of how Trinidadians in the diaspora use roti and doubles to mitigate feelings of loneliness and object loss. Evidence is also found of how roti shops in the diaspora have become “third space” locations that help alleviate individuals' feelings of object loss, cultural mourning, and alienation. Roti and doubles have become symbolic foods that unite Indian and African-Caribbean groups who are often divided by ethnicity in Trinidad and Tobago.

D. Re-creating the Chinese Home: Chinese Food Cookbook Writing from the 1910s to the 1980s
Yong Chen, associate professor of history and Asian American studies, University of California, Irvine; author, Chinese San Francisco 1850-1943: A Transpacific Community (Stanford, 2000)

Chinese food started to rise in popularity in the United States in the early 20th century; in the mid-1980s, it became the most popular ethnic cuisine in the United States. During this period, more than 280 Chinese food cookbooks were published in this country—an important set of historical documents that few have studied systematically. Written mostly by Chinese-Americans, especially Chinese-American women, these cookbooks represented an effort to re-create a sense of home in a society that remained extremely Sinophobic. The authors acted as cultural ambassadors whose sense of belonging was not limited by traditional cultural boundaries. In writing about Chinese food, they were not merely bringing China’s cuisine to the United States but also developing and promoting Chinese food in an unprecedentedly comprehensive manner. They drew inspiration from China’s long-standing and rich culinary traditions while borrowing cookbook-writing techniques from modern Anglo-American traditions. The Chinese food they developed was therefore American at the same time. Moreover, in popularizing Chinese food, Chinese-American food writers also promoted Chinese culture and affirmed their ethnic identity. Cookbook writing gave Chinese-Americans their first permanent high-profile platform from which to speak to non-Chinese audiences. They did so not as marginalized minorities but as experts with authority. In their work, they frequently invoked Chinese culture and history as a source of inspiration and authority. Over time, they also began to talk about their families and community. In several important cases, the writing of a cookbook itself became a family project. Chinese food cookbooks thus reflected the desire and efforts of Chinese-Americans to find and create a space they could call home.

Moderator: Hasia Diner, professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies and history, Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History, and director of the Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History, New York University

6:00-7:30 p.m. Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street
A panel of notable writers read fiction and nonfiction in which food is used to explore community building, alienation, and assimilation among immigrants to the United States and other countries. The panel is presented by the School of Writing at The New School for Public Engagement.
Von Diaz, multimedia journalist, oral historian, and journalist for Feet in 2 Worlds
Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of Somebody's Daughter (Beacon Press, 2006)
Monique Truong, author of Bitter in the Mouth (Random House, 2010) and The Book of Salt (Houghton Mifflin, 2003)
Tiphanie Yanique, assistant professor, School of Writing; author of How to Escape from a Leper Colony (Graywolf Press, 2010)
Moderator: Luis Jaramillo, associate chair, Writing Program, The New School; co-editor of the journal The Inquisitive Eater: New School Food

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