March 4, 2006

The Politics of Food: St. Cloud State

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Dr. Tracy Ore, an associate professor of sociology & anthropology at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, has been teaching a 'Sociology and the Politics of Food' class featuring an informative website:

"This website is put together by students from St Cloud State University in a "Sociology and Politics of Food" class. Students in the course examined how the production, distribution, preparation, consumption, and/or representation of a particular food or consumed item creates reinforces, or challenges structures of power among specific groups of people. The goal of the class was to make the information gathered both available and useful to those outside of the class. This web site is the result, serving as a “clearinghouse” of information on the politics of food. The purpose of this site is to provide information about a variety of ordinary items we consume and the actions that we can all take regarding the politics of food in our everyday lives."

It's refreshing that the course is designed to produce good public information. The students' PDFs are great introductions, emphasizing 'things you should know' and 'things you can do.' This structure, however, makes it diffulcult to get a sense of how a particular commodity chain operates from start to finish. Similarly, while labor issues an environmental costs are addressed, they're not cleary organized. Once we complete our website redesign, we'd like to approach Dr. Ore and assess her interest in a possible HSIM / St. Cloud State collaboration.

The Politics of Food, Class Website

Feral Trade


Having fallen off the wagon over the past few weeks, we're reentering the fray with Kate Rich's Feral Trade project. Kate's a good friend of Natalie's and via Feral Trade, has established a remarkable series of informal, alternative distribution networks of otherwise locally produced goods - coffee from El Salvador, Sweets from Iran and St. John's Wort from Bulgaria. Shipments are rigorously catalogued, providing visual documentation of people and places along the way and informational packaging that together create an informative narrative of socially driven commodity chains. States Rich:

"Feral Trade is an initiative to develop new trade relations along social networks. The use of the word 'feral' denotes a process which is wilfully wild (as in pigeon) as opposed to romantically or nature-wild (wolf). The passage of goods can open up wormholes between diverse social settings, routes along which other information, techniques or individuals can potentially travel.

The first registered feral trade was initiated in 2003, with the import of 30kg of coffee from Sociedad Cooperative de Cafecultores Nonualcos R.L. in San Pedro Nonualco El Salvador, to the Cube Microplex cinema co-op in Bristol UK. The coffee is now traded on through the UK and Europe over social, cultural, familial and occupational networks.

Design and production of documentary product packaging is an integral part of the feral trade process, with a view to rendering diverse currents in global shipping, international relations & network mobility from the extreme local point of view of the feral trade product."

Feral Trade