University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Annual Report 2011-12
University Symposium on Abundance & Scarcity

Faculty Seminars

Talking Over Food Abundance and Scarcity in the 21st Century
Fall 2011-Spring 2012
Instructors: Rachel Schurman (Sociology, CLA) and Valentine Cadieux (Geography, CLA)
Twenty-five people participated in this seminar, which met regularly throughout the academic year. The course was designed to generate a stimulating interdisciplinary discussion about alternative understandings and implications of food abundance and scarcity in an era when both are on the rise, albeit for different reasons and for different populations. The course brought together academics and others from a variety of different disciplines, backgrounds, and perspectives, including faculty from food science, history, applied economics, sociology, horticulture, geography, public policy, medicine, and public health; graduate students from philosophy, American studies, geography, horticulture, sociology, and critical media studies; and regular participants from Farmers Legal Action Group (a public interest agricultural law organization) and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). Participants engaged in facilitated dialogue around food security and insecurity—and particularly around ways in which food security and insecurity are produced and understood in different contexts and by different actors. They explored how different perspectives, experiences, and disciplinary backgrounds not only shape how we think about food scarcity and abundance and what we are able to understand as we engage with others in dialogue, but also how we talk about these issues and create the vocabulary and discursive frames that govern what can be done, especially in the domains of food aid, policy, research, and education. A significant portion of this seminar was dedicated to developing an understanding of how power and control operate through dominant food and agriculture discourses to help shape our conceptions of abundance and scarcity—and understanding that, participants worked to identify what kinds of academic practices they might be able to use, together, to help keep that power more visible, understandable, and subject to challenge. The seminar’s core themes focused on exploring how growing concerns about food in/security in the global South have prompted a vigorous set of debates and discussions about how best to “feed the world” (with the new Green Revolution in Africa as a key case study), and considering how different disciplines, backgrounds, and perspectives shape how we think and talk about food and feeding (particularly in terms of how power and control over the food system operate).

Seminar highlights included a class trip to the campus dairy laboratory and State Fair; a class visit to the University Archives exhibit on the Minnesota Roots of the Green Revolution digital archive; public guest lectures by Bill Moseley (Macalester College), Steve Suppan (IATP), and Glenn Stone (Washington University); course visits by Jack Kloppenburg University of Wisconsin, Madison), and Tom Michaels and Bud Markhart (Horticulture, University of Minnesota).  The course addressed a range of readings, including comparisons between current work by the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and current work on feeding the world without destroying the planet being done at the University of Minnesota, work contextualizing the guest speakers, and books including Class Dynamics of Agrarian Change (Henry Bernstein), Weighing In (Julie Guthman), and The American Way of Eating (Tracie MacMillan).

Pharmaceutical Geographies, Pharmaceutical Economies
Spring 2012
Instructors: Susan Craddock (Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, and Institute for Global Studies, CLA-TC) and Dominique A. Tobbell (Program in the History of Medicine, Medical School)
This seminar brought together an engaged and multidisciplinary group of ten faculty and graduate students interested in historical, social scientific, and policy questions related to inequities in the global pharmaceutical market in order to analyze disparities in the production and distribution of pharmaceutical resources from a variety of methodological and theoretical frameworks. Seminar participants included historians, anthropologists, geographers, pharmaceutical economists, biomedical engineers, social and administrative pharmacy students, and bioethicists. Everyone shared their distinctive methodological, theoretical, intellectual insights based on their home-discipline in very constructive, supportive, and open-minded ways. As a result, participants came away with a much richer understanding of the history, politics, and economics of pharmaceutical development, grounded in the very interdisciplinary nature of the discussion.

Three leading scholars in the field of global pharmaceuticals were invited to campus: Jeffrey Sturchio (historian of science and former vice president of Merck & Co. and former president of the Global Health Council), Kaushik Rajan Sunder (medical anthropologist at the University of Chicago), and Cori Hayden (medical anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley). Each of these scholars visited campus for a couple of days, giving guest lectures at the IAS and visiting the seminar. These visits allowed seminar participants the time and the intellectual space to thoroughly engage with their work and to have very rich discussions about the theory and methodology of doing pharmaceutical-related research. To have them on campus was also a marvelous opportunity for graduate students to meet with, learn from, and establish longer-term contact with leading scholars in this field.

A goal for the seminar was to explore the possibility of eventually developing this co-taught seminar as a regular graduate-level or advanced undergraduate-level course. The instructors are looking forward to offering a slightly modified version of this course in the not-too-distant future. In all regards then, the seminar was a wonderful opportunity and a highly rewarding experience.

The faculty seminars were made possible by funds from the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Public events

Ananya Dance Theatre, Tushaanal: Fires of Dry Grass. University Symposium. September 8-11, 2011, Southern Theater. 800 attending (four sold-out shows).

Tom Rose and Joe Allen, China Insights—Unsettling Consequences. Thursdays at Four/University Symposium. Cosponsored by Art, Confucius Institute. September 15, 2011, 125 Nolte Center. 36 attending.

Glenn Davis Stone, Known Unknowns: The Problem with GMO Research. Thursdays at Four/University Symposium. Organized by Faculty Seminar “Talking about Food.” September 29, 2011, 125 Nolte Center. 42 attending.

Amir Hussain, The Poem’s Phenomenon. University Symposium. October 11, 2011, 125 Nolte Center. 12 attending.

William Moseley, China’s Green Revolution and African Agricultural Development: Dis-Oriented Histories and Misapplied Lessons. University Symposium. Organized by Faculty Seminar “Talking about Food.” October 14, 2011, 125 Nolte Center. 47 attending.

Marcus Filippello, Crossing ‘La Terre Noire’: Refurbishing Roads and Encountering Sacred Space in Post-Colonial Dahomey and Benin. Thursdays at Four/ University Symposium /Quadrant: Environment. October 20, 2011, 125 Nolte Center. 27 attending.

Margaret Adamek, Nick Jordan, Mindy Kurzer, Jeffrey Pilcher, Valentine Cadieux, From Agronomy to Gastronomy: Acquiring a Taste for the Tensions of Interdisciplinarity. University Symposium. Cosponsored by MN Food Day. October 24, 2011, Coffman Great Hall, Campus Club. 30 attending.

Peter Kerre, Social Networking and Disaster Recovery. Thursdays at Four/University Symposium. November 10, 2011, 125 Nolte Center. 26 attending.

Steve Suppan, Financialization, Food Pricing, and Speculation. Thursdays at Four/University Symposium. Organized by Faculty Seminar “Talking about Food.” November 17, 2011, 125 Nolte Center. 42 attending.

Leigh Fondakowski, The Big Spill. Thursdays at Four/University Symposium. December 1, 2011, 125 Nolte Center. 36 attending.

Site and Incitement Planning discussion. University Symposium. December 1, 2011, 235 Nolte Center. 27 attending.

Richard Steckel, The Long Shadow of American Slavery: Human Capital, 1850-1910. University Symposium. Cosponsored by Minnesota Population Center. December 6, 2011, 125 Nolte Center. 30 attending.

Sam White, Climate Change, Crisis, and Resilience: Perspectives from History. Thursdays at Four/University Symposium. Cosponsored by Center for Early Modern History. January 26, 2012, 125 Nolte Center. 67 attending.

Jeff Sturchio, Reframing the Access to Medicines Debate: Health as a Global Public Good. Thursdays at Four/University Symposium. Organized by Faculty Seminar “Pharmaceutical Geographies.” Cosponsored by History of Medicine. February 23, 2012, 125 Nolte Center. 44 attending.

Site and Incitement Planning Discussion. University Symposium. February 23, 2012, 125 Nolte Center. 15 attending.

Pat Nunnally and Mary DeLaittre, Mapping the Mississippi. Thursdays at Four/University Symposium. Cosponsored by River Life Program. March 22, 2012, 125 Nolte Center. 60 attending.

Winona LaDuke, David Harrison, Luisa Maffi, Mary Hermes, Biocultural Diversity, Language, and Environmental Endangerment. Thursdays at Four/University Symposium. March 29, 2012, 125 Nolte Center. 103 attending.

Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Pharmaceutical Crises: Terrains and Logics of Global Therapeutic Politics. University Symposium. Organized by Faculty Seminar “Pharmaceutical Geographies.” Cosponsored by History of Medicine, Anthropology. April 2, 2012, 125 Nolte Center. 25 attending.

Michelle Dammon Loyalka, Eating Bitterness: Stories from the Front Lines of China’s Great Urban Migration. University Symposium. Cosponsored by US-China Peoples Friendship Association-MN; Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies; Asian Languages & Literature. April 16, 2012, 125 Nolte Center. 24 attending.

Cori Hayden, The Abundance of the Copy: Generic Medicines and the Politics of Equivalence. University Symposium. Organized by Faculty Seminar “Pharmaceutical Geographies.” Cosponsored by History of Medicine, Anthropology. April 16, 2012, 125 Nolte Center. 27 attending.

Evan Roberts, Embodying Abundance and Scarcity in Minnesota, 1830-1930. University Symposium. Cosponsored by Minnesota Population Center, History. April 25, 2012, 125 Nolte Center. 15 attending.

Karen Ho and Hannah Appel, Occupy Wall Street. Thursdays at Four/University Symposium. April 26, 2012, 125 Nolte Center. 71 attending.

University Symposium Awards for Research and Creative Projects

With funding from the Office for the Vice President for Research, the IAS supports research and creative projects related to the University Symposium on Abundance & Scarcity. Five projects (selected from twenty-two proposals) have been funded for 2010-12.

Climate Change, Inequality, and International Lawmaking: New Governance Approaches to Addressing Abundance and Scarcity
Hari Osofsky (Law School), Principal Investigator. Co-PI: Bradley Karkkainen (Law School).
This project takes an interdisciplinary law and geography approach to rethinking climate change governance and its capacity to address the inequitable distribution of emissions, impacts, and adaptation. The existing international legal approach’s focus on nation-state negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and its progeny fails to capture other important entities and interactions that attempt to influence treaty-based dialogue among nation-states, such as nongovernmental organizations, corporations, cities, and states. The project proposes a more inclusive model for addressing the unequal impacts and distribution of global resource production and consumption. The investigators will explore formal and informal mechanisms for according substate agreements more significance in the UNFCCC process.

Embodying Abundance and Scarcity in Minnesota, c. 1830 – 1930
Evan Roberts (History, CLA), Principal Investigator. CoPIs: Christopher Isett (History, CLA), J. Michael Oakes (Epidemiology, School of Public Health), John Himes (Epidemiology, School of Public Health)
This project draws on historical sources and socio-biological methods to ask how economic, environmental, and social conditions shaped people’s life chances by shaping their bodies. Investigators will use height, weight, and social and medical information from approximately 8,000 Minnesotans born after 1830 to pinpoint periods of nutritional abundance and scarcity, and compare changes in Minnesota to regional and national trends. Was Minnesota distinctive? How was Minnesota different, and why? The analysis will reveal how social differences in the population and the environment resulted in readable differences in physical well-being.

The Food-Based Community Economy: Understanding how Community Enterprises Provide for those Experiencing Food Scarcity
Adam Pine (Geography, CLA UM-Duluth), Principal Investigator. Co-PI: Rebecca de Souza (Communication, CLA UM-Duluth)
The problem of food scarcity in the U.S. has resulted in the creation of a diverse array of food-based community enterprises such as food pantries and buying clubs that aim to provide food to marginalized populations. In this project, investigators conduct case studies of three distinct food-based community enterprises in Duluth, Minnesota to better understand the long term viability of these community enterprises to address the problem of food scarcity and the potential of these enterprises to build community amongst these seemingly disconnected individuals, while also attending to their immediate needs.

Moreechika/Season of Mirage
Ananya Chatterjea (Theatre Arts and Dance, CLA), Principal Investigator. Co-PIs: Jigna Desai (Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, CLA), Diyah Larasati (Theatre Arts and Dance, CLA), and Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley (English, CLA).
Conceptualizing, creating and performing Moreechika, Season of Mirage provides the basis for this collaborative project. Moreechika will explore the effect oil-drilling projects have on global communities of color and portray how women from these communities resist and survive systemic and hierarchical violence associated with these projects. Investigators plan to contrast the abundance of oil and financial gain with the scarcity and poverty of the communities nearby and around oil drilling projects. Moreechika is the third performance in a four-year anti-violence artistic initiative that has been researching efforts among women from global communities of color to resist the violent and capitalist misuse of four physical elements in particular: land, gold, oil, and water. The initiative foregrounds embodied knowledge and incorporates scholarly research.

Speculations on ‘Tradition’ and Value: Scarcity/Abundance of Embodied Cultural Practices in the Global South
Diyah Larasati (Theatre Arts and Dance, CLA), Principal Investigator. Co-PI: Hakim Abderrezak (French and Italian, CLA).
By resorting to an analysis of worth and value, and its associations with scarcity, this research project speculates on how creativity and innovation affect in contrasting, disparate ways the production of embodied “traditions” in the global South and the uses of “traditional” forms in world dance and world music. Investigators call attention to the reification of “traditions” (as disembodied objects) and their valorization when ready for abundant, mass consumption, bringing attention to the fact that their value, when identified in the postcolony, is associated with rarity—making them worth keeping (collecting and transmitting). Given the abundance of cultural production in the global South, what impulses are identified as “traditional,” rare, and worth keeping, and what principles separate them from “popular,” plentiful, and therefore less valuable art? One significant aim of the project is to analyze and privilege the politico-aesthetic tactics of “native” artists who actively resist this post-exoticism in their artistic work.