Indigenous Food Sovereignty Movements on Time and Sacredness: A Case Study of the Sioux Chef

by Claire Barnes 19C, Religion and Philosophy
Fox Undergraduate Humanities Honors Fellow

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Last September, I stepped into a conference hall in northern Italy. The space—lined with concrete floors and industrial, steel beams—was converted into a warm environment to discuss food with a community of 10,000 global delegates. The International Slow Food Movement invited farmers, academics, consumers, and anyone who cared deeply about food to the conference, Terra Madre: Food for Change. There, my study of food, religion, and Indigenous Peoples coalesced as I sat in awe of a group called The Sioux Chef.

The Sioux Chef is a group of Native chefs from North America who work to reclaim traditional ingredients and ways of cooking. The group holds educational sessions and workshops for Native food entrepreneurs. Sean Sherman, the founder of the organization, was at the conference promoting his newly published cookbook The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen. I have based my thesis broadly on my experience at Terra Madre, where I ate a meal by Sherman and his team.

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At the conference, two themes emerged from the lectures and workshops I attended with Indigenous food producers and activists: time is important and food is sacred. I embarked on a project to explore the complex manifestation of time and sacredness in Indigenous food movements in the United States, using the Sioux Chef as a case study.

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I chose to focus on the Indigenous food sovereignty movement as food sovereignty has been documented by food scholars as an important epistemic shift and alternative to food security. The Sioux Chef is often considered a food movement that adheres to and interacts with Indigenous food sovereignty tenets (abbreviated as IFS).

In 1996, the food sovereignty movement was founded by an international, peasant group called La Via Campesina. The movement promotes the autonomy of the producer and allows the producer to define the parameters of their food system—rather than transnational corporations and governments. The Indigenous food sovereignty movement in the United States emerged out of global rhetoric on food sovereignty and applies the principles of the larger movement to local, Native struggles over food.

In the first section of my thesis, I delve into Indigenous scholarship and foreground my work with scholars from the region. I engage with Native authors such as Vine Deloria Jr., John Mohawk, and Dawn Morrison. These scholars discuss land right issues within Native communities while pulling on specific case studies to discuss land, time, and sacredness. In their work, these scholars articulate a vision of sacredness that is tied to the health of the Earth and relations with it.

Indigenous food sovereignty, as it is defined by the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty, also positions the Earth, land, and seeds as sacred. Sherman, in his cookbook, does the same. Indigenous food movements approach food as a decolonial tool—one which can be reclaimed and used to fight the colonization of foodways which often extracts and ignores the sacredness of the land.

One of my main contributions to the study of Indigenous food sovereignty and sacredness is this: while both IFS movements and The Sioux Chef understand the sacredness of the land as fact, The Sioux Chef does not publicly foreground terminology related to sacredness as the main tenant of their work. Rather, The Sioux Chef connects food to themes of medicine and cultural restoration (semantically). In order to draw these conclusions, I utilized my experience at Terra Madre and 11 interviews posted by The Sioux Chef on their website.

My findings on time are the most interesting, and I will continue to work on the intersection of time and food studies beyond Emory. IFS movements and The Sioux Chef approach time in dynamic and complex ways. Time is important/limited, as the climate changes and land becomes less inhabitable, as well as intergenerational/cyclical. The Sioux Chef particularly understands time as generative—food is a way to connect between generations. While colonization has impacted food production and access, the work of The Sioux Chef paves a positive path forward for the future of Indigenous foods.

I would like to note that there is not one, homogenized version of Indigenous time or sacredness. I am not indigenous, and so I call on Indigenous authors from the United States in an exploratory fashion. I call on several Indigenous authors from North America to validate the spectrum of Native perspectives, while also acknowledging the commonalities between their scholarship, IFS movements, and The Sioux Chef (one of which, as I have discussed, is the sacredness of the Earth).

As I come to the conclusion of my project, I am reminded of several things. One, it is important to be self-critical at every stage of your work. Two, interdisciplinary work is difficult yet rewarding. In food studies, there are few authors who have contributed to scholarship specifically on IFS and time/sacredness, and even less so in religious studies. At the Fox Center, I have been able to conclude my thesis with a community of scholars who help me stay critical and position my work within the unique space of interdisciplinary scholarship.

Claire Barnes is a senior majoring in Religion and Philosophy with a minor in Sustainability. Her honors thesis explores how Indigenous food sovereignty (IFS) movements understand sacredness and time, using a group called The Sioux Chef as a case study. She relies heavily on 20th century and contemporary indigenous scholarship, citing authors such as Vine Deloria Jr., Glen Coulthard, and John Mohawk. Her thesis is also informed by observational data from Terra Madre—an international Slow Food Conference that Claire attended in September 2018. Sourcing from Indigenous scholarship and observational data, Claire argues that while sacredness is a primary tenet for IFS and The Sioux Chef, both groups foreground medicine and cultural restoration rhetorically over conversations on sacredness.

 

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Tribalism and Power in the Sanctioning of Sexual Harassment at a Jordan University

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by Zoe H. Robbin 19C, Quantitative Sciences and Arabic
Fox Undergraduate Humanities Honors Fellow

Since I began studying Arabic at Emory, I have been interested in the role of women across cultures and social classes. In the summer of 2018, I received a scholarship from the Emory Global Health Institute to intern at the Information and Research Center of the King Hussein Foundation in Amman, Jordan. With an international research team from the Rollins School of Public Health and the King Hussein Foundation, I helped to develop a primarily prevention intervention for sexual harassment at a Jordanian university. I was immediately fascinated by the impact of sanctions on harassing behavior, and sought to explore the social structures that legitimize and reinforce sanctioning power. This research question has served as the foundation for my senior thesis, in which I have examined how tribal affiliation mediates power in the sanctioning of sexual harassment.

Although there is widespread recognition of the barriers many women encounter during informal help-seeking and institutional reporting of sexual harassment, there is a lack of research discussing the specific bases of organizational power that enable harassment. My thesis attempts to address this gap in literature by focusing on institutional responses to sexual harassment at a Jordanian university. Specifically, my study focuses on the mechanisms through which tribal affiliation mediates the sanctioning of sexual harassment on campus. To answer these research questions, this study applies French and Raven’s model of the Bases of Social Power to the results of six focus group discussions with students at a Jordanian university. French and Raven’s model of social power enables a comparative analysis of the impacts of tribal power and institutional sanctioning on harassing behavior. The results of these discussions provide evidence that harassers rely on coercive and legitimate bases of power, while potential targets may rely exclusively on coercive power. Tribal power was also mediated between genders, suggesting gender also functions as a legitimate base of social power. Based on these results, I provide a recommendation for policymakers and institutional architects to increase protections for sexual harassment survivors during the reporting and sanctioning process. Because the negative implications of help-seeking are often social, this may center around the provision of platforms and safe spaces for student activists to organize and train together. I hope my analysis of organizational power will benefit policymakers across the globe as they seek to cultivate institutional climates that are intolerant to gender inequity.

The Fox Undergraduate Humanities Honors Fellowship has been instrumental in my thesis project. Attending the weekly events and presenting my research to the many prolific scholars at the center has enabled me to expand my analysis. As I continue to examine the treatment of women across different societies, I am grateful for the foundation provided by the Fox Center.

Zoe Robbin is a senior in Emory College pursuing a double major in Quantitative Sciences and Arabic Studies. Zoe’s thesis in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies analyzes the impact of tribal affiliation on the sanctioning of sexual harassment at a Jordanian university. Her project builds off of her experience interning for the King Hussein Foundation as a Global Health Field Scholar at the Emory Global Health Institute. As institutional architects strive to develop policies that ensure equity, Zoe’s thesis provides a framework for analyzing and addressing power imbalances within organizations.

Silence, Voice, and Hegemony: The Advocacy Potential of Scholarship Beyond the Canon

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by  Namrata Verghese 19C, Psychology/Linguistics and English/Creative Writing
Fox Center Undergraduate Humanities Honors Fellow

On October 14, 2017, the hashtag #MeToo appeared for the first time on Twitter, following actress Alyssa Milano’s now-iconic tweet: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, reply #MeToo to this tweet.” Within 24 hours of her post, the words had been tweeted close to half a million times—a record-shattering level of engagement for the social media platform.

The hashtag, rooted in a demonstration of solidarity among survivors of sexual assault, spoke to the both the staggering prevalence of sexual violence, as well as the stigma shrouding the disclosure of these experiences. While not a call-to-action in itself, in its unmasking of the colossal, previously unspeakable scale of sexual violence, #MeToo became revolutionary in its own right. It led to several other social media movements (#TimesUp, #WhyIDidntReport, #BelieveWomen), which cumulatively translated to actionable change: over the next year, more than 200 prominent figures, from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey, were denounced (and many arrested) for sexual violence. In recognition, TIME magazine honored the originators of the hashtag—dubbed the “Silence Breakers”—as their 2017 “Person of the Year.

In the wake of #MeToo, accounts of sexual violence are more abundant and less stigmatized than ever before. The seeds of my honors project came from this movement, and my desire to critically examine stories too long ignored, too easily silenced—fundamentally, to examine the personal and political power of trauma narratives in revamping our cultural consciousness. After all, as quintessential storytellers, humans are naturally predisposed to process, produce, and be persuaded by narratives; hence, the story has unique power in informing our subjective realities. In fact, narrative psychology pioneer Jerome Bruner argues that stories do not merely shape our realities, but become our realities: we are, collectively, the stories we consume and produce.

However, as I began my research in earnest, I saw that, for all the value in the #MeToo movement, it becomes necessary to note its significant homogeneity: it elevates the voices of white, cisgender, heterosexual women, at the expense of all others. For example, when Black actress Lupita Nyong’o published her #MeToo story, she was publicly denounced as a liar, a ladder-climber. “Not only is there a sense that we’re excluded from the narrative, but even when prominent members of our community are in the narrative, we’re the ones whose stories are pushed back upon,” Nyong’o lamented in a subsequent interview. “We’re the ones who are lying.”

This gap in the cultural narrative perpetuates hegemonic structures of power by actively silencing those voices that deviate from the experiences of white women. It bears sinister implications for the ways in which we conceptualize and tackle the issue of sexual assault, from treatment to intervention to outreach to simple empathy. It also motivated my project, which homes in on the specific and severely understudied traumas of women of color. After immersing myself in this research for the better part of a year, I understand on a visceral level that intersectionality—the compounded effects of overlapping marginalizations—should lie at the moral core of all nuanced scholarship. The concrete, immediate aim of my project, then, was to create a platform to hear the too often silenced narratives of sexual violence from women of color, and to consider how these stories contribute to the master narratives in the #MeToo era. However, on a broader scale, I hope my thesis contributes towards an enduring legacy that moves the needle of scholarship towards elevating the stories of marginalized, understudied communities.

Moving forward, as I wrap up this paper and think towards my work as a graduate student, I aim to never forget that scholarship is necessarily and inexorably intertwined with advocacy; in fact, scholarship is advocacy. In the project of knowledge production, scholarship that does not actively subvert structures of power serves only to perpetuate them, as, to echo postcolonial scholar Edward Said, for every page published, “there is a social fact being requisitioned, a human life engaged, a class suppressed or elevated.” To that end, it has been an immense honor and privilege to learn from the other undergraduate Fox Fellows this year, who are all brilliant scholars, but perhaps more importantly, are all caring, curious, engaged individuals. Every FCHI event I have attended has buttressed my belief in scholarship as service. After all, in the luminous words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

Namrata Verghese is a senior in Emory College, pursuing a double major in Psychology/Linguistics and English/Creative Writing. Her honors thesis, housed in psychology but necessarily interdisciplinary, examines narratives of sexual violence and trauma. Specifically, it centers the stories of women of color in an attempt to elevate the voices missing from our cultural conversations around sexual assault, in the wake of #MeToo and other contemporary movements. The project considers both autobiographical narratives collected through the Fivush Family Narratives Lab and literary memoirs. By placing the two traditionally disparate corpora in conversation with each other, Namrata hopes to investigate whether, together, they will yield enriched understanding of experiences of sexual violence, particularly in regards to marginalized communities. 

“Becoming American: A Historical Parallel between Chinese Immigrants and African Americans, 1868-1904”

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by Yi Xie 19C, History and English
Fox Center Undergraduate Humanities Honors Fellow

Race, ethnicity, and immigration in American history have always fascinated me since I arrived in this country, so I write my thesis on the shaping of a white republic in the second half of the nineteenth century and the race relation between Chinese immigrants and African Americans during this significant historical period.

The major historical legislation of the nineteenth century reflected anti-Chinese agitation and resulted in the limited inclusion of African Americans and the complete exclusion of the Chinese. In Boston, California, and Washington, whites promulgated the principles of racial difference and discouraged cooperation among racial minorities for the purpose of maintaining white supremacy. Some whites juxtaposed the Chinese with African Americans and conflated their group identities as alien, barbaric, and unassimilable. Others emphasized the difference between the two groups, considering one more inferior than the other. Since the passage of the ineffective Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, whites increased the use and threats of violence to strengthen white superiority and non-white inferiority. Internalizing this idea of whiteness, Chinese and African Americans competed for inclusion into the American mainstream culture and body politic at the expense of the other. The Chinese struggled with their declining status and tried to elevate and stabilize their social standing as racially and culturally superior. Some Chinese intellectuals and race leaders portrayed African Americans as uncivilized monsters with ancestry in African jungles. Some African Americans worked for their racial uplift by identifying against the Chinese— depicting “Chinamen” as “foreigners,” “interlopers,” and “invaders,” while others identified with the Chinese, pronouncing a brotherhood of man. An inclusive perspective for the study of the nineteenth-century racial dynamics that take into account inter-minority relations therefore is necessary. I investigate why and in which ways the “Chinese Question” and the “Negro Problem” were conflated and differentiated and analyze the dynamic and complexity of the relations between the two during the historical development of American whiteness.

The Fox Honors Fellowship provides me the time and space to discuss my research with my peers and senior scholars. I enjoyed every lunch meeting I participated at the Fox Center. Listening to post-doctoral fellows and senior scholars’ research projects help me to reflect on my own research and inspire me to further improve my research and presentation skills.

Yi Xie is a senior double majoring in History and English. She is currently working on her honor thesis, “Becoming American in a Multiracial Context: Chinese ‘Sojourners’ and African Americans’ Battle for Inclusion in a White Republic, 1868-1904.” This research aims to develop a clear understanding of the racial dynamics of the second half of the nineteenth century by studying the “Chinese Question,” the “Negro Problem,” and the relations between the two from the perspectives of abolitionists, Caucasian immigrants, African Americans, and the Chinese. She investigates why and how the “Chinese Question” and the “Negro Problem” were conflated and differentiated, and how dynamic and complex were the relations between the two. She also conducts a comparative study of anti-black and anti-Chinese violence on the West Coast. She has visited archives in Northampton, MA and will conduct more archival research in Seattle, WA.

2018-2019 The Halle Institute – Fox Center Undergraduate Global Research Fellows Program

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2018-2019 Halle-Fox Center Global Research Fellows  

l-r: Chris Batterman, Walter S. Melion/Fox Center Director, Jeff Lesser/Halle Director, Daniella Gonzalez, Alexandra Llovet, Beatrix Conti, Cana McGhee, Zachary Shuster, Camila Reed-Guevara, Misa Stekl

The Halle Institute for Global Research and Learning and the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry (FCHI) offers Fellowships to support research outside the United States for juniors in any school (Arts and Sciences, Business, Nursing) contemplating honors theses or other types of senior capstone projects. The international research portion of the fellowship is followed by participation in the vibrant research community of Emory faculty, graduate students, and visiting scholars based at the FCHI and the Halle Institute.

The Halle Institute – FCHI Undergraduate Global Research Fellows Program is designed for undergraduate students in all schools, departments, and programs whose projects would benefit from conducting research outside of the United States and whose scholarship has a humanistic component.

 

Perishing from Absolute Knowledge with Foucault, Nietzsche, and Queer Theory

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by Míša Stekl 19C, Philosophy and Comparative Literature
Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

As most Emory undergraduates could likely attest, receiving an email from one’s academic department is rarely a thrilling – or even a particularly enjoyable – experience. Often, one scarcely finds the time in the helter-skelter of university life to read yet another forwarded notice for yet another event or program. But in the spring semester of 2018, as I was combing through my email archives, I happened upon a message about the Halle-FCHI Global Fellows Program which had been forwarded to me by the Philosophy department – and which would profoundly change the course of my year.

How many undergraduate students could honestly claim the following: I received a fellowship from my university to undertake summer research in Paris? In fact, the Halle-FCHI program makes an even better offer – although Paris was my research location of choice, Global Fellows may propose to conduct research at any site in the world that is relevant to their senior thesis. But this fellowship is no summer vacation; it is a professional research experience the likes of which are rarely if ever afforded to undergraduate students, especially in the humanities.

Without this experience, I would never have arrived at the novel directions that I am currently pursuing in my honors thesis. My thesis approaches contemporary debates in queer theory regarding identity and temporality by revisiting the questions of truth and of history raised by 20th-century philosopher Michel Foucault’s interpretation of his intellectual precursor, Friedrich Nietzsche. Through the Halle-FCHI Global Fellows Program, I was able to visit the recently opened Foucault archives at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, where I spent three weeks transcribing a total 256 pages of unpublished Foucault manuscripts about Nietzsche.

These manuscripts have radically advanced my understanding of truth and history in Foucault’s Nietzsche; while Foucault is most recognized in Nietzsche scholarship for his work, in the late 1960s, on Nietzsche’s genealogical method of historico-philosophical inquiry and the power relations that genealogy finds embedded within the history of accepted truths, my archival research recovered a much earlier (mid-1950s) and hitherto unexplored phase of Foucault’s reading of Nietzsche. My thesis will argue that this early phase, in which Foucault takes up Nietzsche’s way of “philosophizing with a hammer” as an attack upon the metaphysical grounds of Western thought, itself becomes the philosophical ground of the later Foucault’s historico-philosophical œuvre – and so also the implicit ground of Foucaultian queer theory. Foucault’s Nietzsche rigorously maintains that “to perish through Absolute Knowledge could belong to the foundation of being”: any knowledge which would lay claim to Absolute – universal, transcendental, final – metaphysical foundations can only do so in disavowing its own foundationlessness as the accident of history, of discourse, of perspective that it is in spite of itself. If Foucault’s Nietzsche destabilizes Absolute Knowledge, I will argue that he may also destabilize heteronormative “knowledge” of sexuality. Thus, my thesis will follow the tandem questions of Foucault’s Nietzsche – “What is truth?”, or better, “What is the political history of truth?” – and of the later Foucault’s History of Sexuality: What does it mean that sexuality has been produced as the “truth of ourselves”? I will suggest that re-reading queer theories of identity and of temporality through Foucault’s Nietzsche may open onto new understandings of the violence as well as the resistance that are occasioned in the historical construction of sexual identity.

As its title suggests, my interdisciplinary project seeks to contribute to Foucault scholarship as well as to Nietzsche studies and to queer theory. But the title also reveals the extent to which many of my scholarly contributions have become possible with the support of the Halle-FCHI Global Fellows Program: “Perishing from Absolute Knowledge with Foucault, Nietzsche, and Queer Theory” is obviously inspired by the line of Nietzsche’s (see above) which Foucault also uses as the title of what is perhaps the most outstanding of his archival manuscripts. And without the unique opportunities and ongoing support that I have enjoyed as a Global Fellow, I could never have discovered these at-once foundational or grounding, anti-foundational or un-grounding, and ground-breaking writings that have become the core of my thesis.

Never have I been more glad that I checked my email.

Stigma Continuity of Leprosy in Brazil

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by Alexandra Llovet 18C, Biology and Spanish and Portuguese
2018 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

My project analyzes the stigma continuity of leprosy in Brazil from 1923 to 2018. Despite political changes and medical advances, the stigma against leprosy persists in Brazil. In fact, the state isolated patients of leprosy in leprosaria for thirty-two years after doctors began to prescribe a cure. The Halle Institute for Global Research funded my time shadowing at the Eduardo Menezes Hospital of Infectious Disease, a specialized center for leprosy. There I observed consults with sixteen patients of leprosy with physical therapists and physicians. Within that week, I also visited a leprosarium that still houses over 200 patients. There, I gathered narratives of patients who suffered isolation. The experience expanded my project from 4 patient narratives to 10 patient narratives in just one week.

On this journey, I met a woman in a leprosaria who shared her story with me. She was diagnosed with leprosy when she was just 21 years old in 1955. Immediately, her mother labelled her a dirty sinner for her diagnosis. Her husband, aware that she would live the rest of her days in isolation, went into deep depression. He took his life soon thereafter. She left her baby with her mother while she went to her husband’s funeral. Upon return, the baby was missing. When she asked her mother, her mother said she had sold the baby to some strangers on the street. A couple of days later the police arrived to take the patient away to isolation. This patient lost her husband, daughter, and family because of sickness. I was amazed that despite all she suffered she is not bitter today, and even shares her story openly.

The stories contributed to my data collection but also made me reflect on what I am trying to accomplish with my project and inspired future projects. I realized that, beyond writing a thesis, the main goal  of my project is to help spread awareness of the discrimination of leprosy patients.  In the leprosarium, I met children of leprosy patients seeking reparations from the Brazilian government. From 1923 to 1976, the Brazilian government took the children of leprosy patients and placed them in orphanages.  I heard the stories of the traumas of being stripped from their families and made “orphans” by the state. This inspired to document the oral narratives of the children of leprosy patients in the future and conduct research on the impact isolation had on the second generation.