Fuego y Leña // Slow Burn: Food, Justice, and Sovereignty in the Americas

Fuego y Leña // Slow Burn: Food, Justice, and Sovereignty in the Americas


September 24-25, 2020

University of Maryland, College Park, MD



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It is dawn. The hut is already filled with smoke. Carefully, the woman adds another leña to the fuego. She blows the embers and waits until they burn slowly. The food on the stove will feed her family for another day.

The struggles of so many solitary women combating hunger and negligence in the Americas connect our reflection on food and justice. It is collectively however that people from Latin America and the Caribbean have found ways to resist injustice. Peasant and indigenous Latin American communities have been fighting for the right to plant their own seeds, challenging agricultural monopolies, and demanding for “food sovereignty” (soberania alimentaria). Organized women in soup kitchens challenged neoliberal and dictatorial governments through collective cooking, feeding their communities, destabilizing the private and the public.

Food is foundational to society, culture, and the individual body. Harvesting, rearing, cooking, and eating are not only deeply social and communal acts but also political endeavors that make manifest societal inequities. From the smallest family unit to the global stage, food is an issue of justice. Food sovereignty is central to the ways we think about the environment and the challenges of sustainability in the 21st century. Food is a radically destabilizing category that challenges established binaries between human and nonhuman, nature and culture, and animate and inanimate. Food is a marker of identity and an opportunity for creative expression enabling artists to develop and deliver a multisensory experience.

Conceptualizing food from a transnational perspective illuminates the imbalances of power between colonial trade practices and colonized groups, North and South, theory and practice. Transnational perspectives speaks to the collaborations and conflicts that emerge at the cross-national, gender, racial, generational connections throughout the Americas.

Slow burn - A fuego lento - Em fogo baixo

Slow burn is an image that refers to a careful process of cooking. It represents patience, ancestral knowledge, the simmering pot. This conference invites us to question how slow-burn -- as a method-- can improve our practices, challenge our politics, slow-down vertiginous modern times to reflect on our historical, present, and future realities. What does it mean for justice to be on a slow burn? How does placing the myriad issues surrounding food on a slow burn move us closer to justice?

The conference features a keynote panel with scholars, community members, artists, and activists. It includes graduate and undergraduate student research panels and innovative sessions offering different ways of exchanging ideas.

Conference Program

Thursday, September 24

1:45 – 2:00 PM

Welcome by LASC Director, Dr. Merle Collins

Opening Remarks

Ana Mendes, University of Pennsylvania, History

2:00 – 3:00 PM

Roundtable - Taste, Space, and Consumption in Contemporary Puerto Rican Foodscapes

Moderator: Víctor Hernández-Sang and Mariángel Villalobos, UMD, Ethnomusicology

Mónica B. Ocasio Vega, University of Texas at Austin, Iberian and Latin American Literatures and Cultures
Zorimar Rivera-Montes, Northwestern University, Spanish and Portuguese
Joseph A. Torres-González, Graduate Center, CUNY, Anthropology

3:15 – 5:00 PM

Technological Advancements, Land, and Food Sovereignty

Moderators: Sergio García, UMD, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Néstor Romero, UMD

Fabián García Cifuentes, Universidad de Nacional Colombia, Management and Rural Development
Understanding the Effects of a Technocratic Approach to Rural Development Through the Peasant Stoves
Roger Orlando Maldonado Rocha, Universidad Mayor de San Simón, Gobernanza y Políticas Públicas
Wathia (cocinando en las tierras): Cosecha, Fiesta, Abundancia y Decisiones Productivas
Rafael Reckziege, Centro Universitário Senac Santo Amaro, Faculdade de Gastronomia
Henrique Castro Ianaze, Brazilian Cuisine Chef
O Desafio dos Produtores de Orgânicos no Mercado Kinjo Yamato de São Paulo
Angela M. Robayo Puerto, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Gestión y Desarrollo Rural
Análisis del Riesgo del Hambre como Insumo para la Formulación del Esquema de Ordenamiento Territorial en Puente Nacional-Santander
Adriana I. Rueda Rozo, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional
Una Alternativa de Educación para la Materialización de la Soberanía Alimentaria: Experiencia del Institutos Agroecológicos Latinoamericano María Cano

5:15 – 6:15 PM

Special Presentation

Plantain Porridge: A Poem and Some Context Complicating Haitian Food

Dr. Gina Ulysse - UCSC Feminist Studies

Moderators: Sabrina González, UMD, History and Keisha Allan, UMD, Comparative Literature

Friday, September 25

10:00 – 11:15 AM

Our Sweat, Our Revolution: Disrupting Narratives from Field to Table

Moderators: Marco Polo, UMD, Art History and Ofelia Montelongo, UMD, Spanish

Jonathan Brower, UMD, History
The Moral Economy of Saint-Domingue
Jesse Latimer, Texas Tech University, Anthropology and Art History
Visualizing Maize and Grapes as Heritage and Resistance in Emmanuel Martinez’s Farm Workers’ Altar
Ana Mendes, University of Pennsylvania, History
Teta de Nega and the "Sweet" Taste of Racism in Brazil

11:30 AM – 12:45 PM

Feeding the Soul: Memories from the Earth

Moderators: Lisa Carney, UMD, LASC and Daniela Bulansky, UMD, Spanish

Claudia Rojas, UMD, Creative Writing
Thinking in Hunger, A Poetry Performance
Juliana Ravelli, Columbia College Chicago, Creative Writing Nonfiction
“With Love, to the Sertão das Gerais”
Marlene L. Orantes, UMD, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program
Gastronomy in USA: a Culinary Cultures Salad in a Single Dish

Break 12:45 - 1:30 PM

1:30 – 2:30 PM

Film screening Raspando Coco followed by Q and A with the Director/Producer

Dr. Pilar Egüez Guevara

Moderators: Nohely Alvarez, UMD, Architecture Planning and Preservation

2:45 – 3:45 PM

Negotiating the Mexican Diet at Home and the Diaspora

Moderators: Nancy Vera, UMD, Comparative Literature and Rodrigo Martinez, UMD, Sociology

Mario Fernández-Zarza, University of La Salle Bajio, Faculty of Tourism and Gastronomy
Cooking and Eating Act. Cross-cutting relations between food and urban family’s diets
Lisa Grabinsky, Oregon State University, Applied Anthropology
Use of Dietary Guidelines in Nutrition Consultations and Their Impact on Dietary Patterns in Mexico City
Prisma L. Herrera Ramírez, UMD, American Studies
Food and Memory: La Mezcla y el Conjunto

4:00 – 5:30 PM

Keynote Panel

Cozinhando Sovereignty: Land, Culture, and Justice

Moderator: LASC Director, Dr. Merle Collins and Ana Mendes, University of Pennsylvania, History

Meredith Abarca, University of Texas at El Paso, English
Scott Barton, Chef, Filmmaker, and Culinary Educator, New York University
Erbenia Lourenço, Researcher, Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia para Estudos sobre os EUA (INCT-INEU)

5:30 – 5:45 PM

Closing remarks

Víctor Hernández-Sang, UMD, Ethnomusicology

Keynote Speakers

Meredith E. Abarca

Meredith E. Abarca - What has led me to become a professor of Food Studies and Literature in the Department of English at the University of Texas at El Paso, is a life-long passion for food and for people’s stories, especially when these are about food. I define myself as “a child of the kitchen.” I grew up in restaurants, for a while I thought of becoming a professional chef, and then one day I found myself getting a Ph.D. and writing about the transformative power that food holds in all of our lives. Since then, I’ve continued to research and write about this power in Voices in the Kitchen (2006); Rethinking Chicana/o Literature Through Food: Postnational Appetites (2013), Latin@s’ Presence in the Food Industry: Changing How We Think about Food (2016), and in numerous articles in scholarly journals and edited collections. Through lectures and workshops, I’ve had opportunities of sharing the complicated social, cultural, historical and philosophical complex dynamics that food plays in our lives in places like the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium in Oxford, Mississippi; the University of Gastronomical Sciences in (Colormo) Parma, Italy; the University of Technology in Sidney, Australia; the University of Paris-Sorbonne, France; the University of Oslo, Norway; the University of Toronto, Canada, and numerous US academic settings.

Scott Alves Barton

Scott Alves Barton teaches as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at NYU, Montclair State University and Queens College. Scott holds a Ph.D. in Food Studies from NYU. He had a 25-year career as an executive chef, restaurant and product development consultant, and culinary educator. Ebony Magazine had selected Scott as one of the top 25 African American/African Diaspora Chefs. Scott studied cooking at the New York Restaurant School, Peter Kump’s Cooking School, several “stages” in Paris, Lyons, St. Etienne and Auch France, as well as at Madeleine Kamman/Beringer Vineyard’s School for American Chefs, and SENAC Bahia’s Traditional Regional Culinary Courses, Brazil. Scott has appeared on CBS Saturday Morning, KQED’s Bay Café, and PBS’s Chef’s Life, among other food television programs in the U.S. and Brazil. Scott has volunteered as a culinary educator and chef for the initial cohort of Operation Fresh Start-teaching incarcerated men culinary skills at Ryker’s Island, Operation Frontline’s children, family, and women in early release from prison programs, IACP’s Days of Taste elementary school culinary and farming program, Chef’s Collaborative to Cook for 911 First Responders, and the Bolen Foundation’s Chef’s Post Katrina Initiative.

Erbenia Lourenço

Erbenia Lourenço is a researcher in Public Management and International Cooperation at the Federal University of Paraiba, Brazil. She is part of the National Institute of Science and Technology for USA studies (INCT-INEU) where she develops the study on famine and international relations.

Special Presentation

Gina Ulysse

Gina Athena Ulysse Dr. Gina Athena Ulysse is a feminist interdisciplinary artist-scholar committed to ethnographic research methods to consider historical and contemporary Black diasporic conditions. With her creative practice of rasanblaj (gathering of ideas, things, people and spirits), she uses a multitude of forms to explore borders and spaces, unmasking our fierce urgency to identify, name, and reckon with the power and vulnerability in unprocessed horrors of colonialism and empire. Her ultimate aim is confront and engage the visceral embedded in the structural. A prolific writer and poet, her writing has been published in Feminist Studies, Journal of Haitian Studies, Gastronomica, Souls, Third Text and Transition and others. Her last book, Because When God is Too Busy: Haiti, me & THEWORLD (2017)--a collection of poetry, performance texts, and photographs was long-listed for a PEN Open Book Award in 2017 and won the Center for the Book Award in Poetry in 2018. In addition to colleges and universities internationally, she has been invited to perform her work at the British Museum, Gorki Theatre, MoMA Salon, Pioneerworks among other venues. For 19 years, she taught African-American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University (CT). In 2020, she joined UCSC as Professor of Feminist Studies to further develop her art practice.