NEW BOOK: Unsettling Food Politics

UPDATE: There were some teething issues regarding the cost of postage to Australia, I believe these have been resolved.

Also, in addition to the 60% discount for hardback there is a 30% discount code for e-book – UFP30.

60% off discount Unsettling Food Politics

I had the initial idea for this book in 2013. In December 2014 I pitched it to the series editors during the Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. Almost five years later, my book – Unsettling Food Politics: Agriculture, Dispossession and Sovereignty in Australia – is being released by Rowman & Littlefield.

During that five years, there were many changes to the scope and direction of the book. I could probably spend another five years making further changes. Fortunately deadlines meant that was not possible. I’ll post more on the back story later. For the moment here is the synopsis and some very kind endorsements.

UFP_Twitterpost_McMichael

Synopsis

This book uses social and political theory to critically examine the historical constitution of contemporary alternative food discourses. While alternative food activists appeal to food sovereignty and agrarian discourses to counter the influence of neoliberal agricultural policies, these discourses remain entangled with colonial logics of sovereignty and dispossession of indigenous peoples. In particular, this book addresses the influence of Enlightenment ideas of improvement, the use of agriculture to establish ownership, and the production of a white population in Australia. In combination with this critical history, this book brings continental political philosophy into conversation with Indigenous theories of sovereignty and alternative food discourses in order to open new spaces for thinking about food and politics in contemporary Australia.

Endorsements

The inter-disciplinary nature of the work is reflected in the generous endorsements from a variety of scholars from different disciplines.

Mayes’ book is an important and, yes, unsettling reminder that in the Australian context, too, a return to smallholder farming as an antidote to the world’s food woes, is a return to an imaginary thick with dispossession and unfree labour.

Julie Guthman, Professor of Social Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz

Too often debates around food focus on the individual consumer and consumer choice without acknowleding the way in which those choices are determined by the culture of possibilities in which the consumer is situated. The impact of current food practices on health, the environment, and social inequity cannot be addressed merely by changing individual habits; rather, food justice will require fundamental changes in the systems of production and distribution that determine what and how we eat.

This important and timely book exposes the complicity of commodity agriculture not only in the global obesity crisis and environmental injustice, but also in the food insecurity of vulnerable populations. Drawing on the resources of Foucault, Mayes demonstrates convincingly the role of agriculture in the project of colonialism and its historic injustices. Though he focuses primarily on Australia, his analysis of the way in which contemporary agricultural practices reflect racism and the dispossesion of indigenous peoples has a global reach.

Mayes does not only offer a critique of the provision of food as a biopolitical act that privileges some bodies over others; he also offers positive strategies for transforming our current food culture in order to address the injustices inherent in it. As he argues, by recovering the knowledges of indigenous peoples and by giving the marginalized a place at the table where decisions are made, we may be able to revolutionize current food practices in ways that will not only address inequity, but also improve the well-being of each and all.

Mary C. Rawlinson, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Philosophy, Stony Brook University

Unsettling Food Politics is an extraordinary rethinking of food sovereignty politics beyond formal sovereignty structures and discriminatory discourses of settler-colonial states. Fashioning a reflexive historical method to construct a substantive sovereignty of indigeneity, Mayes raises profound ethical questions for food sovereignty movements and practices within states and farming systems founded on indigenous subjugation. This is powerful food for thought.

Philip David McMichael, Professor, Department of Development Sociology, Cornell University

This is the book we have been waiting for. Unsettling Food Politics finally provides the critical study of settler-colonial food regimes that we so desperately need today. Historically grounded and well argued, this book is essential reading.

Thomas Nail, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Denver

Unsettling Food Politics models a radically different conception of political responsibility. He achieves this by means of a brilliant, and wholly convincing, double movement. One the one hand, Mayes widens the net of our complicity in Indigenous dispossession beyond what many are likely to find comfortable – as he puts it, unforgettably, “If you eat, you are involved in settler-colonialism”. On the other, he insists that any credible response must proceed from the acknowledgement of the moral primacy of the First Peoples of this land, their claim on the soil, their food practices. Mayes’s book is, in effect, a startling demonstration of what it would mean to accept the invitation extended by the framers of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, for non-indigenous Australians to join the First Peoples at a table they have set, to discover what it might mean, finally, to become political companions (in the original sense of the word). And perhaps that is the best description of what Mayes sets out in this remarkable book: a politics of companionability. Unsettling Food Politics is an extraordinary achievement.

Scott Stephens, Religion & Ethics editor, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and Co-host of The Minefield, on ABC Radio National

Tony Abbott and the ‘Desire to Sacrifice’

Tony Abbott’s Address to Australia’s Regional Summit to Counter Violent ExtremismJune 11, 2015.

In the end, though, the only really effective defence against terrorism is persuading people that it’s pointless.

We have to convince people that God does not demand death to the infidel.

Over time, we have to persuade people that error does have rights.

We need everyone to understand that it is never right to kill people just because their beliefs are different from ours.

Above all, we need idealistic young people to appreciate that joining this death cult is an utterly misguided and wrong-headed way to express their desire to sacrifice.

I don’t really have much of a comment on this expect to note that Tony Abbott’s political theology is both enigmatic and misunderstood – as evidenced by the two phrases in bold.

Australia Claimed: White Possession & the Redundancy of Reclaim Australia

Despite the rallies and Channel 7’s broadcast of an “in-depth” interview with the founders of Reclaim Australia, the disintegration of the far-right populist movement appears imminent. Unlike their American cousins, The Tea Party, they do not have significant financial backing and the poor showing of “patriots” at the Parramatta rally last month suggests that this grass-roots movement lacks organisation and/or a critical mass of people willing to get out on the streets to call for “non-patriots” to get out of the country. However, the devolution of this movement is not a victory of Australian multi-culturalism or common-sense.

Reclaim Australia gets small numbers to their rallies because they are unnecessary. Why spend a Sunday afternoon shouting in the streets when the political and economic system is silently re-asserting the normal order of things?

The normal order of things is maintained through symbolic and systemic modes of violence. Unlike physical violence directed at specific subjects, the symbolic and systemic violence operates in the background. For example, the violence inherent in the production cheap consumer goods that benefit the lives of some while exposing factory workers to physical harm when making our flat-screen TVs in Mexcio or iPhone’s in China.

Most of us do not see this violence because it isn’t directed at us. We only see the subjective violence of shootings or physical aggression. The subjective form of violence overshadows the systemic and symbolic forms of violence that allow the normal order of things to continue smoothly (for some). This is the violence inherent in fierce border protection policies or laws that target racial and religious minorities. It is the violence embodied in language that strips subjects of their humanness (e.g. illegal maritime arrivals) and makes the violence that they suffer either excusable or somehow deserving.

SystDuck-Rabbit_illusionemic and symbolic violence tends to be invisible to those who benefit from the normal order of things that those modes of violence sustain. It is like a trompe l’oeil or the duck-rabbit illusion. For those who benefit these policies and arrangements look like caring necessity – “we need to protect ourselves” or “It is prudent to monitor Muslim boys because they are prone to radicalization”. However, to those on the other side, these policies and arrangements are experienced as exclusion and brutality.

In this context, Reclaim Australia will wither away, not because there is insufficient support for their message, but because Australia is already well and truly claimed. This claim is sustained by the long history of violent colonisation and occupation, the effects of which persist today. However, it is a claim that needs to be continually reasserted on the bodies and lives of non-white migrants.

In her recent book The White Possessive, Aileen Moreton-Robinson describes this “claim” as a white possession. White Australia’s existence as sovereign possessor is derived from the dispossession of Indigenous lands. As Moreton-Robinson notes, there is a deep anxiety that ‘racial others’ will in turn dispossess white Australia. The main utility of Reclaim Australia is as a warning that the normal order of things is being challenged. It is like a “flare-up” of the appendix in the body of white Australia, or to use another metaphor, a canary in a mine. Reclaim Australia is an expression of the anxiety that white Australia’s sovereignty is challenged.

The fear associated with a challenge to white sovereignty is seen in Native Title disputes. There is a deep fear that Indigenous claims will dispossess white Australian sovereignty over cities, suburbs, parks, beaches, arable lands, and natural resources (see Kerr and Cox’s ‘Setting Up the Nyoongar Tent Embassy‘). Yet, the reality does not lend credence to the anxieties and fears of white Australia – ‘the majority of Indigenous people in Australia do not have land rights, nor do they have legal ownership of their sacred sites.’

In the case of Islam, the fear of dispossession is also unfounded. According to the 2011 census, 2.2 % of the Australian population indicated they were affiliated with Islam. Of course the debates over Australia, radicalization, extremism, Islam, citizenship, borders and all the other nodes connected to this assemblage are not about evidence or facts. But control over who is admitted into white Australia, and the form that admittance takes. Some are wholly absorbed, while others remain in permanent parenthesis (asylum seekers).

While those attending Reclaim Australia rallies (and those sympathetic to their narrative) may feel that Islam is an existential threat to the white claim to Australia, the terms and conditions of political and social reality are established by and for a white Australia. The challenge is not to reclaim Australia, but to place the current claim in the context of historical and contemporary forms of violence that privilege those who possess whiteness and its associated symbols and markers.

In the words of Stan Grant, we need to challenge that violence and our own attachment and benefit from it.

Australians who so laudably challenge the bigots among them need also challenge themselves. What are they prepared to give up? Land, history, flag, anthem, myth or identity – all of it is on the table if we are truly serious. Other countries fight wars over these things: we can do it in peace.

 

 

 

 

Public Health has a Tobacco Problem

Image taken from page 855 of '[A series of original Portraits and Caricature Etchings by ... J. Kay; ... with biographical sketches and illustrative anecdotes. [Edited by H. P.]]'The widely circulating media reports that compare bacon to tobacco in terms of its capacity to cause cancer reveals the “tobacco problem” with public health communication.

By “tobacco problem” I don’t mean that researchers or communicators are on the take from “Big Tobacco” or that they have got the facts wrong about its association with cancer. The tobacco problem is that the success of tobacco control has produced a conceptual and political myopia. Or what I call a “tobacco control style of thought”.

Ian Hacking describes a “style of thought” as a particular way of seeing the world or problem that allows some ideas to be thinkable and actionable, while rendering other ideas as unthinkable. The success in linking smoking with cancer and the implementation of controls to regulate its use have contributed to a tobacco control style of thought.

The effect is that all public health issues are shoe-horned to fit the tobacco control model.

Eating bacon and red meat, drinking soda or frequenting fast-food restaurants, or sitting in a chair for too long are all equated with smoking. Why? Because saying bacon is like tobacco means that the problem and corresponding solution is well understood by the public and policy-makers.

Except it isn’t. All of these activities are extremely different from smoking. Eating bacon is not the same as smoking cigarettes. Everyone outside the tobacco control style of thought can see this.

The Australian Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said it is a “farce to compare sausages with cigarettes“. Does Barnaby have financial and political interests in saying that? Yes. Is he wrong in saying that? No.

Sure, saying “bacon causes cancer” generates headlines, but it also distracts from focusing on the actual research on the health effects of processed meats. Public health Image taken from page 277 of 'Lilliput Lyrics ... Edited by R. Brimley Johnson. Illustrated by Chas. Robinson'communicators and researchers need to break out of the tobacco control style of thought that makes bacon or soda look like tobacco.

Public health is currently in a battle with libertarians who cry “Nanny” every time they are told that an activity or behaviour should be regulated. However, in equating activities like eating processed meat or sitting at a desk with smoking, public health communicators give the appearance of legitimacy to the “Nanny State” cry. This does real damage to the credibility of public health research and erodes public understanding of risk factors and epidemiology.

Like the boy who cried wolf, if public health communicators continue to compare everything to smoking, soon people will stop listening.

The Three Stages of Malcolm Turnbull’s Empathy

Mal Empathy

Stage One: Be Generous & Wear Other People’s Shoes

Monday 21st September, 730 Report:

So, the truth is, we don’t really deserve our good fortune. And that’s why, if you are – if you do well, you’ve got to give something back. That’s why I encourage people to be generous…

The important thing is to have the emotional – emotional intelligence and the empathy and the imagination that enables you to walk in somebody else’s shoes, to be able to sit down with them on a train or on a – in the street, hear their story and have the imagination to understand how they feel. Emotional intelligence is probably the most important asset for – certainly for anyone in my line of work.

Stage Two: You, Me, & Maybe Them Get “It” – But Gee Things are Tough

Wednesday (morning) 23rd September, Sky News:

I understand the issue. I have same concerns about it, about the situation of people on Manus and Nauru as you do, and as I would think almost all Australians – all Australians do. As the Minister Mr Dutton does. But what I’m not going to do is make changes to our border protection policy sitting here with you. Our policies will change, all policies change, but when we do make changes we will do so in a considered way.

Stage Three: Real Politik with a Merchant Banker’s Face

Wednesday (evening) 23rd September, RN Drive:

Patricia Karvelas: First, on border protection, you told Sky News earlier today you were concerned about the plight of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. What does that concern mean for what happens to the policy? Will we re-settle these people in Australia?

Malcolm Turnbull: No. That is absolutely clear that there will be no resettlement of the people in Manus and Nauru in Australia. They will never come to Australia. Now, I know that’s tough. We do have a tough border protection policy. You could say it is a harsh policy. But it has worked.

There is a protest at Sydney Town Hall on Sunday October 11, 2pm. “Stand Up For Refugees – End all detention

A Poem – Australia. May God

Australia [cartographic material]. 1860. MAP RM 3092. http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-rm3092

Australia. May God

Killing in the name of God is never right

Mistreating others in the name of God is never right

everyone should be free to live their own life, to worship their own god

.

to kill in the name of God is almost unimaginable

I can’t give an absolute categorical assurance

there won’t be an act of God at some point in time

.

thank God that there are so many people who have put so much aside…

thank god, they have succeeded

…so that they are not a burden on the taxpayer

.

God speed on the way to Hobart

an iconic surfing spot, a beautiful piece of God’s own country

to sell a good product for a competitive price and thank God

.

that long paddock system and look, thank God we have got it

but thank God it’s gone to be replaced by this truly magnificent building

and thank God that’s what there is

.

thank God there are a multitude of different voices

thank God that’s stopped

so far, thank god, they have succeeded

.

May God bless you and welcome home

this is no way to serve God

stop the boats and thank God

.

what they are doing is against God

Nothing to do with religion

The only god they worship is death

.

god we want to be exporting plenty of foodstuffs

This country has not flourished because success was inevitable or ordained by God

thank God so many of our food manufacturers are very good at it

.

God knows there’s been an absolute semitrailer load of funding over the years

it’s important that people join the team and thank God

make the most of the good things that God has given us

.

may the God of justice answer all our prayers

thank God the boats are stopping

may God bless the country you are helping to protect

.

It is not about God

The only god they worship is death

and thank God we won the Federal election.

by God, that our country is so much better than this

.

Words by T. Abbott

Arrangement by C. Mayes

Casual Racism in Sport: The cases of Donald Sterling and Eddie McGuire

Sport provides an avenue to examine a society’s character and what it values. As such, sport can also serve as a point of comparison between societies. In recent weeks Australian Rules football has served as a path into racism in Australia. In America, basketball has also been embroiled in disputes over racism. The cases Donald Sterling (US) and Eddie McGuire (Australia) illuminates stark differences in social norms and tolerance of racism. Comparing two incidences of senior figures making racist remarks is revealing of the different levels of tolerance towards racists or racial comments in each society.

Here are the facts:

Donald Sterling, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers

The Incident (From Wikipedia):

On April 25, 2014, TMZ Sports released a recording of a conversation between Sterling and a female friend, V. Stiviano (born María Vanessa Perez, also known as Monica Gallegos, Vanessa Perez, and Maria Valdez).[43][44][45] In the recording from September 2013, a man confirmed to be Sterling was irritated over a photo Stiviano had posted on Instagram, in which she posed with Basketball Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson.[44][46] Sterling told Stiviano: “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people”, and, “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want”, but “the little I ask you is … not to bring them to my games”.[47][48][49]

The Response From Wikipedia:

On April 29, 2014, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that Sterling had been banned from the league for life and fined $2.5 million, the maximum fine allowed by the NBA constitution.[44][65] Silver stripped Sterling of virtually all of his authority over the Clippers, and banned him from entering any Clippers facility. He was also banned from attending any NBA games.[44][66] The punishment was one of the most severe ever imposed on a professional sports owner.[46] Moreover, Silver stated that he would move to force Sterling to sell the team, based on a willful violation of the rules, which would require the consent of three-quarters, or 22, of the other 29 NBA team owners.[67] Sterling’s wife, Shelly, has co-owned the team with him since 1981, and she has served as one of the team’s two alternate governors.[68] While she was not included in the NBA’s ban on Sterling,[69] the league stated that “if a controlling owner’s interest is terminated by a 34 vote, all other team owners’ interests are automatically terminated as well”.[70]

Eddie McGuire, President of the Collingwood Football Club

The Incident Talking on Triple M radio, five days after Adam Goodes was called an ‘ape’ by a Collingwood fan, Eddie McGuire said:

Darcy: What a great promo that is for King Kong.

McGuire: Get Adam Goodes down for it do you reckon?

Darcy: No I wouldn’t have thought so, absolutely not.

McGuire: You can see them doing that can’t you?

Darcy: Who?

McGuire: Goodsey.

Darcy: What’s that?

McGuire: You know with the ape thing, the whole thing, I’m just saying the pumping him up and mucking around and all that sort of stuff.

The Response (From Wikipedia):

He apologised on air after making the reference,[27][28] but prefaced his apology by stating “I wasn’t racially vilifying anyone”.[29] McGuire’s comment was widely criticised.[30] He also held a press conference in which he apologised again. In a later interview that day, he admitted he was guilty of racial vilification.[31] He also offered his resignation as Collingwood President, but the Collingwood board expressed their support for him.[32] In June 2015 McGuire was labelled a ‘continual boofhead’ by the Upper House of the Parliament of New South Wales for comments he made about an Indigenous dance performed by Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes.[33]

So what does it reveal?

Many things are revealed in each of these incidences. The striking feature to me, however, is the casual nature of Australian racism and the casual nature of our response to it. The Upper House of NSW Parliament probably thought they were acting quite nobly in labelling McGuire a “boofhead”. Perhaps some even thought it was a small part of that arc of history bending towards justice that MLK spoke of. In reality, however, it is the mirror image of the casual nature of racism in Australia.

Casual offense, casual condemnation.

In the US, Donald Sterling owned the Clippers. Property ownership is one of the most sacred unions in Western societies, yet the NBA forced Sterling to sell his property! He has been banned from attending games! He was fined $2.5 million! And what happened to Eddie McGuire? Nothing.

Sure, some may quibble that Stirling’s comments were worse. Perhaps. But even so, what was McGuire’s punishment?

The so-called ‘continual boofhead’ is able to continue being the President of Collingwood, continue appearing on Triple M radio, continue appearing on Channel Nine, and continue to opine about what is and is not racist in contemporary Australia!

Why was Sterling’s punishment so forthright and clear in comparison to McGuire’s? I don’t think it is reducible to the NBA executive having more power or greater moral consciousness than the AFL executive. Rather the NBA players and fans, as well as the American public would not tolerate Sterling’s comments (there are blindspots).

In Australia, however, there has not been a significant demand from players, fans or the wider public that the comments of Eddie McGuire require a serious or considered response. Australia needs to face up to its widespread casual and not so casual racism. Part of this needs to come through a not-so-casual response to racist and racial acts.