Mobility, embodiment, and scales: Filipino immigrant perspectives on local food

Mobility, embodiment, and scales: Filipino immigrant perspectives on local food
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  Mobility, embodiment, and scales: Filipino immigrantperspectives on local food J. M. Valiente-Neighbours Accepted: 24 April 2012   Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012 Abstract  Local foodshed proponents in the United Statesseek to change the food system through campaigns to ‘‘buylocal’’ and to rediscover ‘‘good food’’ in the local foodshed.Presumably, common sense dictates that the word ‘‘local’’signifies spatial proximity to the consumer. For somepopulations, however, both the terms ‘‘local’’ and ‘‘localfood’’ signify various different meanings. The local fooddefinition generally used by scholars and activists alike as‘‘geographically proximate food’’ is unhelpfully narrow.Localist rhetoric often does not incorporate the foodchoices and practices of immigrants, migrants, and refu-gees. In this paper, I report the various characterizations of local food among Filipino immigrants in San Diego, Cal-ifornia: (1) geography-based local food; (2) (US) America-based local food; (3) community-based local food; and (4)immigrant identity-based local food. Local foodshed pro-ponents should acknowledge those who have a starklydifferent definition of ‘‘local’’—those who possess trans-local subjectivities, for whom ‘‘local-ness’’ is both mobileand embodied. My study underscores how the movementof food—or its containment within a geographic space—cannot be viewed in isolation from the movement of people. Keywords  Local food    Foodshed    Immigration   Mobility    Scale    Translocal subjectivity    Embodiment   Filipino Introduction Local foodshed proponents in the United States seek tochange the food system through campaigns to ‘‘buy local’’and to rediscover ‘‘good food’’ in the local foodshed. Theyhave not (yet) taken into account that various populationsunderstand these terms in different ways. In addition, theterms are socially constructed. Presumably, common sensedictates that the word ‘‘local’’ signifies spatial proximity tothe consumer. Additionally, ‘‘local’’ is often equated withotherwordssuchas‘‘fresh,’’‘‘delicious,’’and‘‘sustainable.’’For some populations, however, both the terms ‘‘local’’ and‘‘local food’’ signify various different meanings. How thendoes the localist rhetoric relate to those who do not equatefood that is ‘‘geographically proximate’’ to good food?While embracing community and inclusivity, localiststend to homogenize the definitions of the local food systemthey desire. Narrowed concepts of ‘‘good food’’ and ‘‘localfood’’oftendonotincorporatethefoodchoicesandpracticesof people with ‘‘translocal subjectivities’’ (Conradson andMcKay 2007), including immigrants, migrants, and refu-gees. Conradson and McKay (2007, p. 168) suggest thattranslocal subjectivities ‘‘describe the multiply-locatedsenses of self.’’ In other words, those with translocal sub- jectivities view themselves as a resident of multiple‘‘homes’’ or localities. The local food literature’s focus onthe effects of globalization and industrialization on the foodsystem (Halweil 2002; Hendrickson and Heffernan 2002) lacksacriticaltransnationalperspectivebecauseitoverlooksthemovementofpeoplenecessitatedbythoseprocesses.Theaim of this contribution is to bring into the discussion of localism the perspectives of immigrants with translocalsubjectivities.I also address the turn to embodiment in food localism(DeLind 2006), which attends to the role of the body and J. M. Valiente-Neighbours ( & )Department of Sociology, University of California, Santa Cruz,1156 High Street, College 8, 214, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USAe-mail:  1 3 Agric Hum ValuesDOI 10.1007/s10460-012-9379-5  the senses, in conjunction with what seems to be anassimilationist trajectory among local foodshed propo-nents. In particular, I refer to food scholars Kloppenburget al. (1996, p. 41) who write: ‘‘We offer the term ‘food-shed’ to encompass the physical, biological, social, andintellectual components of the multidimensional space inwhich we live and eat.’’ They claim that ‘‘the foodshed is acontinuous reminder that we are standing in a particularplace; not anywhere, but here’’ and conclude with: ‘‘[if] weare to  become native  to our places, the foodshed is one wayof envisioning that beloved country’’ (Kloppenburg et al.1996, p. 41, my emphasis).The primary goal of this project is to understand howimmigrants define local food by interviewing Filipinoimmigrants who reside in San Diego, California. Theassortment of definitions they provided for ‘‘local food’’—one of which refers to Filipino food—challenges the res-onance of food-mile-centric foodsheds and place-bounddefinitions in agrifood literature. In describing these alter-native constructions of local food, I hope to direct attentionto a different way of thinking about scales and construc-tions thereof. The immigrant voices in this study not onlyrupture the localists’ one-dimensional definition of thelocal foodshed due to their translocal subjectivities, butthey also challenge the ‘‘becoming native’’ storyline intheir perception of their bodies as a local scale and theirembodiment of previous local foodsheds. Additionally,agrifood scholars who recognize the roles of bodies and thesenses in the discussion of localism (DeLind 2006) canexpand their conceptualizations of what it means to be‘‘local.’’ Diversity in San Diego County San Diego County is home to 6,687 farms, more than anyother county in the United States. In 2008, the San DiegoCounty’s Department of Agriculture, Weights, & Measuresreported that the majority of the farms (68 %) are measuredat one to nine acres and the median farm size is only fouracres. The economic sustainability of these small farmsrelies mainly on the support of nearby customers. Notsurprisingly, San Diego has a lively food localizationmovement. The San Diego Farm Bureau website boasts atotal of 49 farmer’s markets. The farm bureau website alsofeatures 22 farm stands, U-Pick stands, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) enterprises. The ‘‘Local Har-vest’’ website states that there are nine CSAs in San DiegoCounty, with more than 4,250 shares subscribed.The definition of ‘‘local food’’ as ‘‘geographicallyproximate food’’ is generally used by scholars and activistsalike, but it is unhelpfully narrow. As localists seek tochange the food system through campaigns to ‘‘buy local,’’they universalize their particular conception of local food,which pertains mostly to produce grown by farmers in thecounty, over 90 % of whom are white, according to the2007 Census of Agriculture.Ironically, this type of local food relies heavily on‘‘imported’’ or migrant labor. A study of farm labor inCalifornia in 2000 reported that about 95 % of seasonalworkers are foreign-born, and immigrants composedalmost 100 % of the new workers hired for seasonal labor(Martin 2001). This is important to consider in a county asracially and ethnically diverse as San Diego. While SanDiego County has the 16th largest agricultural economy,the county also has the sixth highest urban population inthe US. Almost one quarter (23 %) are first-generationimmigrants, which totals over 675,000, according to theCalifornia Immigrant Policy Center (nd). Additionally, theSan Diego Refugee Forum (2010) reports that San Diego isa resettlement destination for 150,000 refugees and asylumseekers from many different parts of the world. How arefood activists addressing these populations in San DiegoCounty?A 2006–2008 American Community Survey (ACS)conducted by the US Census Bureau reports that there are133,112 Filipinos in San Diego County, which accounts for4.4 % of the county’s 3 million residents. Given the title‘‘US nationals’’ after colonization in 1899, Filipinos wereable to travel to the US as laborers in either agriculture orthe service industry. For example, they often toiled asdomestic servants (‘‘houseboys’’) or as stewards in the USNavy (Guevarra 2008). Filipinos first began to settle in SanDiego during the 1920s, but they faced discriminatory alienland laws at the time. As a result, they were unable topurchase property and were restricted to rental housing inthe ‘‘servant quarters’’ of Coronado and La Jolla, SanDiego’s Chinatown, and the South Bay and Southeasternsections of San Diego, where many still live today(Guevarra 2008).While many Filipinos were poor due to low wages in theearly twentieth century, today they have the lowest povertyrates among Asians in the US as reported in the 2000Census (2000b). One reason for this is the in-migration of middle-class individuals and white-collar Filipino workersfacilitated by the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act,which removed the country-of-origins quota system andestablished a preference system for skilled immigrants andfamily reunification. According to the US Census Bureau,the median household income for Filipinos in San DiegoCounty was $63,727, compared to the median householdincome for the entire county of $62,820 in 2008. They havethe income to afford local farm produce, but they are not asignificant part of the local food movement.My findings demonstrate that Filipino immigrants definelocal food in various ways. While some may easily write J. M. Valiente-Neighbours  1 3  this off as lack of education and awareness on the part of Filipino immigrants, or simply attribute it to culturalpreferences, I suggest that it is more complex than that. Ipropose another argument that emphasizes the translocalsubjectivity of immigrants: the discourse of food localiza-tion does not resonate with Filipino translocals due to theirmultiple characterizations of local food and perspectives on‘‘local-ness.’’ Local food scholarship should incorporatethese translocal subjectivities and a critical transnationalperspective on globalization in order to refrain fromspreading a localist rhetoric that overlooks racial and ethnicminorities. Literature review Food and foodways are not unattached from the trafficand flows of people. Some scholars have already recog-nized this relationship; for example, Phillips (2006)examines food through the globalization framework, butalso globalization—to include ‘‘mobile bodies’’ (p. 45)—through the context of food. Slocum’s (2011) review of food studies and race includes scholars who haveengaged with migrants and their food practices: the useof food as sensual bridges to home (Ahmed et al. 2003);the use of substitute ingredients in ‘‘home’’ recipes(Cwiertka 2003); and, among others, the establishment of grocery stores that remind buyers of their homeland(Mankekar 2005).Migrants who engage in such practices demonstratetranslocal subjectivity (Conradson and McKay 2007). Thistype of subjectivity highlights three facets in the experi-ences of those who occupy more than one social field in thetransnational scale: (1) one’s ability to travel and inhabit aplace (sometimes more than one place at a time); (2) amigrant’s affinity to their particular locality (this can referto a province in the Philippines, for example); and (3) theemotional status of the immigrant that comes with theconstant negotiation of mobility and emplacement, whetherwith the body or in the mind.The term translocal subjectivity relates to the concept of ‘‘transnationalism’’ (Schiller et al. 1992) in the field of international migration, which describes how immigrantswho live in one place still nurture ‘‘home ties’’ in theircountry of srcin alongside efforts at integration into theircountry of residence. One of several critiques of ‘‘trans-nationalism’’ points out that the ‘‘links between transna-tionals are not actually nation-to-nation but are village-to-village or family-to-family’’ (Dunn 2010, p. 2). Instead,critics offer the term ‘‘translocalism’’ (Waldinger andFitzgerald 2004; Velayutham and Wise 2005, both cited in Dunn 2010). The translocalism of immigrant and migrantpopulations, especially their connections between one localfoodshed and another, is missing in the discussion of localfood and foodsheds.Agrifood literature often characterizes local foods asgoods produced, sold, and consumed within a 30–50 mileradius or even up to 200 miles (La Trobe 2001; Chamberset al. 2007). Zepeda and Leviten-Reid (2004) found that consumers have used length of driving time to define localfood. As mentioned above, the term has come to signifywords such as ‘‘fresh,’’ ‘‘delicious,’’ and ‘‘sustainable’’(Ostrom 2006; Futamura 2007). Local foodshed proponents claim that attention to the source of food and the distancethat food travels from production to consumption is urgentfor building a more sustainable ecology (Kloppenburg et al.1996; Starr et al. 2003; Peters et al. 2009). Peters et al. (2009, p. 2) argue that a local foodshed presents manybenefits: individual and community health, environmentalsustainability, and improved economic viability for thefarms and their communities.Some agrifood scholars presuppose the local scale assimply a geographic container, even though many studiesdemonstrate that local is not just about the particular place.Yes, ‘‘place matters’’ as does the ecology within thatlocation (Curtis 2003), but any locality encompasses his-torical, cultural, and social processes, involves social net-works, and reflects social hierarchies (Hendrickson andHeffernan 2002; Allen et al. 2003; Holt and Amilien 2007; Freedman 2009). Selfa and Qazi (2005, p. 461) propose that ‘‘historical development and social relationships shape‘local’ foodsheds and food provisioning systems.’’ Theunequivocal celebration of the local foodshed neglects adiscussion about the power relations and social inequalities(such as racism or sexism) within the supposed ‘‘foodshed’’or locality.Agro-food scholarship connecting alternative foodpractices to race (and anti-racism) is only recentlyemerging. Slocum (2006) underscores the lack of attentionto race and anti-racist strategies in food organizations,which, she argues, reifies white privilege in sidesteppingissues of racism in the construction of the industrial foodsystem and the efforts to transform it. For Slocum (2011,p. 303), race is central to studying food and food practices:‘‘Food must be understood within circulations of power andrace must be analyzed with a keen awareness as to what is  politically  at stake in the use of this concept’’ (heremphasis). Slocum (2011) contends that if we employ raceas a political concept in food studies, then we can alsoanalyze food and food practices politically.Some scholars look critically at how the food movementlacks racial diversity. For example, Guthman (2003, 2004) points out how the production of organic food is raced, andits market is limited to white, middle-class people. Morerecently, Guthman (2008a, b) has highlighted the pre- sumptions of food activists that their alternative food Mobility, embodiment, and scales  1 3  practices are both color-blind and universal. She remarksthat California alternative food institutions, such as farm-er’s markets, are predominantly white spaces. Likewise,Alkon and McCullen (2010) term this tendency as the‘‘white farm imaginary’’ (see also Slocum 2007).Although efforts have been made to integrate moreracial diversity in alternative food projects, food scholarsand activists still mostly use the discourses of food accessand food insecurity (Allen 1999; Koc et al. 1999; Lang and Caraher 1998; Lewis et al. 2005). These discussions have achieved much success in bringing attention to andaddressing hunger and public health. The frameworks‘‘food insecurity’’ and ‘‘food desert,’’ however, sometimesreproduce the assumption that low-income populations donot have or know about good food, or do not want to eat it(Alkon 2008; Guthman 2008a). The taken-for-granted discourse among food localization scholars and activists, ineffect, undermines their goals of sustainability and social justice (DuPuis and Goodman 2005). When conversationsabout local food do not consider diverse perspectives andsubjectivities, this localism imposes dominant standards of acceptable food choices and food practices that can lead tooppressive and tyrannical local food politics (DuPuis andGoodman 2005). Neglecting diversity can also lead tosituations where proper ‘‘food citizens’’ (Wilkins 2005) or‘‘ecological citizens’’ (Dobson 2003, cited in Seyfang2006) become exclusive groups that marginalize others.Within the moral economy (Kloppenburg et al. 1996), thisbecomes problematic because labels such as ‘‘food citi-zens’’ or ‘‘ecological citizens’’ tend to segregate and debasethose who do not, or cannot, support local food.Following Harvey (1996), agro-food scholars like Allenet al. (2003) recognize a problem with the term ‘‘localfood’’ because it can be used to promote regional nativism(Hinrichs 2003) and defensive localism (Winter 2003). Local alternative food provision systems are in fact notinevitably better, more sustainable, or more socially just(Winter 2003; DuPuis and Goodman 2005; Edwards-Jones et al. 2008). However, advocates of food localization insiston closing the physical distances between the producer andthe consumer, and they argue that doing so would bringabout more trust, respect, and a sense of community(Whatmore and Thorne 1997; Sage 2003; Holloway and Kneafsey 2004).DuPuis and Goodman (2005, p. 362) further the debateby suggesting a ‘‘reflexive localism’’ in which local food-shed proponents account for the ways in which their‘‘possessive investment[s]’’ (Lipsitz 1998, cited in DuPuisand Goodman 2005) in race, class, and gender influence orgovern their perceptions of ‘‘good food’’ (or the ‘‘bestfood’’) and ‘‘right eating.’’ Reflexive localism takes seri-ously the politics of spatial and scalar constructions, whereplaces and spaces are relational, including translocal ties(Castree 2004). Feagan (2007) also suggests that any the- orization of localism must recognize its entwinement withthe global. Their claims that agro-food scholarship needs toconsider translocalism and localism’s dialectical relation-ship with the global are catalysts for this study.This review highlights the debate among scholarsregarding local food and local foodsheds. In an effort towork primarily towards ecological sustainability, foodlocalists tend to promote closing the distance between foodproduction and its consumption, thus often characterizinglocal food as contained within a certain mile-radius or thelength of driving time. Many scholars, however, haveinsisted that the local scale is not merely geographical butalso social and relational, involving historical and culturalprocesses, as well as social networks and hierarchies.Similarly, in recognition of how spaces reflect socialrelations, other food scholars argue how alternative foodinstitutions and food movements lack racial diversity,which has impeded some food localists’ goal of social justice, and instead has promoted regional nativism anddefensive localism.The concepts of ‘‘localism’’ and, especially, ‘‘nativism’’bring to mind non-native populations, such as immigrants,migrants, and refugees, because these groups represent theopposites of ‘‘local’’ and ‘‘native,’’ i.e., ‘‘global’’ and‘‘foreign.’’ While there have been some discussion onmigrants and their food practices and also food linked toglobalization, there has been no discussion connectingmobile populations such as immigrants, migrants, andrefugees to local food and local foodsheds. My paper seeksto address this gap in the literature by bringing into thelocal food discourse the concept of ‘‘translocal subjectiv-ity’’ (Conradson and McKay 2007). Translocal subjectivityemerges from the scholarship on international migration,and it refers to the constant negotiation of migratory pop-ulations with respect to mobility and emplacement. Thetranslocalism of migrants, immigrants, and refugees furthercomplicates and widens what the concept of ‘‘local’’encompasses, offering a challenge to food localists toconsider how the movement of both people and foodintersect. In addition, this paper acknowledges howimmigrant populations’ food practices can help promote asustainable and socially just food system. Methods My central research method was interviews since my mainresearch questions concerned whether and how populationswith translocal subjectivities, such as immigrants, describethe term ‘‘local food’’ differently from local food propo-nents. I began the interviews with a short series of ques-tions regarding the participants’ biographies to determine J. M. Valiente-Neighbours  1 3  the extent of their connection to the Philippines, includingtheir birthplaces, their dates of arrival to the US, the fre-quency of their visits to the Philippines, and the relation-ships they still maintain there. Next, I asked theparticipants to describe ‘‘good food’’ and to provideexamples of these as well as their food favorites. Then Iinquired about their definition of ‘‘local food’’ and whetherthey consume it or not. The interviews also explored par-ticipants’ food sources and habits, such as cooking oreating out. These last questions helped clarify whether theparticipants tend gardens or not, where they purchasegroceries, what they cook and how often, and which res-taurants they patronize.I used telephone calls and email to request the partici-pation of various contacts from a university, churches, andcommunity networks in San Diego, California. The par-ticipants also connected me to other contacts in the com-munity. This way, I was able to recruit intervieweesthrough the snowball method. In the months of Februaryand March 2010, I conducted 25 semi-structured inter-views, which ranged from 20 to 60 min each. The inter-views were audio taped with the participants’ consent, andthey were guaranteed anonymity. To establish rapport withinterview participants, I conducted most of the interviewsin both English and Tagalog, as most of the participants arebilingual. 1 I, however, kept the term ‘‘local food’’ inEnglish for all participants, as my main research questionasked about their definition of it.Among the interview participants, 15 were women and10 were men. They varied in their ages and career stages. 2 The years they arrived in the US varied widely: eightarrived in the 1960s, two arrived in the 1970s, six arrived inthe 1980s, seven arrived in the 1990s, and two arrived after2000. Similarly, their age upon migration differed: fivearrived as a child or a teenager; seven arrived as a youngadult (ages 21–25) and eleven arrived at age 28 and up; andtwo arrived as a senior. The duration of their residence inthe US also varied: six participants have lived in the US foralmost or just a little over a decade; three have lived herefor almost two decades; six have lived here for almost threedecades, and eight have lived here between 40 and50 years. The frequency of their visits to the Philippinesalso differed. Some (10 out of 25) reported that they visitthe Philippines every year or every 2 years, while others(12 out of 25) visit when finances allow or to attend sig-nificant family events.I also inquired about the interview participants’ income inorder to gauge how likely they would be able to afford localfarm produce. However, my efforts to solicit their annualincomes were only partly successful because there is muchreticence to discuss this topic. Five participants did respondwith their annual incomes: a widowed 69-year old reported$42,700; a single 27-year old reported $25,000; a single26-yearoldreported$28,000;afatherinafamilyof4reported$100,000;andamotherinafamilyof6reported$55,000.Mostof the participants work or worked in the fields of education,healthcare, and business, while three served in the US Navy. Findings Proponents of local food in San Diego construct theregion’s agriculture as local, and they consider the foodgrown by regional farmers to be local food. The term‘‘local food’’ is not as clear-cut among Filipino immigrants.Translocal subjectivities demonstrate scalar shifts ininterviewees’ definitions, and some (7) used more than onescale to describe local food (see Table 1). These scalesrange from the state to the county, including the neigh-borhoods in which they reside, and from the nation to thehuman body. Based on my interviews, I identify the fol-lowing four themes concerning localism: (1) geography-based local food; (2) (US) America-based local food; (3)community-based local food; and (4) immigrant identity-based local food. These themes indicate the limits of viewing ‘‘local food’’ simply as geographically proximateto its consumers and/or as the food produced by farmersclosest to them.‘‘Local food is grown where you live’’The  geography - based local food   definition most closelyechoes the existing agrifood literature’s localism. Thisgroup stated that local foods are those grown and raised inCalifornia. They are not imported but ‘‘home-grown’’ ingardens or farms, and local foods are sold at farmer’smarkets. One participant stated: ‘‘local food means any-thing produced within our community, which is  the placewhere you reside .’’ Another depicted local food as: ‘‘thoseavailable here, in the stores, in the gardens here, and theproduce at the farmers’ market.’’ This type of localismmaintains ‘‘local’’ as a geographic container. These inter-viewees commonly used geographic terms correspondingto state, county, or city levels to define local. Thus, localfood meant that it was grown in California, San DiegoCounty, or the city of San Diego. 1 The two primary languages of the Philippines are Tagalog (orFilipino) and English. The interviewees who earned their collegedegrees in the Philippines were educated in English-speakinginstitutions. My use of Tagalog during the interview was to makeparticipants feel more comfortable. 2 My questions did not ask specifically about their levels of education, but the information they shared regarding their age andcareer stage when they left the Philippines show that most (up to 15)were college graduates in the Philippines, some (7) were collegegraduates in the US, and a few (3) joined the U.S. Navy. It isimportant to note that these categories are not mutually exclusive.Mobility, embodiment, and scales  1 3
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