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Fenton, Ioulia (Fall 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/1g05fc76j?locale=es
Published

Abstract

This dissertation draws on mixed-methods research carried out during 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the city of Quetzaltenango. I interviewed and participated in the activities of diverse groups promoting environmentally sustainable, healthy, and just food in the region. To contrast their “alternative” projects with mainstream food systems, I interviewed “conventional” farmers and consumers, mapped the availability, price, and advertising of food in the city, and participant observed in restaurants.

I argue that contemporary food economies propagate environmental injustices that disproportionately affect marginalized populations. Smallholder adoption of agrichemicals and corporate spread of industrialized foods and drinks have occurred without parallel developments in protective regulations or public health infrastructures. The result is what I call the supertoxification of Guatemala’s food ecologies, defined as the compounding of biological and chemical risks to food safety. The poor, indigenous majority suffers its worst health effects, especially women and girls.

Yet, as people increasingly become attuned to food’s role in local disease burdens, some engage in self-protective strategies. They do this by managing multiple material and social risks and rewards of a competitive food sector in which powerful global players, national oligarchic food companies, and local food purveyors all promote their causes. Several of Guatemala’s local food initiatives, like organic markets, appeal to the wealthier classes. However, I show how participants in the CORO program in Quetzaltenango challenge traditional, intersectional race-class-gender hierarchies by engaging in food-related acts of solidarity across difference.

The main contribution of this research is to position the political ecology of food as a critical, but often missing or underdeveloped, link in theories of socially-stratified changes in health, environment, and development during late capitalism. The work interrogates theoretical explanations of the nutritional and epidemiological transitions through the lens of power dynamics in human-environment relations.

The research thus brings into conversation debates about the ecological and human consequences of economic systems that greatly rely on agriculture and food. It foregrounds human-nature linkages rather than relying on their ontological separation. It does so by positioning human chronic diseases as symptoms of broader planetary metabolic dysfunction.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION.. 1

WE VALUE TODO DE AFUERA. 3

FIVE THEMES OF “EDIBLE WEALTH, EDIBLE HEALTH”. 10

FOLLOWING THIS DISSERTATION.. 14

SECTION I: HISTORICAL AND CONTEMPORARY AGRI-FOOD LANDSCAPE IN GUATEMALA  23

CHAPTER 1: THEORETIZING FOOD-SYSTEM CHANGES. 24

ALTERNATIVE FOOD NETWORKS AND THEIR CONVENTIONAL COUNTERPARTS. 25

FOOD REGIMES THEORY.. 27

FOOD REGIMES THEORY PROPONENTS AND CRITICS. 31

FOOD REGIMES AND THEIR CRISES. 35

THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF OBESITY.. 37

DIVERSITY IN FOOD SYSTEMS. 39

BODIES AS SITES OF ACCUMULATION AND RESISTANCE. 43

WHY GUATEMALA.. 46

CHAPTER 2: FIELD SITE AND METHODS. 51

CHOOSING XELA.. 51

STUDYING XELA’S ALTERNATIVE FOOD NETWORKS. 53

CHAPTER 3: ARÉ’S JOURNEY: A LIFE LIVED AT THE INTERSECTIONS OF GUATEMALA’S FOOD SYSTEMS. 62

ARÉ’S JOURNEY.. 64

READING ARÉ. 92

CHAPTER 4: A WALK AROUND XELA.. 94

XELA’S FOOD CORNUCOPIA AND GEOGRAPHIES OF FOOD PROVISION.. 95

GUATEMALA’S FOOD SWAMPS AND DESERTS. 99

HYBRID FOODWAYS. 100

GEORGAPHIES OF CONSUMPTION IN XELA.. 101

THE CORE ROLE OF PERIPHERAL BRANDS. 104

VAST ACCUMULATION OF EDIBLE WEALTH IN GUATEMALA.. 109

CHAPTER 5: FEEDING YOUR LOVE FOR GUATEMALA: DISCIPLINING TASTES, BUILDING A NATION  113

GENERATIONAL RIFTS, LIFELONG CONSUMERS AND NOSTALGIA MARKETING.. 115

LANDSCAPE OF THE KNOWN AND MAKING THE STRANGE FAMILIAR.. 118

“TAN GUATEMALTECO COMO TÚ”. 121

HISTORICAL RACE-CLASS RELATIONS IN GUATEMALA.. 124

CHAPÍNES LOOKING FOR CHANGE IN GUATEMALA.. 129

CORPORATE THEORIES OF CHANGEMAKING IN GUATEMALA.. 131

THE FOUR GUATEMALANS OF FOOD ADVERTISING.. 133

1)   The Modernist Guatemalan. 133

2)   The Content Chapín. 134

3)   The Striving Guatemalteco. 136

4)   The Indio Permitido. 140

DO THESE MESSAGES RESONATE?. 143

CONCLUSIONS. 146

SECTION II: THE SUPERTOXIFICATION OF GUATEMALA’S FOOD ECOLOGY.. 148

CHAPTER 6: MORE IS BETTER: VEGETABLE FARMING AND CHEMICALLY RISKY FOOD ECOLOGIES. 149

ALMOLONGA.. 149

A WALK THROUGH THE FIELDS. 157

MARIO IS LIKELY SLOWLY BEING POISONED – IS IT HIS OWN FAULT?. 159

TRACKING AGRICHEMICALS OFF THE FARM.. 177

A DANGEROUS SALAD?. 178

CONCLUSIONS. 183

CHAPTER 7: THE CHICKEN AND THE EGGS: THE CHEMICALIZATION OF ANIMAL-DERIVED FOODS. 185

QUÍMICOS IN GUATEMALA’S FOOD SYSTEMS. 186

IT IS EXPENSIVE TO EAT (MEAT) IN GUATEMALA.. 187

A CHICKEN IN EVERY POT. 193

CHICKEN AND EGGS IN GUATEMALA.. 196

GUATEMALA’S TRUSTED CHICKEN.. 203

COMPOUNDING FOOD ECOLOGY RISKS. 205

CONCLUSIONS. 211

CHAPTER 8: COMPOUNDING DIET-RELATED DISEASE RISKS. 213

THEORIZING GLOBAL CHANGES IN NUTRITION AND HEALTH.. 214

GUATEMALA’S DIETARY DIVERSIFICATION.. 217

AN EPIDEMIOLOGICAL TRANSITION OR A COMPOUNDING PROBLEM?. 222

CONCLUSIONS. 231

SECTION III: MANAGING GUATEMALA’S RISKY FOOD ECOLOGY.. 232

CHAPTER 9: HEALTHY EATING TO SUPERAR A SUPERTOXIFIED FOOD ECOLOGY.. 233

CONSUMING TO SUPERAR.. 235

1) Ricardo buys a stove. 237

2) Juana’s treat 237

3) Almolonga’s narcotraficante. 239

4) Collector’s items. 239

READING THE VIGNETTES. 243

HEALTHY EATING TO SUPERAR A HAZARDOUS FOOD ECOLOGY.. 247

WE DON’T EAT FOR HEALTH.. 249

HEALTHY EATING: PLACE, FAMILY, AND COMPLETENESS. 251

AVOIDANCE AND SEEKING STRATEGIES IN A SUPERTOXIFIED FOOD ECOLOGY.. 257

SHOPPING FOR SAFE INGREDIENTS. 259

EATING OUT, EATING RICA FOR TODAY.. 266

CONCLUSIONS. 271

CHAPTER 10: THE ORGANIC DISTINCTION: CLASS-BASED ALTERNATIVES AND CORO’S SOLIDARITY ECONOMIES. 273

ALTERNATIVE FOOD NETWORKS AROUND GUATEMALA.. 276

COMING TO XELA.. 282

THE CORO MARKET DIFFERENCE. 288

SARA’S RESISTANCE. 294

THE SOLIDARITY ECONOMY OF THE LAS HOJITAS CSA.. 298

WHY LAS HOJITAS NEEDS THE AID SECTOR.. 302

CONCLUSIONS. 305

CHAPTER 11: THE FLAVOR PREMIUM: MOBILIZING THE SENSES TO DO FOOD OTHERWISE  307

ERNESTO.. 308

BODIES TRACKING CHANGES IN GUATEMALA’S AGRI-FOOD SYSTEMS. 313

RECUPERATING FLAVOR.. 318

THE TOMATO TASTE TEST. 327

THE CRIOLLO TASTE DISTINCTION.. 330

SENSORY LABOR IN SERVICE OF SOLIDARITY ECONOMIES. 333

CONCLUSIONS. 338

CHAPTER 12: ACTS OF TRANSLATION: NAVIGATING XELA’S AGROECOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT NETWORKS. 341

COOKING THE BOOKS. 341

TRANSLATING PROJECT METRICS. 345

POWER STRUCTURES WITHIN THE AGROECOLOGICAL NETWORKS. 350

TRANSLATING THE LANGUAGE OF THE MARKET FOR ALTERNATIVES. 362

CONCLUSIONS. 372

CONCLUSION.. 374

LAST WORDS ON EMBODIED KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION.. 384

THE TASTES OF TWO MILKS. 385

BIBLIOGRAPHY.. 391

YOUTUBE VIDEO REFERENCE LIST  439

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