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We Are Made of Our Food: Latino/a Immigration and the Practices and Politics of Eating

Dissertation
Author: Teresa Marie Mares
Abstract:
This dissertation explores how claims of Latino/a immigrants to food justice and food entitlements are made, reshaped, and denied in Seattle, Washington. Drawing upon four years of ethnographic fieldwork from 2005 through 2009, I advance three central arguments. First, I argue that a transnational approach to cultural and social citizenship provides a useful framework for making connections between broad social and political-economic processes and the everyday lived experiences of Latino/a immigrants with respect to food. Secondly, I take up the question of the possibilities for urban agriculture in meeting the needs of Latino/a immigrants and argue that the movements for sustainable food in the Seattle area are far from achieving a truly transformative and just food system that serves the needs of all residents. Finally, I argue that while emergency food programs fill a crucial need for individuals and families who are excluded from federal and state food entitlement programs based on citizenship status, the emergency food system remains an imperfect and temporary fix to more fundamental issues of structural violence and marginalization. Methodologically, this study contributes to a genealogy of multi-scalar anthropological studies that use locally grounded ethnography to demystify the discourses, practices, and effects of social structures and institutions. I follow the extended case method method and draw upon feminist approaches to ethnography and participatory methodologies to create an ethnography grounded in and by the local community with applied and practical relevance. Theoretically, my dissertation brings together and contributes to four integrated bodies of scholarship: Marginality and Structural Violence, Transnational Immigration and Settlement, Latino/a Agency and Citizenship, and The Political Economy of Food Systems. Through highlighting examples of agency that I witnessed within multiple levels of the food system, I hope that this dissertation draws attention to manifestations of individual and collective resistance that have the potential to transform the current food system. At the same time, through exposing the ways that agency and resistance are constrained, I render visible the contradictions inherent to the market, state, and civil society as mechanisms of regulation and control that dramatically impact the lived experiences of Latino/a immigrants.

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Full document contains 257 pages
Abstract: This dissertation explores how claims of Latino/a immigrants to food justice and food entitlements are made, reshaped, and denied in Seattle, Washington. Drawing upon four years of ethnographic fieldwork from 2005 through 2009, I advance three central arguments. First, I argue that a transnational approach to cultural and social citizenship provides a useful framework for making connections between broad social and political-economic processes and the everyday lived experiences of Latino/a immigrants with respect to food. Secondly, I take up the question of the possibilities for urban agriculture in meeting the needs of Latino/a immigrants and argue that the movements for sustainable food in the Seattle area are far from achieving a truly transformative and just food system that serves the needs of all residents. Finally, I argue that while emergency food programs fill a crucial need for individuals and families who are excluded from federal and state food entitlement programs based on citizenship status, the emergency food system remains an imperfect and temporary fix to more fundamental issues of structural violence and marginalization. Methodologically, this study contributes to a genealogy of multi-scalar anthropological studies that use locally grounded ethnography to demystify the discourses, practices, and effects of social structures and institutions. I follow the extended case method method and draw upon feminist approaches to ethnography and participatory methodologies to create an ethnography grounded in and by the local community with applied and practical relevance. Theoretically, my dissertation brings together and contributes to four integrated bodies of scholarship: Marginality and Structural Violence, Transnational Immigration and Settlement, Latino/a Agency and Citizenship, and The Political Economy of Food Systems. Through highlighting examples of agency that I witnessed within multiple levels of the food system, I hope that this dissertation draws attention to manifestations of individual and collective resistance that have the potential to transform the current food system. At the same time, through exposing the ways that agency and resistance are constrained, I render visible the contradictions inherent to the market, state, and civil society as mechanisms of regulation and control that dramatically impact the lived experiences of Latino/a immigrants.