While trained as a cultural anthropologist, my research is in conversation with an array of fields including Critical Food Studies, Development Studies, Global Indigenous Studies, and Environmental Studies.
My research agenda brings concerns about social justice, equity, and difference front and center in efforts to create a more sustainable world.
The Quinoa Bust
My book manuscript, The Quinoa Bust: The Making and Un-making of an Andean Miracle Crop, is under contract with the University of California Press. The book analyzes the semiotic, ecological, and political work that goes into rendering quinoa — historically perceived as a disparaged “Indian food” — into an economically valuable export crop and globally circulated commodity. Tracing how colonial legacies articulate with quinoa’s commercialization, my research examines the creation of new meanings and narratives about quinoa along with the ways product standardization, agricultural mechanization, and plant breeding affect quinoa’s materiality and power dynamics defining the industry at large.
Critical Approaches to Superfoods (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020) has its origins in a workshop I organized along with co-editor, Richard Wilk, at Indiana University in 2019. Spearheading the critical analysis of superfoods, the volume traces what the rise of so-called superfoods reveals about shifting concepts of nutritional authority, the complexities of intellectual property and bioprospecting, the role marketing agencies play in the agro-industrial complex, and more. The multidisciplinary contributors draw their examples from settings as diverse as South India, Peru, and California to engage with foodstuffs that include quinoa, almonds, fish meal, Rooibos Tea, kale and açaí.
"Creating the culinary frontier: A critical examination of Peruvian chefs’ narratives of lost/discovered foods" (Anthropology of Food, 2019) examines the narratives of lost and discovered foods prominent Peruvian chefs employ to frame their work as chefs and to promote Peruvian food more generally. It argues that even as Peru’s emerging class of celebrity chefs work to subvert colonial culinary hierarchies that hold up European cuisines as exemplars of gastronomic excellence, they ultimately reproduce colonial relationships of power through their narratives of discovery that frame chefs as the arbiters of “good food” and erase the labor of the actors who actively produced and consumed the foods prior to their discovery.
"Miracle Foods: Quinoa, Curative Metaphors, and the Depoliticization of Global Hunger Politics" (Gastronomica, 2015) examines the “miracle food narrative” in three cases: high-lysine corn, Golden Rice, and quinoa. I contend that miracle food narratives depoliticize hunger through a “curative metaphor.” This trope bolsters a paternal logic that blames malnutrition on the undernourished, and blurs problems of access and dispossession, locating “the solution” in Western philanthropy or economic development. erence, critical food scholars must pay close attention to the ways in which tradition and culture are invoked.