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Big Food and Global Suspicions: Applying Anthropology to Counter Mistrust

David T. McGovern Grand Salon (C-104) | 6, rue du Colonel Combes, 75007 Paris
Thursday, November 14, 2019 - 18:30 to 20:00

Join the AUP community for a guest lecture by Dr. Chelsie Yount-André (Montpellier, CIRAC) and Dr. Gyorgy Scrinis (University of Melbourne), organized by AUP's Professor Christy Shields. 

 

Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice. An Introduction.

Dr. Gyorgy Scrinis

Popularized by Michael Pollan in his best-selling In Defense of Food, Gyorgy Scrinis’ concept of nutritionism refers to the reductive understanding of nutrients as the key indicators of healthy food.  Scrinis argues this ideology has narrowed and in some cases distorted our appreciation of food quality, such that even highly processed foods may be perceived as healthful depending on their content of “good” or “bad” nutrients.

Dr. Gyorgy Scrinis, is senior lecturer in food and nutrition politics and policy at the University of Melbourne, Australia.   He is author of the influential work Nutritionism : The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice (Columbia University Press, 2015). Originally trained in philosophy, Scrinis is a leading voice in the interdisciplinary field of Food Studies, and the subfield of Critical Nutrition Studies in particular.

 

Big Food and Global Suspicions: Applying Anthropology to Counter Mistrust

Dr. Chelsie Yount-André

“Each time we eat and drink, we vote for the world we want.” This message, resonant with the discourses of ecological activists and scholars of food politics, was delivered by the CEO of a major yogurt company at the 2017 Consumer Goods Forum. Presenting his corporation’s purported desire to enact an “Alimentation Revolution,” the head of the French multinational suggested that ethics could deliver the company from the economic decline that has plagued major food companies for the past five years. As consumers increasingly embrace the goal of “eating local” and mistrust of large corporations has escalated worldwide, multinationals increasingly find their global reach to be a liability. This paper explores how, after years of global expansion founded on universalist projects, food companies are now scrambling to adapt to local contexts in order to respond to consumer critique. Specifically, it examines corporate attempts to harness the insights of the anthropology of food, via “FoodStyles” studies: qualitative research projects the multinational carries out in partnership with local ethnographers and a French research center. Tracing interactions between the company’s Paris-based “Food Cultures Group,” employees at its branch in Johannesburg, and ethnographic researchers, it examines how the social meanings of food voiced by South African research participants were translated into business vernacular, to inspire innovations and investments. It then asks how these partnerships shape the research produced, to consider the future of research on food in the social sciences as public research funding dwindles and ethnography becomes an increasingly common corporate tool.

Chelsie Yount-André is a postdoctoral fellow in the anthropology of food at Montpellier SupAgro/CIRAD research center. Her work focuses on processes of value creation through food, at the intersection of ethics and economics. She earned a joint Ph.D. in anthropology from Northwestern University (Evanston) and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales  (Paris) in 2017. She recently edited a special section on transnational families in global capitalism for the journal Africa and her work has been published in Food and Foodways, the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, and The Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford, and the Revue des Sciences Sociales.