J. Warren Nystrom Award

I am honored to be selected as a finalist for the American Association of Geographer’s (AAG) 2022 Nystrom Award!

The award comes from a fund established by former AAG Executive Director J. Warren Nystrom (next time you see a printed map or globe, check out the name) and supports an annual prize for a paper based upon a recent dissertation in geography.

Based on my PhD dissertation, my paper, “Crisis Caring: Re-making New Orleans’ Foodscapes” was presented to the Nystrom Committee and other geographers at the AAG’s recent annual conference.

As part of my process of preparing for the presentation, I gave a practice talk to a group of friends — academics from a wide range of disciplines, colleagues from New Orleans and Grow Dat Youth Farm, and co-facilitators from VISIONS Inc. Their collective feedback was amazing, I took it all on, and it drastically strengthened my presentation. Thanks to all contributing their wisdom, and a huge thanks to Austin Zeiderman of LSE for writing a letter of recommendation in support of the award.

New Orleans’ “restaurant renaissance,” chef humanitarians, and the New Southern food movement

Coverage celebrating the “restaurant renaissance” in New Orleans post-Katrina as reported by Munchies/VICE, The Times-Picayune and The New York Times.

Click here to read the final accepted version of my latest publication in the journal Food, Culture & Society. It is available online now and will be out in print April of 2022.

Abstract: In this paper, we situate New Orleans’ post-Katrina “restaurant renaissance” within a context of historical and contemporary racial and gender inequities. This context provides a space for critical consideration of the celebratory narratives popularly attached to the city’s most prominent chefs and their roles in “rebuilding” New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Our critique focuses on the practice of chef “celanthropy” (celebrity philanthropy) and the contradictions often underlying that practice. While we situate this critique in New Orleans, our analysis is more broadly applicable to what Lily Kelting has described as the “New Southern Food Movement.” This movement relies on contradictory tropes of pastoral utopian pasts and harmonious multicultural futures that elide white male hegemony within the food industry, and southern food’s grounding in colonialism and enslavement.

Over the course of my PhD research I discovered the many joys of co-authoring journal articles. While there are challenges, I truly find that the scale tips strongly to the positive side. This collaboration with Catarina Passidomo, Southern Foodways Alliance Associate Professor of Southern Studies and Anthropology at the University of Mississippi, stemmed from co-presenting together at the American Association of Geographers annual conference. I met Catarina while she was conducting her own PhD field research in New Orleans in the early 2010s, and I’ve loved keeping up with her research and amazing work with the Southern Foodways Alliance ever since.

VISIONS Anti-Oppression Trainings

Since 2017 I’ve been honored to co-facilitate anti-oppression trainings in the VISIONS model of diversity and inclusion for schools and organizations in New Orleans with Jabari Brown and Kevin Connell.

Founded in 1984, VISIONS is a non-profit training and consulting organization specializing in diversity and inclusion with offices in Massachusetts, California and North Carolina. The Mission of VISIONS is to: to equip individuals, organizations, and communities with the tools needed to thrive in a diverse world; to remove structural and cultural barriers that prevent full and equitable participation; and to help create environments where differences are recognized, understood, appreciated, and utilized for the benefit of all. You can read more about their incredible work and Consultants located across the United States here: https://www.visions-inc.org/

Since the founding of Grow Dat Youth Farm in 2011, I’ve been working in the VISIONS, Inc. model of diversity, equity and inclusion. I learn best by seeing and doing, boots on the ground and hands in the dirt. I have trained in other anti-oppression approaches but I have never engaged with a modality long term and from within an organization where people were collectively committed to utilizing the model. Thus, it has been incredible to witness VISIONS tools in use at Grow Dat, and I was fortunate to experience the model from within an organizational setting for several years. Last fall my ongoing work with Jabari Brown and Kevin Connell included a 2-day training for the public where individuals from across the city were introduced to VISIONS’ tools and methods.

Taking an intersectional approach and utilizing a feminist lens, I use VISIONS to help myself and others interrogate how power functions at personal, interpersonal, cultural and institutional/systemic levels. In my facilitation, teaching and approach to research, VISIONS has taught me to value both process and content: that how I teach is of equal importance to what I teach. You can read more about Jabari, Kevin and some of our multicultural work together here.

If you’re interested in learning more about trainings for institutions in New Orleans or beyond, please email jabari@visions-inc.org and j.k.firth@lse.ac.uk

 

 

New Orleans foodscapes and beyond: American Association of Geographers annual meeting

This year, the massive annual AAG (American Association of Geographers) convening is taking place in our own backyard of New Orleans, Louisiana.

The events I’m spearheading or involved with include:

Co-organizer with Yuki Kato (Georgetown) of the session ‘Urban Agriculture in post-“Disaster” Cities’

Co-presenter with Yuki Kato (Georgetown) of the paper ‘The Role of External Funding in the Development of Food Systems and Urban Agriculture in Post-Katrina New Orleans’  Session sponsored by the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group, and Urban Geography

Organizer of the field trip and workshop at Grow Dat Youth Farm, ‘The History of the Land’ sponsored by the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group

Co-author with Catarina Passidomo (University of Mississippi, Oxford) of the paper ‘New Orleans’ “Renaissance” and the New Southern Food Movement’ in the session ‘Food geographies: culture, media, politics 2’ sponsored by Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group and Media and Communication Geography

Discussant for the paper session ‘Bodies and Spaces ‘of’ and ‘at’ Risk in the City: Framings, Responses and Resistance (II)’ organized by my incredible colleagues at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the Department of Geography and the Environment, Jordana Ramalho, Laura Antona and Paroj Banerjee

Thanks to the Geographies of Food and Agriculture Specialty Group for helping organize the field trip to Grow Dat and for their sponsorship of our sessions here, in addition to many other convenings.

Presentation at the SFA’s Foodways and Social Justice Conference

I recently had the honor of presenting at the Southern Foodways Alliance’s (SFA) graduate student conference, ‘Foodways and Social Justice in the U.S. South‘ at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. The colloquium brings together ‘graduate students from a range of disciplines to exchange knowledge, experience, and scholarship’. In my talk, I shared some of my early reflections from my Phd fieldwork and research on the role that philanthropy is playing in the food movement in post-Katrina New Orleans.

I was impressed by the generosity of the SFA (the colloquium is free and the food is fantastic — we had an incredible dinner at Snackbar), the moving and important tour of the campus by Professor Jeff Jackson of the Slavery Research Group, and the stellar food scholarship by other attendees from around the country.

Marshall Institute Grant Award

The Marshall Institute at the London School of Economics recently awarded research grants and I am happy to selected as an award recipient. The Marshall Institute aims to increase the impact and effectiveness of private action for public benefit through research, teaching and convening. Grants are given to empirical research (qualitative and quantitative) and the theoretical underpinnings (economic, social, political, moral) of private action for public benefit.

Project abstract:
As private funding is increasingly circulating in development and humanitarian aid, this project will identify the sources of knowledge that inform, inspire and produce such interventions. This research examines the substantial philanthropic activity in foodscapes and food systems in New Orleans more than a decade after Hurricane Katrina. Many projects in New Orleans have been funded or spearheaded by high-profile individuals, and this research seeks to understand the role that celebrity plays in processes of knowledge production.

Read more about the award and other recipients.

Interview with New Orleans Public Radio: On celebrity philanthropy in post-Katrina New Orleans

Local NPR affiliate WWNO New Orleans Public Radio asked me to speak with them about celebrity humanitarianism in the decade since Hurricane Katrina. I chatted with the fabulous Jesse Hardman near the eco-friendly homes built by Brad Pitt’s Make it Right Foundation.

The interview starts at about minute 10:15 – click here to listen.

I’m currently continuing to explore the role of celebrities and business leaders in aid and development in my PhD research.

‘Grow Dat: Phoenix from the Floods’ for Sustainability at LSE

Jon Emmett who runs the Sustainability Blog at The London School of Economics and Political Science asked if I would write a piece for the LSE environmental community about the work and mission of Grow Dat Youth Farm, and I was happy to oblige.

‘At Grow Dat Youth Farm, we use chemical-free farming methods to build a resilient sustainable agricultural system. To us that means producing food by supporting natural ecological systems and stewarding natural and human resources for the future. Located on a former golf course, we do not use chemical-based pesticides or fertilisers. Instead, we utilise techniques such as cover cropping, composting, companion planting, farmscaping and crop rotation to stimulate micro-biological activity and soil health.’

Read more here.

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Youth Crew Members inspect a crop of lettuces in the field at Grow Dat in New Orleans, Louisiana