Critical Approaches to Superfoods Workshop

Emma McDonell's picture
Organizers:
Emma McDonell, PhD Candidate, Indiana University
Sarah Osterhoudt, Assistant Professor, Indiana University
Richard Wilk, Professor, Indiana University 
Call for papers
In the past decade, “superfoods” have taken US and European consumer markets by storm. Novel commodities like quinoa and acai, along with familiar products such as cranberries and raw milk, are increasing framed as superfoods, a classification that seeks to draw attention to their exceptional nutritional prowess and curative properties, but that has not been defined in any standardized way. The increasing visibility of superfoods brings to the fore pressing questions about scientific authority and nutritional expertise, shifting consumer understandings of health and the body, and issues of ownership and bioprospecting. Despite this conspicuity of this trend and the rich analytical terrain it opens up, academic scholarship has been slow to catch on, and only a handful of disparate publications touch on the subject.
Recognizing the immediate broad significance of this trend, we are convening scholars with diverse disciplinary backgrounds and analytical approaches to discuss, debate, and define the emerging phenomena of “superfoods,” and develop an edited volume on the topic. The workshop endeavors to bring together cutting edge works in progress that explore superfoods’ connections to and departures from other curative comestibles across history and cultures, and that take a critical approach the social and political work superfoods do. We encourage papers that attempt to examine how the superfoods phenomena articulates with issues of scientific authority and nutritional expertise, shifting consumer understandings of health and the body, and issues of ownership and bioprospecting. We welcome unpublished work from scholars based in a wide variety of disciplines including and not limited to anthropology, history, geography, gender studies, literature, sociology. and hope for works. In particular we seek case-study-based papers as well as analyses of the trend writ-large that answer one or more of the following questions:
  • How does the superfoods discourse align with and depart from “hegemonic nutrition” or “nutritionism”?
  • In what ways does the superfoods discourse intervene in and challenge accepted ideas about bodily health and wellbeing more generally?
  • How is the superfoods discourse taking hold outside the US?
  • How does the superfoods discourse articulate with situated ideas about race and difference? How does a superfood come to be seen as such and what forms of negotiation and contestation characterize this process of definition? 
  • Should we understand superfoods as “fashion foods” and how do they relate to boom-bust cycles?
  • What happens to farmers when a little-known local food suddenly acquires superfood status?
We are particularly interested in papers that:
  • engage theories relevant to critical nutrition studies and food studies;
  • examine the flow of ideas, knowledge, capital, people, materials, etc. in relation to superfoods;
  • are based on empirical work drawing upon historical/archival sources, ethnography,  analysis of text, or innovative cross-disciplinary approaches; and
  • are in the stage of development where a full paper will be ready by 1 February 2019.
The main goal of the three-day event is to present and workshop papers, while developing a research agenda for future superfood studies by identifying key patterns, developing a working definition of superfoods, and shaping a holistic interdisciplinary set of inquiries that integrates existing insights with emerging inquiries. The end product will be an edited volume or special issue that seeks to define an emerging conversation on superfoods, and all participants must submit their unpublished work for consideration in this publication. We have a limited number of spots available and the selection process will be highly competitive.
The workshop will be held at the Indiana Memorial Union (IMU) and the Indiana University Food Institute (IUFI). The first day will involve public presentations of each of the participants’ chapters to the IU community. This symposia-style day will be followed by two closed-door intensive workshopping days, which will include only workshop participants. Each participant will have read each chapter draft and will we will discuss each chapter for approximately one hour. Finally, we will have a concluding session that will seek to outline a research agenda, pointing to emerging questions and dynamics the workshop has shed light on. This discussion will inform the introduction to the book. 
The workshop is hosted and organized by Indiana University. It is a 3-day event scheduled fromMarch 21-23, 2019. The workshop is organized and facilitated by Emma McDonell (Ph.D. Candidate), Prof. Sarah Osterhoudt, and Prof. Richard Wilk. Accommodations and modest support for travel costs will be provided.
Applicants should take note of the following dates:
  • 30 May 2018 – Deadline of submission of paper proposal (500 word abstract containing theoretical approach, methods, and findings) 
  • 30 June 2018 – Announcement of successful proposals
  • 1 February 2019 – Submission of full papers
  • 21-23 March 2019 – Workshop in Bloomington, IN
Paper proposals (500 word abstract containing theoretical approach, methods, and findings plus a 2-3 sentence bio) should be emailed to Emma McDonell (ekmcdone@indiana.edu) by 30 May 2018with the subject heading, “Superfood workshop submission (‘first and last name’)”