History of the Future of Food

Date:         Fri, 29 Oct 1993 13:31:06 -0600                                   
Reply-To:     H-Rural Rural & Agricultural History discussion                   
Sender:       H-Rural Rural & Agricultural History discussion                   
From:         "Jim Oberly, History Dept.,                                       
              U of Wisc-Eau Claire" <JOBERLY@CNSVAX.UWEC.EDU>                   
Subject:      History of the Future of Food                                     

[From: IN%"BELASCO%UMBC.BITNET@vaxa.uwec.edu" "NAME WARREN BELASCO, extension 2106" 29-OCT-1993 12:54:05.34 [To: IN%"h-rural%uicvm.BITNET@vaxa.uwec.edu" [Subj: history of the future of food

A cultural historian who has written quite a bit about recent food trends (e.g. Appetite for Change: How the Counterculture Took on the Food Industry, Cornell U. Press, 1993), I am working on a new study that attempts to look at the way the future of food production, processing, distribution, and consumption has been conceived and discussed over the past 150 years. As everyone on this list knows, we live in a time of great uncertainty about the future of the food supply. Will there be enough and will it be safe? Who will control food production and marketing? Where will we buy tomorrow's dinner and what will it taste like? As policy analysts debate scenarios--some Malthusian, some utopian--starkly different forecasts and proposals emerge. As an historian I do not feel comfortable making predictions, but I hope to illuminate the current debate my tracing its historical evolution.

As I presently see it--and it's quite rough right now--my study will consist of several case studies, grouped in thee parts:

        I. Imagineers: visions of food's future in works of                     
        fantasy and creative imagination--e.g., science fiction, utopian novels,
        and World's Fairs, as well as Disney World.                             
        II. Capitalists and Technocrats: futuristic scenarios by                
        entrepreneurs and engineers, especially extravagant expectations        
        for the latest technological panaceas in agriculture (e.g.              
        pesticides) and processing (e.g. irradiation). I'd also like to look    
        at the history of the magical "meal in a pill" and other highly-portable
        super-convenience foods.                                                
        III. Critics and Rebels: alternative scenarios by                       
        dissenters, feminists, early environmentalists, populists...            

It's a big project, so I'd welcome all suggestions and comments.


Warren Belasco, American Studies Dept University of Maryland Baltimore County Catonsville MD 21228 Internet: Belasco@umbc2.umbs.edu Bitnet: Belasco@umbc

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Posted: 13 Jul 1994

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