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The Coloniality of Taste : A political ecology of middle class food practices in a Bolivian city

Kollnig, Sarah LU (2018) In Lund Dissertations in Human Ecology
Abstract
Cochabamba city, also referred to as the “gastronomic capital of Bolivia”, is a place where different cultures and tastes meet. Indulging in rich culinary traditions is a part of everyday life, but so are social differentiations reproducing long-standing inequalities between the indigenous and the non-indigenous population. In this thesis, the practices and politics surrounding food are used as a lens on social inequalities in Cochabamba city and Bolivia in general. The thesis consists of an introduction and three articles.
Conceptualizing food as having symbolic as well as material aspects, I investigate food from production to consumption, bringing out the inequalities inherent in the food system. A particular focus is linking... (More)
Cochabamba city, also referred to as the “gastronomic capital of Bolivia”, is a place where different cultures and tastes meet. Indulging in rich culinary traditions is a part of everyday life, but so are social differentiations reproducing long-standing inequalities between the indigenous and the non-indigenous population. In this thesis, the practices and politics surrounding food are used as a lens on social inequalities in Cochabamba city and Bolivia in general. The thesis consists of an introduction and three articles.
Conceptualizing food as having symbolic as well as material aspects, I investigate food from production to consumption, bringing out the inequalities inherent in the food system. A particular focus is linking social inequalities with their biophysical (i.e. corporeal and ecological) implications. The research follows a critical realist approach, looking into mechanisms and structures underlying the surface experiences of everyday life.
The analysis of the production end focuses on one product, industrially produced chicken meat. The production and consumption of poultry have been soaring in Bolivia. Factory-farmed chicken has replaced subsistence and small-scale chicken rearing. The economic accessibility of chicken meat, but also the seductive nature of Western food practices, have made chicken a popular fast food. I show that these developments have ecological consequences as well as impacts on human health. My research also reveals that it is mostly the well-established Bolivian elites that have benefitted from the popularity of chicken meat.
The more symbolic aspects of food are revealed in my analysis of the “distinctions” expressed in the food habits of the privileged middle class of Cochabamba city. While indulging in traditional Cochabamba meals, the privileged often feel the need to distinguish themselves from the urban population characterized as “indigenous”. In high-end restaurants and supermarkets, traditions are “sanitized”, symbolically cleared from any contact with indigenous producers and food vendors. The notion that markets and market women need to be “controlled” by the local authorities prevails, without any improvements in actual working conditions.
Both the introduction of chicken meat as a cheap protein source as well as the more “distinguished” food practices of the privileged population of Cochabamba are expressions of what I call the coloniality of taste. Through judgments of “good” and “bad” taste, people in Cochabamba and elsewhere contribute to keeping up patterns of exploitation with deep colonial roots. The success of chicken meat provides benefits for the elites while reproducing the position of the less privileged as providers of cheap labor and recipients of charity. The taste of the more privileged population reproduces the symbolic and material exclusion and exploitation of the population conceptualized as “indigenous”.
I propose that a critical re-appreciation of the food practices of Cochabamba city may provide a way to address and go beyond social divisions. (Less)
Abstract (Swedish)
Staden Cochabamba kallas för “Bolivias kulinariska huvudstad”. Många kulinariska traditioner och kulturer möts där. Den här avhandlingen handlar om hur den vardagliga matkulturen är en del av reproduktionen av historiska ojämlikheter mellan olika delar av befolkningen, särskild mellan ursprungsbefolkningen och befolkningen som betraktar sig som ”västerländsk”. Avhandlingen utgörs av en inledande del (”kappa”) och tre artiklar.

Jag analyserar maten som ett symboliskt och materiellt fenomen och knyter därmed samman matproduktion och –konsumtion. Det grundläggande perspektivet är kritisk realism, såsom utvecklat av Roy Bhaskar. Det är ett ramverk som bidrar till förståelsen av sambandet mellan det symboliska och det kroppsliga och... (More)
Staden Cochabamba kallas för “Bolivias kulinariska huvudstad”. Många kulinariska traditioner och kulturer möts där. Den här avhandlingen handlar om hur den vardagliga matkulturen är en del av reproduktionen av historiska ojämlikheter mellan olika delar av befolkningen, särskild mellan ursprungsbefolkningen och befolkningen som betraktar sig som ”västerländsk”. Avhandlingen utgörs av en inledande del (”kappa”) och tre artiklar.

Jag analyserar maten som ett symboliskt och materiellt fenomen och knyter därmed samman matproduktion och –konsumtion. Det grundläggande perspektivet är kritisk realism, såsom utvecklat av Roy Bhaskar. Det är ett ramverk som bidrar till förståelsen av sambandet mellan det symboliska och det kroppsliga och ekologiska. Perspektivet innebär också att betrakta det vardagliga som resultatet av djupare mekanismer och strukturer.

Den empiriska analysen tar sin utgångspunkt i det faktum att konsumtionen av industriellt producerat kycklingkött har ökat markant i Bolivia de senaste åren. Jag betonar de ekologiska och hälsorelaterade effekterna av denna utveckling, en utveckling som inte påverkar alla delar av befolkningen på samma vis. Analysen visar också att den ökade konsumtionen av kyckling är en del av mer övergripande sociala, kulturella och gastronomiska förändringar i Bolivia.

Jag analyserar också den priviligierade medelklassens konsumtionsmönster och visar på hur matkonsumtionen är en del av en historisk önskan om att skapa socialt och kulturellt avstånd till de som kallas ”indigenas”, ursprungsbefolkningen. Reproduktionen av dessa ojämlikheter tar sig olika uttryck, såsom i segregationen mellan grupper när man äter ute eller i de priviligierades negativa syn på marknadsförsäljarna, speciellt de som betraktas som en del av ursprungsbefolkningen.

Jag argumenterar i avhandlingen att matkulturen visar att koloniala sociala mönster inte försvann i och med att den formella kolonialismen tog slut. En analys av matproduktion och –konsumtion i Bolivia idag visar att 1) vissa dominanta matpreferenser (såsom att äta kyckling) överförs till mindre priviligierade delar av befolkningen; 2) vissa delar av ursprungsfolkens kultur (till exempel produkter såsom quinoa) appropieras av mäktiga aktörer; och 3) att endast vissa delar av befolkningen tillåts ta del av de mer priviligierade gruppernas konsumtionsvanor. Den här logiken kallar jag för ”smakens kolonialitet”.

Avslutningsvis föreslår jag ett nytt sätt att tänka kring matkulturen i Cochabamba - att aktivt använda matkulturen som ett sätt att prata om och om möjligt gå bortom historiskt villkorade ojämlikheter. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
supervisor
opponent
  • Professor Canessa, Andrew, University of Essex
organization
publishing date
type
Thesis
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Cochabamba, middle class, white, coloniality, chicken meat, taste
in
Lund Dissertations in Human Ecology
issue
4
pages
196 pages
publisher
Lund University
defense location
Ostrom, Josephson building, Biskopsgatan 5, Lund
defense date
2018-11-16 13:00:00
ISSN
1650-206X
ISBN
978-91-7753-877-6
978-91-7753-878-3
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
1aad61c9-5b93-4000-8a79-08eeb4421834
date added to LUP
2018-10-22 23:15:26
date last changed
2019-08-19 15:48:37
@phdthesis{1aad61c9-5b93-4000-8a79-08eeb4421834,
  abstract     = {Cochabamba city, also referred to as the “gastronomic capital of Bolivia”, is a place where different cultures and tastes meet. Indulging in rich culinary traditions is a part of everyday life, but so are social differentiations reproducing long-standing inequalities between the indigenous and the non-indigenous population. In this thesis, the practices and politics surrounding food are used as a lens on social inequalities in Cochabamba city and Bolivia in general. The thesis consists of an introduction and three articles. <br/>Conceptualizing food as having symbolic as well as material aspects, I investigate food from production to consumption, bringing out the inequalities inherent in the food system. A particular focus is linking social inequalities with their biophysical (i.e. corporeal and ecological) implications. The research follows a critical realist approach, looking into mechanisms and structures underlying the surface experiences of everyday life. <br/>The analysis of the production end focuses on one product, industrially produced chicken meat. The production and consumption of poultry have been soaring in Bolivia. Factory-farmed chicken has replaced subsistence and small-scale chicken rearing. The economic accessibility of chicken meat, but also the seductive nature of Western food practices, have made chicken a popular fast food. I show that these developments have ecological consequences as well as impacts on human health. My research also reveals that it is mostly the well-established Bolivian elites that have benefitted from the popularity of chicken meat. <br/>The more symbolic aspects of food are revealed in my analysis of the “distinctions” expressed in the food habits of the privileged middle class of Cochabamba city. While indulging in traditional Cochabamba meals, the privileged often feel the need to distinguish themselves from the urban population characterized as “indigenous”. In high-end restaurants and supermarkets, traditions are “sanitized”, symbolically cleared from any contact with indigenous producers and food vendors. The notion that markets and market women need to be “controlled” by the local authorities prevails, without any improvements in actual working conditions. <br/>Both the introduction of chicken meat as a cheap protein source as well as the more “distinguished” food practices of the privileged population of Cochabamba are expressions of what I call the coloniality of taste. Through judgments of “good” and “bad” taste, people in Cochabamba and elsewhere contribute to keeping up patterns of exploitation with deep colonial roots. The success of chicken meat provides benefits for the elites while reproducing the position of the less privileged as providers of cheap labor and recipients of charity. The taste of the more privileged population reproduces the symbolic and material exclusion and exploitation of the population conceptualized as “indigenous”. <br/>I propose that a critical re-appreciation of the food practices of Cochabamba city may provide a way to address and go beyond social divisions.},
  author       = {Kollnig, Sarah},
  isbn         = {978-91-7753-877-6},
  issn         = {1650-206X},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {10},
  number       = {4},
  publisher    = {Lund University},
  school       = {Lund University},
  series       = {Lund Dissertations in Human Ecology},
  title        = {The Coloniality of Taste : A political ecology of middle class food practices in a Bolivian city},
  url          = {https://lup.lub.lu.se/search/files/53271376/Kappa_The_Coloniality_of_Taste_Kollnig.pdf},
  year         = {2018},
}