Google alerts are super useful. Two theses that popped up in my inbox recently.
The politics of food are maybe the fiercest battleground of the “risk society.” Technology, regulation, consumption overlap in not always obvious ways. Organic. Local. Fresh. There’s a lot of covert jockeying behind the scenes to define (more broadly or more narrowly) these terms that retain a halo of virtue about them.
Introduction to Susanne Freidberg’s Fresh: A Perishable History
On the surface, few food qualities seem as unquestionably good as freshness. Dig a little deeper, and few qualities appear more complex and contested. At bottom, the history of freshness reveals much about our uneasy appetites for modern living, especially in the United States. This book traces that history by way of a tour through an ordinary refrigerator. What is it about the word “fresh” that makes marketers so keen to put it on every possible label? Its appeal, I think, lies in the anxieties and dilemmas borne of industrial capitalism and the culture of mass consumption. This culture promotes novelty and nostalgia, obsolescence and shelf life, indulgence and discipline. It surrounds us with great abundance, but not with much that feels authentic or healthful. It leaves many people yearning to connect to nature and community but too busy to spend much time in either. Above all, it’s a culture that encourages us to consume both as often as possible and in ever better, more enlightened ways.
Of all the qualities we seek in food, freshness best satisfies all these modern appetites. It offers both proof of our progress and an antidote to the ills that progress brings—at least for a little while. An ingenious range of technologies now protects our fresh food supply against spoilage. But the shelf life of satisfaction remains short. This is the larger perishable history waiting inside the fridge. It’s the story of all the forces that create both demand for freshness and doubts about what it means.
In July 2000, for example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) invited the public to a meeting in Chicago to discuss “the use of the term ‘fresh.’” The FDA needed to decide whether perishables could be labeled “fresh” if they were treated with nonthermal technologies such as ultraviolet light.
An FDA official began the meeting with a review of the existing legislation, which forbade use of the word “fresh” on labels for frozen, heated, chemically treated, or “otherwise preserved” foods —with a few important exceptions. Pasteurized milk could be labeled “fresh,” for example, because consumers expected milk to be pasteurized. But juice subject to the same process could not make the same claim. “Fresh frozen” was OK under some circumstances; “fresh” irradiated or waxed fruit was OK; even “fresh” cooked crabmeat was OK because, as the official explained, “consumers cannot obtain raw crabmeat.” And refrigerated foods could of course be called fresh, even if they were weeks old.
The official then concluded with a set of questions that fueled debate for the next several hours. Could freshness be measured? Should it be defined by taste or by internal qualities? Did the agency need another term to describe foods that were processed but “fresh- like”? How much information about a product’s freshness did consumers need or want on a label? And finally, if the FDA redefined the legal meaning of “fresh,” who would profit or lose out? Not surprisingly, the last question directly concerned most of the meeting’s speakers. Small fruit-juice makers warned that a looser use of “fresh” would not only mislead consumers but also destroy their niche as producers. A consultant to the processing industry argued that any food that tasted fresh deserved the label. A maker of bagged salads described fresh as anything “alive and respiring” (a definition better suited to salads than, say, to poultry). And a lobbyist for the American Fresh Juice Council suggested that the entire debate was futile. “Fresh is not a measurement,” he said. “Fresh is a state of being.”
In the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) of 1921, the U.S. Congress defined “native Hawaiians” as those people “with at least one-half blood quantum of individuals inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778.” This “blood logic” has since become an entrenched part of the legal system in Hawai‘i. Hawaiian Blood is the first comprehensive history and analysis of this federal law that equates Hawaiian cultural identity with a quantifiable amount of blood. J. Kēhaulani Kauanui explains how blood quantum classification emerged as a way to undermine Native Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli) sovereignty. Within the framework of the 50-percent rule, intermarriage “dilutes” the number of state-recognized Native Hawaiians. Thus, rather than support Native claims to the Hawaiian islands, blood quantum reduces Hawaiians to a racial minority, reinforcing a system of white racial privilege bound to property ownership.
Kauanui provides an impassioned assessment of how the arbitrary correlation of ancestry and race imposed by the U.S. government on the indigenous people of Hawai‘i has had far-reaching legal and cultural effects. With the HHCA, the federal government explicitly limited the number of Hawaiians included in land provisions, and it recast Hawaiians’ land claims in terms of colonial welfare rather than collective entitlement. Moreover, the exclusionary logic of blood quantum has profoundly affected cultural definitions of indigeneity by undermining more inclusive Kanaka Maoli notions of kinship and belonging. Kauanui also addresses the ongoing significance of the 50-percent rule: Its criteria underlie recent court decisions that have subverted the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and brought to the fore charged questions about who counts as Hawaiian.
“Kauanui is a passionate critic of the concept of blood quantum, and her engagement with the issue of Hawaiian identity yields insights throughout the book, especially concerning the ways in which the law can work as a subtle agent of colonization.”—Stuart Banner, Pacific Historical Review
So many things to read. Emphases added. Must resist the urge to buy all the books - I just gave away a stack as part of the book swap table at the fourth Bike-In Theater a few weeks ago.
I spent way too much time pondering the back lists of UH Press and Duke Press trying to winnow down my list of “ooh that looks interesting” to a handful of books that I will actually buy. Thought I was going to avoid Cyber Monday sales but my weakness for books is a fatal flaw. (40-50% off!) Here are some books likely very useful to anyone thinking about land and water and power in Hawai’i.
Hawaii’s sugar industry enjoyed great success for most of the 20th century, and its influence was felt across a broad spectrum: economics, politics, the environment, and society. This success was made possible, in part, through the liberal use of Hawaii’s natural resources. Chief among these was water, which was needed in enormous quantities to grow and process sugarcane. Between 1856 and 1920, sugar planters built miles of ditches, diverting water from almost every watershed in Hawaii."Ditch" is a humble term for these great waterways. By 1920, ditches, tunnels, and flumes were diverting over 800 million gallons a day from streams and mountains to the canefields and their mills. Sugar Water chronicles the building of Hawaii’s ditches, the men who conceived, engineered, and constructed them, and the sugar plantations and water companies that ran them. It explains how traditional Hawaiian water rights and practices were affected by Western ways and how sugar economics transformed Hawaii from an insular, agrarian, and debt-ridden society into one of the most cosmopolitan and prosperous in the Pacific.
an intellectual and legal framework for understanding both the past and future of Hawai‘i’s freshwater resources. It covers not only the känäwai (laws) governing the balancing act between preservation and use, but also the science of aquifers and streams and the customs and traditions practiced by ancient and present-day Hawaiians on the äina (land) and in the wai (water).
"Despite many differences in their traditional society and post-contact history, American Indians and Native Hawaiians share one overwhelming circumstance of oppression: they have been disposed of lands they enjoyed before European emigrants invaded what are now the fifty United States. Native American Estate undertakes to recount the history of that dispossession and the efforts of the indigenous populations to resist or reverse it. Linda Parker… has done a remarkable job of compressing centuries of history, ethnography, and politics.” —Ethnohistory
Just a decade after the first printing press arrived in Honolulu in 1820, American Protestant missionaries produced the first newspaper in the islands. More than a thousand daily, weekly, or monthly papers in nine different languages have appeared since then. Today they are often considered a secondary source of information, but in their heyday Hawai‘i’s newspapers formed one of the most diversified, vigorous, and influential presses in the world. In this original and timely work, Helen Geracimos Chapin charts the role Hawai‘i’s newspapers played in shaping major historic events in the islands and how the rise of the newspaper abetted the rise of American influence in Hawai‘i.
Shaping History is based on a wide selection of written and oral sources, including extensive interviews with journalists and others working in the newspaper industry. Students of journalism and Hawaiian history will find this comprehensive history of Hawai‘i’s newspapers especially valuable. Winner of the 1997 Ka Palapala Po‘okela Award for Excellence in Reference Books
a comparative study of the symbolic representations, both textual and photographic, of Cuba, Guam, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico that appeared in popular and official publications in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898. It examines the connections between these representations and the forms of rule established by the U.S. in each at the turn of the century—thus answering the question why different governments were set up in the five sites.
Interweaving postcolonial studies, sociology, U.S. history, cultural studies, and critical legal theory, Imperial Archipelago offers a fresh, transdisciplinary perspective that will be welcomed especially by scholars and students of U.S. imperialism and its efforts to “extend democracy” overseas, both past and present.