"Tacos, Gumbo, and Work: The Politics of Food and the Valorization of Labor" Lecture by Sarah B. Fouts


Fri, 03/24/2017 - 13:00 to 14:30
Using a multi-sited ethnographic framework, this study follows workers from Honduras to New Orleans to analyze social policies and precarious economies that have forced people to leave Central America and work in the food industry. From taco truck owners to line cooks, undocumented Latinx food vendors are emblematic of the New Orleans post-Katrina recovery. They initially fed Latinx workers who were fundamental in rebuilding the devastated region. Despite the important role they continue to fill and their growing popularity among the non-Latinx community, these foodways purveyors face challenges in accessing political and cultural legitimacy as part of a new and growing Latinx population in the U.S. Southeast. Research into the narrative and interpretation of how these food vendors navigate legal systems and blur the lines between informal and formal economies, raises questions about the role of labor, entrepreneurship, migration, and regulation within Food Studies. Through community-engaged research, this study builds on accompaniment methodology to provide a broader analysis of these transnational migration experiences. Drawing attention to the shifts in and inconsistencies of legislation, I argue that the regulation of food vendors maps onto the criminalization of undocumented individuals. At the same time, I show how, despite this vulnerability, these communities use their foodways to forge their own cultural, economic, and political spaces.
Sarah Fouts is completing her PhD in Latin American Studies at Tulane University.   Sarah has a B.A. in Spanish and History from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and an M.S. in Urban Studies/Applied Anthropology from the University of New Orleans. Sarah served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay from 2005-2008. Her research at the Stone Center focuses on immigration, foodways, labor, Central America, and Latinos in the United States.

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