Spycy Shores Invite the Eyes: Towards A Multidisciplinary Visual Theory of Food




Schwegler, Lawrence

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Scholars studying images of food continue to use the framework of social construction (Adema, Hansen, LeBesco and Naccarato, Probyn, Theophano, Warnes, Williams-Forson) even as more complex theories have emerged (Cilliers, Hayles, Massumi, Taylor). Since systems of images cut across cultural boundaries, this project seeks to establish a multi-disciplinary theory of food using the resources of complex systems theory, visual studies, feminist theory, cultural studies, postcolonial theory, Latina/o studies, African American studies, and food studies.

Examining five different patterns of interaction characteristic of complex systems, I describe the emergence and evolution of a complex species of food image that I call spyce, defined as the worldmaking interface among food, images, and interpretants. This tripartite model underscores my argument that images of food arise from interaction among disparate actors rather than directly in an unmediated way from individual, autonomous producers.

I first describe how early modern English writers imaged the global spice trade. Their imaginative acts contributed to a process of emergence, qualitatively changing the commodity of spice into the visualizing instrument of spyce. Subsequent chapters address four more patterns that give rise to spyce: the visual intensive continuums that generate images of food, place, and race in nineteenth-century cookbooks; the distributed topology of food images at the local, regional, and global scales, as illustrated in Cherríe Moraga's play Watsonville (2002); the embodiment of food images in food-based literature by Maya Angelou, Isabel Allende, and Chitra Divakaruni; the enaction of alliances at the personal scale through the Slow Food movement's design strategies.


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Complex, Food, Images, Representation, Systems, Visual