‘Food is social, it’s cultural, and it is political… but, like food, ethnicity – or race as we also use – is also social, cultural, and political.’ — Dr. Jordan Mullard, Teaching Fellow in Durham University’s Department of Anthropology
The Food and Ethnicity webinar was an experience I would recommend to every Durham student, regardless of degree. The webinar itself was born from the N8 Agrifood Programme – initially meant to be held in person, but was pushed online due to covid – to highlight some of the work that has been done over the programme’s five-year course. It was an interuniversity programme that had 370 researchers from various social sciences and science degrees analysing three main themes: sustainable food production, resilient supply chain, and improved consumption and health.
The webinar particularly focused on the research of Cristina Newell (Food at the heart of Society), Dr Nasima Akhter (Food Insecurity & Nutrition) and Dr Katie Pybus (Ethic Inequalities: Racism and Food Poverty in the UK), as well as introductory talks by Professor Ari Sadanandom (N8 Agrifood Chair in Durham, as well as Co-chair of Durham’s BAME Network), Dr Jordan Mullard (Health and Persistence of Inequality in the UK) and Dr Athena Enderstein (Race Inequality in Higher Education). Each speaker gave an eye opening talk about the many important facets of food from sustainability to health to societal status, and everyone could benefit from that information.
The event was organised by Durham’s Knowledge Exchange Fellow for the N8 Agrifood Programme. She skillfully put together a diverse set of researchers to share their work. The lineup boasted a majority of BAME and/or International speakers, which allowed the event to have a multitude of local, national, and global perspectives. The introduction speakers all set the stage for the research perfectly as they explained the programme, the importance of seeing food and ethnicity as intertwined and how the local Durham community is working on making Durham as inclusive as possible.
Meanwhile the research speakers delved more into topics about preserving food cultures abroad, the societal indicators of food, the importance of food availability and its correlation to ‘healthy’ food markers and prejudice in food welfare systems. All the speakers looked at national and international levels of understanding the importance of food resources and culture. They also used a multitude of examples from various cultures which allowed for a holistic approach to the subject. Everyone also discussed the prevalence of COVID-19 on their various food studies. It was interesting to see how their research (which had been part of a five year programme) was also able to address food reliability and availability in various communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The webinar was primarily focused on students and staff of Durham university, however one speaker was from the University of York. Dr Pybus was an integral aspect of the talk, where she discussed the issues with food banks being perceived as a white only resource to those in need, even though census data show that members of the BAME communities in the UK are more affected by poverty.
When I say everyone should watch this webinar, I mean it for the statement at the top. There is no escaping having to take a look at your own society, race, culture and lifestyle when you realise the simple food we eat everyday shapes it and you.
What this webinar does so well, is that it will allow you to be able to now see how that connects you with everyone around the world, and how we may work to gain an equal footing.
For more information check out https://www.foodandethnicity.info/ or @DUagrifood on Twitter
A video of the webinar (with closed captions) will be made available soon for any wishing to watch it.
Header image via the event page.