Ensalada Mixta: Geographical Explorations of Food and Cuba
Davidson, Melanie Josee
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The six papers presented in this half-thesis trace my progression through various schools of thought in human geography. It is an “ensalada mixta” that presents a mix of approaches and investigative methods related to food studies and Cuba. The first paper in this collection engages with the concepts of the right to food, food security and its measurement at a macro level. It demonstrates the extent of the world food problem and discusses some of its complex underpinnings. In the second paper, I review the impacts of the Special Period on Cuban food production and examine the urban agriculture program that emerged in response. I show why the Cuban urban agriculture program is often cited as a “best practice” example for other food insecure countries and I present some of the challenges the program faces to ensure its long-term sustainability. For the third paper, I use a feminist lens to take a closer look at the crisis of social reproduction created by the economic and food crises of the Special Period. In this paper, I also argue that a male bias has been introduced through Cuba’s urban agriculture policies and programs (despite women being the primary participants and beneficiaries of urban agriculture programs elsewhere in the world). In the fourth paper, I examine how Cuban women navigate and negotiate food crisis situations, such as the one created by the devastating triple hurricanes of 2008. This paper is founded on a three-month period of fieldwork in Havana in the fall of 2008 and shows how—twenty years after the onset of the Special Period—women’s opportunities for gender equality continue to be affected by periodically recurring economic and food crises. Finally, in the fifth and sixth papers (a case study and project proposal, respectively), I take a historical geographical approach to examine the writings of 19th century travellers to Cuba. I illustrate how their day-to-day experiences with food were used as markers of place and difference, how they contributed to the production of geographical knowledge and the establishment of identities and power relationships between travellers, hosts and audience.