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Nancy Lee

Excerpt | Queer fish: Eating ethnic affect

By Book excerpts, Latest News

The very term ‘ethnic’ has deep culinary resonances. It also vibrates with different affects. Charles Darwin’s discussion of disgust was, after all, triggered by his mediated contact with a ‘native’ via a morsel of meat. In the everyday of multicultural cities, food cultures speak of colonial violence, consumed now with pleasure. While the tendency for mainstream white culture has been to celebrate and reify ‘authentic ethnic food’ as a self-congratulatory indicator of tolerance, there is of course a darker side. Departing from the usual mode of analysing the cultural semiotics of cuisines, in this chapter I focus on the materiality of the thing that is eaten. In other words, I shift attention to how ‘ethnicity’ is transferred from a socially defined category of human to the objects eaten: from ‘exotic’ fish, stag penises, to cheese described by some Chinese as ‘the mucous discharge of some old cow’s guts, allowed to putrefy.’ Across several ethnographic vignettes I examine closely the food objects that are differentially considered as delicious or disgusting. As Ash Amin argues, increasingly we are brought together across ethnicities in our everyday living, or what he calls ‘conviviality’. Analysing different scenes of eating—of sharing what is deemed edible by whom—I see commensality and conviviality as practices in progress that are fuelled by hope, the hope of being together that will change a collective and individual present and future.

Read an excerpt by Elspeth Probyn in Visuality, Emotions and Minority Culture, pp.27-44

Sustainable Fish Lab

The Cultural Politics of Fish and human

By Journal articles


The Cultural Politics of Fish and Humans

This article reframes fisheries sustainability as a matter of production and consumption. It argues that only a more-thanhuman approach that takes seriously the entanglement of all oceanic entities—fish, fishers, water—can tackle the sustainability of fish. In order to bring this to fruition, an affective oceanic habitus needs to be mobilized. Drawing on cultural references to the entanglement of humans and oceans, this article attempts to model what such affective habitus might entail.

Probyn, Elspeth, 2014, ‘The Cultural Politics of Fish and Humans: A more-than-human habitus of consumption’,  Cultural Politics, 10:3, pp. 287-289

Sustainable fish lab - image of tuna swimming

Eating the Ocean out Dec 6 2016

By Eating the Ocean, Latest News

Professor Elspeth Probyn’s new book, Eating the Ocean, will be released 6 December 2016.  An early review by Philip Hoare in Times Higher Education says:

Elspeth Probyn wants to eat the ocean. I want to eat her book. It is one of the most profound works I have read on the sea, and the issues with which it presents us, in the 21st century, not least because it dares to digress and move into territories that other writers and academics have hitherto neglected.

Confronting the notion that our future consumption of the ocean’s resources may end with us eating “jellyfish and chips”, Probyn takes apart the polarised politics of seafood. It is ironic that “enlightened” consumers turn to fish for reasons of ethics or health, when in fact its harvest is one of the most problematic that we humans engage in. Eating local, responsibly sourced fish sounds wonderful, but Probyn shows how this is at best “drenched in condescension”, and “fork-waving” advice, as disseminated in the media. And at worst, it is a drastically simplified and often class- and even race-based “choice”.

You can read the introduction here, and order it online.

Order early and get a discount here: Eating the Ocean discount code