Thursday, April 14, 2011

Enacting Resistance as Food Insecure

Dutta’s chapter on culture and resistance poses some interesting questions regarding the processes by which marginalized communities enact their agency through offering opportunities for structurally altering the systems that sustain their positions at the margins. After reading, I found myself immediately considering some of the interview responses for the food insecurity project that individuals had shared. It seems as though, despite their underserved status, those in the food insecure community still find ways to enact resistance against the unfair practices of the food provision system in this community. Often enacted at the micro-level, these resistive acts work to open up spaces of social change by creating new meanings and by offering alternatives to the dominant discourses. For instance, I spoke with an individual yesterday who detailed the injustices present within the food pantry for union members, which allegedly refuses pantry access to those long-standing union members (often the most in-need) who aren’t able to pay their union dues. After hearing responses from the charity organization that works with the union to supply food to the pantry that its services were being “tapped out” in this community, the participant visited the pantry on multiple occasions to merely observe from outside how many patrons visited. And, not surprisingly enough, the use of the pantry was minimal. Why then are those in most need being denied access? In listening to the participant detail the ways in which she had confronted pantry workers, engaged in her own form of “investigation,” and sought to share this information with as many people as she could, it was easy to see how the participant was interested in offering an alternative to the dominant discourse offered by the food pantry, union, and charity organization, instead privileging the voices of the marginalized as they were denied access to essential services.

Dutta also suggests that marginalized populations can resist culture itself, particularly as practices within the culture can embody conditions of inequality. As individuals question the taken-for-granted assumptions within their culture that constitute particular cultural traditions, new meanings emerge, bringing forward new opportunities for communicating. In a number of the food insecurity interviews, an overarching theme of pride has emerged. Namely, individuals note that one barrier inhibiting those in need of food from accessing pantries is an overwhelming sense of pride that accessing pantries takes from them. I’m not quite sure if the pride is in relation to one’s ability to provide food for their family without assistance or if it stems instead from a broader cultural context where asking for help is considered shameful. Regardless, as I listened to participants note times where they’ve gone to the pantries themselves to get food for these others who refuse to visit, I could see how some had chosen to resist culture itself by questioning the assumption that receiving help during a time of need wasn’t a shameful act. Rather, it was a way for them to create a new meaning, an alternative meaning, to the existing cultural framework of those living in food insecure poverty.

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