[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-AmIndian]: Fazzino on Levi, 'Food Control and Resistance: Rations and Indigenous Peoples in the United States and South Australia'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Tue Jan 15 10:11:03 MST 2019

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>
> Date: January 15, 2019 at 11:52:08 AM EST
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-AmIndian]:  Fazzino on Levi, 'Food Control and Resistance: Rations and Indigenous Peoples in the United States and South Australia'
> Reply-To: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>
> Tamara Levi.  Food Control and Resistance: Rations and Indigenous
> Peoples in the United States and South Australia.  Plains Histories
> Series. Lubbock  Texas Tech University Press, 2016.  280 pp.  $65.00
> (cloth), ISBN 978-0-89672-963-6; $39.95 (paper), ISBN
> 978-0-89672-964-3.
> Reviewed by David Fazzino (Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania)
> Published on H-AmIndian (January, 2019)
> Commissioned by F. Evan Nooe
> Food Rations and Power in the United States and Southern Australia
> A concise and excellent review of Tamara Levi's_ Food Control and
> Resistance: Rations and Indigenous Peoples in the United States and
> South Australia_ is given by Walter R. Echo-Hawk in the first few
> pages of the book. This "Plainsword" highlights current implications
> of the colonial legacies of settler states particularly as they
> relate to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
> Peoples (UNDRIP) with emphasis on sovereignty and subsistence. My
> review of the book will necessarily mirror some of the same
> sentiments of Echo-Hawk. The United States and Australia both worked
> toward creating material dependency and ideological conversion and
> assumed extinction in spite of or in some instances because of
> "humanitarian" goals, which clearly contradicted the letter and
> spirit of the UNDRIP.
> Levi lays out the historical uses of food as a weapon to achieve a
> variety of interests for those in settler societies who attempted to
> impose their will on Indigenous Peoples. While Levi is careful to
> note that this was not absolutely successful in terms of pacification
> and assimilation, as Indigenous Peoples resisted to the extent that
> they possibly could, these processes and protocols culminated in
> increasingly controlling regimes that nevertheless weakened
> indigenous subsistence and sovereignty. One of the eye-opening
> aspects of this work is that it historically situates, and hence
> grounds, current practices of exploitation along the lines of social
> inequality that Indigenous Peoples face today from state, corporate,
> and other actors. It accomplishes this by looking at the sometimes
> parallel and sometimes divergent goals in food rationing in Australia
> and the United States, which are explained by examining both material
> and ideological differences.
> Food rationing is powerful because it literally allocates the power
> of individuals and communities to live to their fullest potential.
> Depending on the extent of this rationing, it exists along a spectrum
> from provisioning for mere survival in the material/biological sense
> to helping to create the conditions for holistic health and
> well-being that allow communities to thrive. So, whereas food, in a
> material sense, is an essential component of maintaining life, it is
> always more for us, as humans. We are inherently cultural beings and
> hence the materiality of food is itself rife with symbolic
> associations and densely packed with meanings and memories of people,
> places, non-human animals, and broader geographic and spiritual
> connections. Hence, food functions to maintain who we are in both a
> biological/material sense and a social/ideological sense. Recent food
> sovereignty movements highlight that these two have been and should
> be twinned in ideal food systems wherein Indigenous Peoples, and
> local peoples generally, are able to control aspects of food systems
> as the basis of their social, cultural, and biological reproduction.
> The strength of Levi's book is that it provides tabular data based on
> archival research, which clearly indicates the shifting rations and
> provisions over time. This data certainly highlights the variance in
> the quantity and types of foods being issued as rations over time in
> four locations: Pawnee Reservations 1857-91 (chapter 4) and Osage
> Nation 1839-79 (chapter 5) in the United States and Moorundie Ration
> Depot 1845-56 (chapter 6) and Point McLeay Mission 1859-89 (chapter
> 7) in southern Australia. This data, coupled with Levi's selection
> and analysis of this data, paints a clear picture that however this
> food rationing was viewed, it was never sufficient to allow for a
> holistic realization of community health in any of the settings
> presented. It was, however, just enough to create a dependent
> relationship between each indigenous group and the settler society
> that increasingly and aggressively took greater and greater liberties
> with the land, subsistence, and other resources. This dependency was
> fostered through a continued diminishment of the preconditions
> necessary for successful subsistence hunting.
> What is apparent is that, despite the claims to benevolence and
> humanitarianism, the overall approach of those in the settler
> societies (the United States and Australia) was to diminish the
> autonomy of Indigenous Peoples and thereby create dependency. The
> unique, place-based knowledge of Indigenous Peoples the world over is
> highly particular to the ecological conditions within which they find
> themselves; that is, it is local and particular. This cultural
> heritage is not easily transferable from one setting to another as it
> has been accumulated over successive generations in a particular
> environment and may be key to the long-term survival of our
> species.[1] At the same time, following Julian Steward, core aspects
> of individual and group identity focus around the arts of
> subsistence. These include, but are not limited to, religious
> ceremonies, rites of passage, proscriptions against eating certain
> foods for ecological or health reasons, identity, and reciprocity. It
> is particularly because of this that the autonomy of subsistence was
> deliberately targeted by those in setter societies who sought to
> render Indigenous Peoples docile by "pacifying" them.
> Unfortunately there is no shortage of historical and contemporary
> examples of settler societies using food as a weapon, one that can
> act as both a carrot and a stick to discipline Indigenous Peoples
> toward assimilation or extinction. Nevertheless, a variety of
> cultural revitalization movements with foods at the center have
> sprung up as resistance to colonial, neocolonial, and neoliberal
> domination of food systems. These movements may be read in the
> context of the longer-term resistance to control over food systems
> and domination more generally. Although unilineal evolutionary
> thought is generally read in anthropology as ethnocentric and
> baseless when considering the complexity of culture and the adaptive
> strategies that peoples within them exhibit to wrest sustenance from
> the earth, it nevertheless remains a fixture in many current
> narratives of the civilizing mission. As David Rich Lewis notes in
> _Neither Wolf nor Dog: American Indians, Environment, and Agrarian
> Change_ (1994), narratives of terra nullius in the context of
> colonialism were used to place agency with settler societies who
> supposedly "made" land productive through their use of tools and
> technologies. The "civilizing" mission, in all of its guises,
> depoliticizes the appropriation of material and ideological
> achievements as a rational and just use of newly configured
> resources.
> In the contexts described by Levi, food served as one avenue by which
> settler societies attempted to maintain control over Indigenous
> Peoples in a variety of settings. It was weaponized to control
> behavior as well as punish transgressions. The use of food as an
> ideological and material weapon or incentive to condition behavior
> affected not only subsistence practices but also political structures
> through disbursements through the head of nuclear families rather
> than traditional pathways--elders and chiefs--for the flow of food
> and other goods. Food was used as a weapon to control and contain as
> a prerequisite for development; we can see the same dynamics play out
> in contemporary discussions of development initiatives among nomadic
> pastoralists who must first become sedentary in order to be
> developed.[2]
> The overall plan for assimilation was one that kept Indigenous
> Peoples in a peripheral and acceptable role, occupying the lower
> rungs of society as manual laborers and farmers. This mirrors the
> colonial approaches in other settings that also worked to segregate
> boys and girls in proper pursuits.[3] Another shift was from task to
> time orientation wherein rather than accomplishing tasks and meeting
> everyday needs when it was right to do so, they were forced to
> conform to settler notions of proper etiquette in terms of when to
> eat, work, and sleep. Indigenous Peoples have responded by
> decolonizing these time regimes.[4]
> The efforts of those in settler societies were intended to control
> not only time but also space. The land that was once foraged through
> hunting and gathering, the land that was once cared for with specific
> practices that promoted the proliferation of certain species, was
> reduced to a commodity for external consumption. Humans, historically
> and cross-culturally, have played significant roles in shaping
> landscapes through subsistence practices. The resulting landscapes
> are, in part, anthropogenic but nonetheless are often represented as
> "natural," pristine, and untouched so as to erase the meaningful
> presence of those in existence prior to the arrival of settler
> societies. Nature becomes, in some instances, something to be tamed,
> through intensive and industrial agriculture, or, in other instances,
> something to celebrate as wilderness. In one poignant example, Blial
> Butt discusses how the landscape of the Masaai Mari Reserve was
> created through a variety of factors, including human intervention
> and cattle grazing.[5]
> Rationing further acted to root out what were viewed as uncivilized
> practices of subsistence. Particularly, Levi notes that once
> dependence was created and the efficacy of the hunt diminished
> through lower numbers of Indigenous Peoples to participate in the
> hunt, containment in particular land areas, and deliberate
> overhunting by settlers, there was little alternative but to rely on
> food rations. Hence rationing acted to curb attempts to revitalize
> food systems early on. Today, the practices of subsistence often
> operate at the far end of commodity supply chains fueled by
> continuing capitalist expansion. They exist in the spaces in-between
> while also illustrating alternatives to neoliberal food markets.
> Nevertheless, the legacies of settler societies continue to hamper
> the access of Indigenous Peoples to the foods their ancestors knew
> through nutritional colonization, commodity food programs, and
> environmental contamination. In regard to the latter, Indigenous
> Peoples, particularly in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, must weigh
> the health benefits with continually emerging risks of environmental
> contamination, which often remain unknowable through mainstream media
> outlets.[6]
> Despite these assaults, efforts at cultural revitalization continue
> to throw off the yoke of colonization and the disease burden wrought
> by commodity food programs by decolonizing diet as well as nutrition.
> The persistence and survival of Indigenous Peoples in these four
> settings as distinct entities have persisted and survived, counter to
> academic theories of the time period and the systematic attempts to
> dismantle them. In total, Levi's work reveals patterns of domination
> and coercion by those in setter societies and hence helps to
> resituate historical events to highlight the savagery of the
> supposedly civilized in settler societies.
> Notes
> [1]. Eugene Hunn, "The Value of Subsistence for the Future of the
> World," in _Ethnoecology: Situated Knowledge/Located Lives_, ed.
> Virginia Nazarea (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1999), 23-36.
> [2]. Karen Marie Greenough, "Development Agents and Nomadic Agency:
> Four Perspectives in the Development 'Market,'" _NAPA Bulletin_ 27
> (2007): 110-128.
> [3]. Fiona Leach, "African Girls, Nineteenth-Century Mission
> Education and the Patriarchal Imperative," _Gender and Education_ 20
> (2008): 335-347.
> [4]. Kathleen Pickering, "Decolonizing Time Regimes: Lakota
> Conceptions of Work, Economy, and Society," _American Anthropologist_
> 106 (2004): 85-97.
> [5]. Blial Butt, "Commoditizing the Safari and Making Space for
> Conflict: Place, Identity and Parks in East Africa," _Political
> Geography_ 31 (2012): 104-113.
> [6]. Harriet V. Kuhnlein, and Hing M. Chan, "Environment and
> Contaminants in Traditional Food Systems of Northern Indigenous
> Peoples," _Annual Review of Nutrition_ 20 (2000): 595-626; and
> Patricia Widener and Valerie J. Gunter, "Oil Spill Recovery in the
> Media: Missing an Alaska Native Perspective," _Society and Natural
> Resources_ 20, no. 9 (2007): 767-783.
> Citation: David Fazzino. Review of Levi, Tamara, _Food Control and
> Resistance: Rations and Indigenous Peoples in the United States and
> South Australia_. H-AmIndian, H-Net Reviews. January, 2019.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=52316
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
> License.
> --

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