Michaela Desoucey (NC State) – “Gastropolitics and Contested Tastes”

Abstract: Who cares about foie gras? As it turns out, many do. In the last decade, this French delicacy—the fattened liver of ducks or geese that have been force-fed through a tube—has been at the center of contentious battles between animal rights activists, artisanal farmers, industry groups, politicians, chefs, and foodies. This talk focuses on the multivocal nature of foie gras’s American “gastropolitics,” defined as cultural conflicts over foods or culinary practices located at the intersection of social movement activism, cultural markets, and legal regulation, and interrogates the complexities of what it means to identify as a “moral” eater in today’s food world. In particular, I argue that foie gras is not an inconsequential issue for the small size of its industry or its lack of cultural resonance in American culinary practices, as some might posit. Rather, I argue that it is symbolically precarious – an exemplar of how combining moral politics and the culture of markets makes our relationship with food complex.