Sunday, January 10, 2010

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The Multispecies Meal
@ the Society for Cultural Anthropology meetings in Santa Fe
May 7-8, 2010

Artists, anthropologists, and significant others came together to
break bread at The Multispecies Salon, a special off-site event at the
2008 meetings of AAA in San Francisco. We shared food in an exercise
of being and becoming with Donna Haraway’s companion species. A
bestiary of agencies, kinds of relatings, come together in companion
species. “Companion comes from the Latin cum panis, ‘with bread,’” she
writes. During our meal we ate sourdough bread while Jake Metcalf told
us about a microbial culture that crossed the Oregon Trail and then
propagated itself on the internet. Acorn mush was prepared by Linda
Noel, a Native American poet who told us that she always left some
acorns behind “for the deer.”

Artisanal cheeses from nearby Cowgirl Creamery featuring organic milk
and ambient as well as freeze-dried microbes from earth, air, and lab,
were provided by Heather Paxson. She told us about what she calls
“microbiopolitics”, the ways that human systems of ethics and
governance bear on the doings of microorganisms.

Other items on our table involved small-scale relationships of mutual
care as well as mutual violence. Geographer Jake Kosek had just
collected fresh honey from his own beehive and was sporting a swollen
hand from a fresh sting. While we sipped dandelion root tea,
performance artist Caitlin Berrigan asked that we give blood to a
dandelion plant, providing much needed nutrients. The violence was
asymmetrical to be sure—bee stings and finger pricks are not
equivalent to the large-scale robbery of a hive’s resources, or the
uprooting of a plant. Still, this minor violence to human bodies was a
reminder that the entangled relations among companion species are
often fraught.

Eating a meal in an art gallery turned mundane routine into an
opportunity for rumination and reflection. In trying to swallow the
products of multispecies labor relations and nested ecological
becomings, more than one gallery goer experienced indigestion. The
fermented smell of sourdough yeast lingered on the palate, mixing with
the bitter taste of dandelion tea and acorn mush.

We will host another multispecies meal at the 2010 meetings of the
Society for Cultural Anthropology in Santa Fe. This will be a poster
session, of sorts, where people can informally talk about their work
and break bread together. People who are already participating in
formal paper presentations are welcome to submit their edible
organisms for consideration. Entrants should be prepared to bring
enough food to share with audience members.

To be included in the session proposal, entrants should simply submit
a title for their project by Monday, January 11th, 2010 at noon EST.
Address all entries and queries to S. Eben Kirksey
( Late entrants will be considered up until the
SCA meetings in May.

More information about the Multispecies Salon:

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About Me

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Lindsay Kelley is an artist and writer researching bioart, fringe foods, and uncommon modes of food preparation and ingestion. She is currently completing her book manuscript, The Bioart Kitchen. Lindsay holds a MFA in Digital Art & New Media and a Ph.D in the History of Consciousness, both from the University of California Santa Cruz. She works at the Public Library of Science on the PLOS ONE editorial team.