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International Seminar Series kicks off with chocolate politics

This fall, International Seminar Series will focus on food justice and sustainability. Events are free and open to the public, and occur every Wednesday from noon-1 p.m.

This fall’s International Seminar Series kicks off Wednesday, August 30, with a look into the politics of chocolate. Carla Martin of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute will present “Chocolate Politics: How Multinational Corporations, Governments, NGOs, and Critics Influence the Chocolate We Eat” at the Vrooman Center in Hewett and Manchester halls.

In this talk, Martin will explore how politics affects what chocolate we can buy, how much it costs, how it tastes, what appears on labels, and how it impacts cacao farmers and the land on which they produce their crops. By examining the current state of the cacao and chocolate industry, the audience will gain a better understanding of the challenges inherent in ethical trade and the development of a market for fine flavor cacao and chocolate. Together, they will ask: What do food justice and sustainability mean in the context of one of America’s favorite treats?

Martin is a social anthropologist with interdisciplinary interests that include history, agronomy, ethnomusicology, and linguistics. Her current research focuses on the politics of fine cacao and chocolate in global perspective, for which she has conducted fieldwork in West Africa, Latin America, North America, and Europe.

September 6:
Clay Robinson will present “Who Will Feed the World?” at noon in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center. 

The world population is projected to surpass 9.8 billion people by 2050, and though that is only a 25 percent increase in population, the food demand is predicted to double as incomes rise and diets change. Increasing food production only can be accomplished by increasing yields, increasing land used for production, or some combination of both. As demonstrated in the USA, substantial yield increases are possible through the use of fertilizer, irrigation, better genetics, plant protection chemicals, and generally better crop/tillage systems and management, but yields in much of the world are limited by lack of capital, infrastructure, access to modern technology, and unreliable supply chains. This presentation will explore the limitations, challenges, and possibilities surrounding these issues on a global scale and offer insights for a path to food security.

Illinois State’s Associate Professor of Agriculture Clay Robinson is a native of the Texas Panhandle, and has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, a master’s degree in plant science from West Texas State University, Canyon, Texas. He also has a Ph.D. in soil science from Iowa State University. Robinson has worked as a professor of soils and agronomy in higher education for almost 20 years, as an environmental consultant, and as an education manager for the certification programs of the American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America.

September 13:
The Legal Assistance Foundation’s Miguel Keberlein Gutiérrez, will present “Harvest of Shame: Seeking Justice for Farmworkers” at noon in the Prairie Rooms of the Bone Student Center.

The modern-day agricultural system relies upon millions of migrant and seasonal farmworkers to feed our nation; yet these workers are some of the most poorly compensated and highly vulnerable workers in our society. From H2A guest workers to traditional migrant farmworkers, our nation’s food system relies upon highly exploitative methods in order to ensure cheap food.

Gutiérrez is the director of the Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group and Client Support Services at the Legal Assistance Foundation in Chicago. He has been litigating cases on behalf of migrant and seasonal agricultural farmworkers and other low-wage workers for over a decade.

September 20:
Author and diversity strategist Amie “Breeze” Harper will present “‘Cruelty-Free’ and the Commodity Chain: Applications of the Black Radical Tradition in Ethical Veganism” at noon in the Old Main Room of the Bone Student Center.

Harper will discuss ethical marketing schemes of “cruelty-free” and “sustainable” by analyzing particular vegan food items. Normally constructed as “cruelty-free” because no animals are harmed, these commodities are sold as “ethical” to thousands of vegan consumers in the USA. However, through decolonial and critical race framing of the food commodity chain, Harper will show how neoliberal capitalism, race, and ethics converge through the marketing and unethical sourcing of ingredients found in So Delicious ice-cream to the global production of cocoa on the Ivory Coast.

Harper is  diversity strategist and analyst with Critical Diversity Solutions and founder of the Sistah Vegan Project. She has a Ph.D. in geography from the University of California, Davis and a master’s degree in educational technologies with emphasis in black feminist theory, social impact, and educational technologies, from Harvard University. She has more than 10 years career experience as a diversity and inclusion consultant, ranging from curriculum development, to conference planning, to research and reporting, to publishing books and articles. Harper created and edited the ground-breaking anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak On Food, Identity, Health, and Society.

September 27:
Kelsey Timmerman, author of New York Times bestselling WHERE AM I WEARING? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People That Make Our Clothes and WHERE AM I EATING? An Adventure Through the Global Food Economy will speak at noon in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center.

Timmerman’s writing has appeared in places such as the Christian Science Monitor and aired on NPR. Kelsey is also the cofounder of The Facing Project, which seeks to connect people through stories to strengthen community. He has spent the night in Castle Dracula in Romania, played PlayStation in Kosovo, farmed on four continents, taught an island village to play baseball in Honduras, and in another life, worked as a SCUBA instructor in Key West, Florida. Whether in print or in person he seeks to connect people around the world.

The International Seminar Series offers the Illinois State campus and Bloomington-Normal communities weekly opportunities to learn about a wide range of international topics. Guest speakers are usually experts in their fields across a range of disciplines who cover a wide array of cultural, historical, political and social topics. Noha Shawki from the Department of Politics and Government, Gina Hunter from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Kathryn Sampeck from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology have worked with the Office of International Studies and Programs to coordinate this semester’s series.

For additional information, contact the Office of International Studies at (309) 438-5276.

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