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International Seminar Series: Black Radical Tradition in Ethical Veganism

This fall, the 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.

Author and diversity strategist Amie “Breeze” Harper will present “‘Cruelty-Free’ and the Commodity Chain: Applications of the Black Radical Tradition in Ethical Veganism” on Wednesday, September 20, 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 U.S. 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 the 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 co-founder 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.

October 4:
As the climate changes, farmers in developing countries face increasing perils including drought, flood, pests, and disease infestation that result in crop losses. Mitigating these losses requires a holistic approach including providing smallholder farmers access to credit, weather information, and affordable crop insurance. A panel will address the topic with a presentation titled “Using Satellites, Drones and Climate Data to Help African Farmers Better Manage Crop Losses” in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center.

The panel will include James Jones, executive director of Katie Center for Insurance for Illinois State University; Askar Choudhury, professor of quantitative methods at Illinois State University; John Kostelnick, associate professor of geography and director of GEOMAP at Illinois State University; Raquiba (Leena) Choudhury, academic scholar and consultant in climate change; and Aslihan Spaulding, professor of agribusiness in the College of Applied Science and Technology at Illinois State University.  This interdisciplinary team representing areas of geography, statistics, agriculture, insurance, and climate science will present their innovations that might ultimately lead to mitigating food security issues in developing countries.

October 11:
Associate Professor of Anthropology Katie Sampeck will explore race and chocolate with “Chocolate and Vanilla, Dialogues of Race” at the Bone Student Center.

A specialist in the archaeology and ethnohistory of Spanish colonialism, Sampeck will talk about the social, symbolic, and economics of the plants that produce chocolate and vanilla. She will discuss the development of racialized ideologies of blackness and whiteness that became linked in the 17th through 18th centuries with chocolate and vanilla, respectively, through multiple, recursive ways that illustrate the linkages of the colonial process as a deployment of taste both to incorporate and establish difference.

October 18:
Assistant Professor Mudita Dave of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology will give a talk titled “Fast Food, Farmer Suicides and Family Well-Being: Food Systems that Impact Indians in India and Beyond” in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center.

Global food systems have been shown to have a lasting impact on the environment, ecology, and individual and community well-being. This presentation will examine major drivers of changing production and consumption patterns among Indians in India and in the U.S. with respect to its influence on changes in family structure, dynamics, culture, identity, diet, lifestyle, and health outcomes. Evidence and recommendations from a research study that explored connections between globalization, diet, lifestyle, and prevalence of chronic lifestyle diseases among Asian Indians in Central Illinois will be presented.

Dave is a public health researcher and educator with experience studying issues of migration, acculturation, gender, and health behaviors among diverse South Asian populations in the United States. Dave’s research interests include obesity and chronic diseases, global health, immigrant health, as well as the interactions between culture, environment, and health.

October 25:
Chocolate will be at the center of attention when Christina Liberati, project manager at Equal Exchange, speaks at the International Seminar Series with guests José David Contreras Monjarás and Zara Elizabeth Saavedra Gomez. The group will present “Creating Inclusive Conversations about Chocolate Quality with Cacao Producers: An Avenue to Food Justice” in the Prairie Room of the Bone Student Center.

Each presenter has a hand in strengthening small-farmer cooperatives in their supply chain and engaging with them in new and innovative ways. In order for small cacao farmers to succeed in international markets, their cooperatives must not only collect and process their product, but must also provide them with the knowledge and tools that help them to operate viable businesses, raise productivity levels, and add quality and value to those products.

Liberati is the grant projects manager at Equal Exchange, and also a member of the chocolate team there. Her work primarily focuses on the administration of a five-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Co-operative Development Program with cacao and coffee producers. This grant centers on issues related to quality, productivity, and capitalization in Peru, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic. Contreras Monjaras is the quality and innovation manager for ACOPAGRO, a cacao farmer co-operative in Juanjuí, Perú. ACOPAGRO is the largest exporter of organic cacao beans in Peru, and a leading organization in the co-operative movement. Saavedra Gomez is the cacao quality specialist for Equal Exchange’s USAID CDP Project. She has over 15 years of experience in cacao value chains, working predominantly with cooperatives on planting, post harvest processing, quality control, and chocolate making.

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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