Food as a daily art: ideas for its use as a method in development practice
L. Jamila Haider, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
Frederik J. W. van Oudenhoven
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Food is the only art form that is also a basic need. It requires knowledge and labor for cultivation and cooking and offers a space where tastes, hospitality, and other cultural values are expressed and created. As a daily practice in agricultural societies, food is a holistic concept that incorporates ideas of health, spirituality, community, technology, and trade, and connects the most marginalized with the most powerful. Conventional international development aid is dominated by a limited number of relatively narrow ideas informed by scientific processes: progress, economic growth, market development, and agricultural production. Such ideas are often at odds with endogenous ideas about development and often work against biological and cultural diversity. Here, we reflect on our experiences documenting the food culture of the Pamiri people of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. We trace the trajectory of ideas about development, local and foreign, and explore how at different stages in those trajectories, the qualities of food can help promote local perspectives, challenge dominant power relationships, and challenge scientific practices to incorporate these perspectives better. We show how, as a method and a daily art form, food helps nurture an “ecology of ideas” in which traditional knowledge and science can come together to create locally meaningful solutions toward development and sustainability.
Afghanistan; agricultural biodiversity; daily art; development; food; ideas; Pamir Mountains; power; seeds; Tajikistan
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