Unbounding Food Futures: An Experiment in Co-Conjuring

Charlotte Biltekoff
American Studies and Food Science and Technology
UC Davis

The future of food is being enthusiastically conjured by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and innovators who promise to produce abundance for the coming 10 billion in the face of the inter-related crises of climate change, resource depletion, and more generalized precarity. Theirs is a tech-driven vision, striking for its failure to address many of the most problematic features of the contemporary food system, its lack of interest in engaging with different publics, and its aura of inevitability that works to foreclose alternatives. Foodie activists, on the other hand, promulgate a decidedly low-tech future, but their future is equally foreclosed, led by self-appointed experts who are—like the techies—overwhelmingly white and middle class. This project is inspired by the invitation of critical future studies to broaden the possibilities for conjuring futures through public cultural processes not left to experts, and by afro-futurism’s corrective to the erasure of race in futures, as well as its emphasis on the arts. It seeks to engage in collaborative conjuring of both food futures and of creative, anti-racist methods for food futuring. The centerpiece of the project is a two-day workshop in which humanists and qualitative social scientists from five UC campuses spent two days experimenting with and reflecting on alternative methods for food futuring.

Image credit:

Anicka Yi, Le Pain Symbiotique 2014

PVC dome, projector, single-channel video, glycerin soap, resin, dough, pigmented powder, plastic, Mylar, beads, tempera paint, and cellophane. Variable; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Gift of Chara Schreyer; Photo by Zak Kelley