- Toward a Queer Crip Feminist Politics of Food
In David T. Mitchell’s and Sharon L. Snyder’s film, Vital Signs: Crip Culture Talks Back (2001/1996), Harlan Hahn quips about the role of food in disability culture and identity. If disability is an identity with a culture, Hahn says, it has to have its own food. Every culture has its own food. “You know,” he continues, “. . . we do have a food—fast food! It’s so much easier to go to the drive thru than it is to park, get in and out of the car, and go into a regular restaurant to eat” (Mitchell and Snyder 2001/1996). Here, Hahn recalls countless conversations with other disabled people and presents a wonderful moment of crip humor, full of sharp critique for a society that makes dining out an exercise in various forms of tiresome hoop-jumping for many disabled people. Interestingly, Hahn’s comments differ from messages about fast food in films like Super Size Me (Spurlock 2004) and books like Fast Food Nation (Schlosser 2001) (also a film) and The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Pollan 2006), in which fast food is criticized because it makes us fat, brings about early deaths, gives us food poisoning, destroys rainforests and nonhuman species, exploits poor people, and contributes to the needless suffering of nonhuman animals. In short, these sources advise us to avoid fast food because it disables eaters, workers, nonhuman animals, communities, and secure food systems.1 But what do these texts overlook? Might disability bring something else to the table?
In this article I critique assumptions about disability that animate the U.S. alternative food movement. While I discuss examples of how disability functions as the background against which the alternative food movement defines its alternatives as good,2 my concern with disability and food doesn’t end there. The question of the [End Page 177] relationship between disability and food politics is not only a question of making available more nutritious food options to disabled people, though this is certainly important. Instead, a queer crip feminist conception of food justice remains critically attuned to conceptions of bodies, identities, and relationships that so often inform distinctions between “good” and “bad” foods in the US alternative food movement. Here, I aim to develop a queer crip feminist conception of food and food justice that not only attends to the relationships that structure and are brought about by the production, distribution, and consumption of food but also critically engages the conceptions of community, relationship, bodies, and identity that are assumed, made possible by, or foreclosed by food discourse. Good food, I contend, not only sustains life, it enables flourishing. Flourishing, as Chris Cuomo notes, is not an accomplishment of autonomous, self-reliant individuals; real flourishing takes time and can be accomplished only with others (1998, 74). Flourishing, in other words, is made possible by our complex enmeshment in community with human and nonhuman others. A commitment to food justice requires critique of underlying assumptions that thwart flourishing of queer crip feminist lives and community. The goodness and desirability of food choices are inseparable from how we are positioned in and negotiate our communities and how ways of thinking about food and health can open and foreclose resistant possibilities.
In this article I critique the metaphysics of purity3 and alimentary ableism4 that inform assumptions about what makes a food good. In addition, I develop a queer crip feminist framework for revealing and questioning prevailing assumptions about food justice and propose an alternative conception. A queer crip feminist framework offers a critical vantage point from which to make visible the metaphysics of purity and alimentary ableism that inform dominant conceptions of food and food justice in the US alternative food movement. It is concerned both with coalitional possibilities between disability and other movements5 and with identifying and critiquing assumptions about what is natural and normal regarding food and food politics. The queer crip feminist food politics I propose here conceives of bodies and identities as sites of contested, provisional, situated, tentative negotiations and possibilities, not as fixed and stable. Food practices are sites...