- Vegan Fermentation in PlaceAn Interview with Carol J. Adams
Over a career spanning half a century, Carol J. Adams has remained a vital and influential force in the fields of food studies, animal studies, and ecofeminist theory. Author of the landmark book The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory,1 as well as the author or editor of twenty-six other books—and countless articles, essays, and op-eds in forums ranging from street zines, to the New York Times, to Critical Inquiry—Adams is one of the most prolific writers and scholars working today on issues concerning the intersecting oppressions of humans and animals. One of her most recent books, Burger, published in Bloomsbury's Object Lessons series in 2018, focuses her acclaimed critical attention on the cultural history and environmental and gendered politics of hamburgers.2 Also published in 2018, Protest Kitchen: Fight Injustice, Save the Planet, and Fuel Your Resistance One Meal at a Time, coauthored with Virginia Messina, takes on the regressive politics of food nostalgia with a series of short, critical essays on the politics of everyday eating, and also provides recipes for animal-free alternative dishes, like the "imPeach Crumble."3 Adams's versatility, her ability to pivot seamlessly from abstractions of literary criticism and analytical philosophy to concrete discussions about the cores and peels of vegan cuisine, is a hallmark of her approach to food studies and of her overall scholarly style. As Adams is a frequent guest lecturer at universities across the globe, many thousands of people have experienced her famous "slideshow," an evolving collection of images that formed the basis of her 2003 book, The Pornography of Meat.4 A revised edition of this book is scheduled for publication in 2020. [End Page 113]
Less well known is the fact that Adams is a longtime resident of Dallas, Texas, where she has lived since 1987. As the center of a vibrant metropolitan area with more than seven million people, Dallas is home to a large community of vegan activists and businesses, and yet the city's vegan friendliness has often been hidden in plain sight, or at least overshadowed by supposed vegan utopias such as Portland, Oregon. In her current work Adams considers the phrase "vegan fermentation" as a starting point for tracing the historical and spatial patterns that structure the roles played by business, politics, diet, and community activism in determining regional identities. As part of Historical Geography's special issue on "Food Studies and the Spatial Turn," Adams agreed to share her early thoughts about vegan fermentation in place, as well as reflect on her career as an ecofeminist vegan scholar and activist living and working in Texas.
Historical geographers, historical cartographers, and others with critical inclinations toward the visual representation of space are predisposed to think of maps as instruments of power. But what you suggest about mapping vegan spaces is its potential to illuminate rather than dictate—to reveal a foodscape of plant-based stores and restaurants that are often obscured by the dominant forces of consumption and industrial animal agriculture around which most of our economic spaces have been built over the last century and a half. As far as your work as a scholar and activist is concerned, how have you thought about the power of maps?
I guess the basic question is, "When is a map useful?" I think an example is the best way to illustrate the answer. Every year, when the American Academy of Religion meets, a young vegan scholar circulates a map identifying where vegans can eat in whatever city the conference is hosted. For vegans, getting this kind of information about where you're going to find sustenance in an unfamiliar place is an essential element of our survival, particularly before the Internet.
I asked that scholar, Dr. Allison Covey, about how she came to do vegan mapping:
It's hard to say when I first started mapping vegan restaurants, but I'd guess it was around 2009. A friend and I have been regularly [End Page 114] traveling together since before international data...