Hello there. I’m an anthropologist of food, waste, cities, and social movements. I teach at Deakin University, in Melbourne, among other things. I have anarchist sympathies and feminism leanings. I try to stick up for the underdog whenever possible. I also play organ and bass (I’ve played in a Seattle band or two or three), ride a lovely old bicycle, and dabble in sewing, photography, and dumpster-diving; I’m aaaaaalmost fluent in Spanish and can sometimes muddle my way through a conversation in French and Portuguese; and last, but not least, I’ve been involved off and on for over a decade now in Food Not Bombs (mostly in the Seattle chapter), a globalised movement of autonomous groups which scavenge, glean, or dumpster-dive for food discarded by local markets, distribute it freely in public places, and in the process challenge local disparities of power and privilege.
In this blog, I hope to share some of the academic work I have done which might be useful, entertaining, or both, to readers here on the web. My research, writing, and teaching deals primarily with urban ethnography and political economy. I write about cultural economies of waste and abjection, particularly in globalising cities like Seattle. I also write more broadly about political systems, and a particular interest in grassroots organising and non-hierarchical, prefigurative systems.
These interests lead me to look into things like commercial food waste and dumpster-diving, homelessness and public space, and grassroots countercultural networks like Food Not Bombs. My writing draws on five years of ethnographic experience with chapters of Food Not Bombs in Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Melbourne, and smaller cities.
I focus on relationships between economy, identity, and affect or feeling—from the aesthetic prejudices of consumers that drive commercial waste, or the fears of contagion and deviance that motivate anti-homeless policies in major cities, to the shared structures of feeling which organise acts of political resistance such as Food Not Bombs. My writing is largely organised around three intersecting topics:
- First, the role of abject economies in global cities (often created by non-market forms of labour such as dumpster-diving and squatting);
- Second, globalised efforts at municipal governance (such as anti-homeless “quality-of-life” ordinances, which often prohibit public food sharing);
- Third, emergent networks and counterpublics cultivated within those abject economies (such as Food Not Bombs or Occupy Wall Street).
For me, these are not only topics that are most interesting, but most pressing. The number of people hungry or homeless seems to grow every year, while food is thrown away and housing sits vacant alarmingly often. And these two trends are often most pronounced in globalised cities like Seattle, which are home to a significant amount of the power and wealth at work in the global economy. These cities are also home to some of the more repressive political efforts to mitigate disparities by controlling the movement and conduct of homeless people and other agents in the abject economy. Through teaching, public scholarship, and a dissertation in progress, my work attempts to shed light on these issues.