Friday, March 27, 2009

Susanne Freidberg

Susanne Freidberg is an associate professor of geography at Dartmouth and the author of a forthcoming book called Fresh: A Perishable History.

From her interview with Stephen Dubner on the Freakonomics blog:

Question: Do you find it odd that you’re doing such compelling food research as a geographer? Please explicate. Do your geography colleagues, e.g., consider you something of a black swan?

Answer: Actually I’m far from alone. Geographers have been at the cutting edge in “food studies” for a while now, and the schedule for the next annual geographers’ meeting, in a couple of weeks, is full of food-related sessions. It makes sense, given the discipline’s traditional strengths in agricultural and trade/marketplace research, and given also that we don’t pay much attention to disciplinary borders. If you want a sense of what else food geographers are up to, look up Julie Guthman’s “Can’t Stomach It: How Michael Pollan et al. Made Me Want to Eat Cheetos” (reprinted in the Utne Reader).

Question: How long have you been interested in food, and in what aspects thereof? Where did this interest come from?

Answer: I got interested in food while doing graduate research in the mid-1990’s on vegetable farming and marketing in Burkina Faso (in West Africa). I was fascinated by how people working under very difficult conditions managed to get very perishable goods to market. I was even more fascinated once I started looking at the country’s export trade in French beans to France. At the time I thought the trade deserved a movie more than a university press monograph, given all the intrigue and colorful characters involved. More generally, what I find most interesting about food (besides eating it) are all the professions, relationships, and technologies that get it to us, and how the economics of food supply are shaped by culture and politics (and vice-versa).

Question: Having only glanced at Fresh thus far, I wonder: is it written much more for a lay audience than your first book? And what are you trying to accomplish/communicate with Fresh?

Answer: Well, I am still hoping someone someday will...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue