1. A Primary Positioning
This intervention has arisen directly from our activist-scholar experiences of food praxis. Working within community institutions at different scales, we have gained some familiarity with different modes of self-organisation. Whilst these insights are not exhaustive, they offer useful comparisons with, and contrasts to, theoretical approaches that speak to the contexts of food-engaged practice on the ground. Being of African and Asian heritages in the UK, we are marked actors within scholar-activism [1
]. What we have, therefore, noticed are the many contradictions and blind spots that arise between and in practice and discourse. When the histories, designs and ethics of marginalised communities are, in a range of ways, disabled from contributing to mainstream research agendas, scholars who seek to represent them become subalternized within the academy. Research agendas, which could be responsive to their own or their community’s needs, will therefore go unfulfilled and unrepresented [2
]. Such undone science/research [3
] reproduces epistemic blindnesses [4
] which, in activism, then lead to a diversion of resources away from such interests; difficulties in obtaining funding—for lack of evidence—and thus a diminished ability to effectively self-organise within subalternized communities. This intervention, therefore, is an attempt to offer our insights into narratives that we feel have a bearing on self-organising community practice and how we understand it. We draw on bodies of knowledge we propose to be pertinent to the four key subject terms in this series: self-organisation, sustainability, resilience and the ‘The Food System’. We will apply a historical retrospective to the idea that the ways in which foods have circulated the globe help explain the continued marginalisations of particular representative identities as well as their ‘undernourishment’. We identify that this undernourishment occurs through a deprivation of their means of self-organising, of ways of becoming sustainable and in how resilience is expressed. We unsettle and reconfigure both geopolitical and historic accounts of food-related narratives. We do so in order to reveal how the ‘food system’ is actually a mainly Euro-American-centred narrative of dispossession, presented as universal. We have created the following sub-sections to explore aspects of our intervention and then draw these together at the close.
In Colonial Complexities
we will draw on, and discuss, an assemblage of scholarly ideas, which argue for the need for reimagining the human or for the more accurate representation of the actors within public sphere framings of the past, present and future. These draw upon cogent arguments in the political, social and cultural spheres, making a case for an ecology of knowledges bordering and contesting the mainstream [4
]. Different, more fluid interfaces of these arguments are often articulated from racialised and feminist perspectives [10
] and we introduce discussions on creolisations which are based on the relational, recognising subalternized subjectivities [13
]. As part of this we speak to the construction of the human and human-inhabited spaces based upon both renaissance and enlightenment ideas [10
] that effectively segregated political-economic Man from the inferiorised human. The larger postcolonial (sic) and decolonial discourse which navigates a wide assortment of consequences of this segregation and objectification of the other, to which we make a tiny contribution, is immense and spans global texts and is indeed still under construction. For our part, we show how the use of the — globalizing - colonisation of time and space, systematically applied to food circulations, spelled and continues to spell disaster to everyone, despite the wide variety of foodstuff that appears to be on offer as evidenced by its gluts, its wastage and its deficiencies [16
Narrativising the Food Journey, we introduce the use of a storytelling mode to signify the food system drawing upon one of our tools as activists in the field. The Food Journey© is an experiential workshop that explores how colonial constructions of food circulations can be shown to relate to both personal and collective relationships with both nourishment and colonialism. We explore this embodied experience and its sensory effects which offer possibilities for an emancipatory ‘turn’ towards transformative justice and a revalorisation of the human.
A Food System Discourse
looks at particular terms, such as ‘food sovereignty’, ‘food’, ‘land’ and ‘farmer’ to consider their application within the grand Food System discourse. We also look at how their use can be seen to disempower, after Césaire [17
], all food actors but can also be turned into agents of re-empowerment for marginalised communities.
In Colonialism and Its Legacy we describe some of the consequences of colonialism and its legacies within food circulations, as well as how it shaped and continues to shape the social, political and economic behaviours which underlie these. We critique the monism of mainstream food narratives, which we argue is particularly unnourishing to those who need to be discerning with their diets. We recognise that the grand model of food circulations, known as the global food system, is, at different scales, replicated as a rational-humanist logic of how global citizenship is attained by participation in the normative positionalities of ‘producer’, ‘consumer’ and ‘farmer’ as earlier discussed. We offer a roller-coaster ride through colonialism and its legacies derived from pitting its resistances against the application of its logic.
In Decoloniality and the Pluriverse we elaborate on the potentials inherent in thinking and doing in ways that challenge an important construction within enlightenment thinking by giving more weight to knowledges beyond rationalism. We recognise that the decolonial agenda, based as it is on a movement towards justice, can be applied to the liberation of systems of food that have experienced systemic enclosure of autonomy or sovereignty. We also look briefly at relational knowledges as creolisations and knowledge ecologies as possibilities for reimagining the world of food as a pluriverse.
In Bringing Healing Home/Processing Violences, we apply the insights from the Food Journey to the coloniality of food and its embodiment. We ask, how can we face the challenges that arise on a personal and collective level? Can engagement with novel, transformative modes of thinking about food address an increasingly urgent need to change how we nourish ourselves? We recognise that to achieve this we may need to understand why we have arrived at this state of food system brokenness in a more structural and systemic way. This intervention seeks to be a part of exploring this understanding. We signal a call to step beyond the carefully tended gardens of modernity, because they have been cultivated by a violent history rendering then internally unstable. We welcome readers into the untamed commons of the pluriverse, convinced that these latter spaces are the ones that are resilient enough to be able to promise a shared future.
Our intervention concludes with What Truths Ahead as a way to signpost future possibilities, based upon a blend of both decolonial and embodied praxis within internationally shared discourse. Our exchanges can touch upon vulnerabilities that, carefully and creatively handled, can portend post-emancipatory dialogue towards not just food but radical nourishment - as a logic of human futurity.
Our disclaimer to this approach is that this is not a conventional research paper, based upon the logic of colonial rationalities, but a way of intervening in the normativity that suppresses a decolonial, emancipatory mode, which we assert is very necessary at this time. What we are doing is to apply a critique to the normative assumptions inherent in considering what is required for communities to self-organise in ways that are both sustainable and resilient. These assumptions are informed, as we argue below, by the kinds of rationalisms and eurocentrisms that generate an epistemic blindness of subalternized group needs. By reformulating the idea of a Food System as a destabilising agent, particularly for marginalised communities, but, after Césaire [17
], ultimately for all, we show how its construction or practice undermines more community-centred practices of nourishment. We, as community activists, feel that by doing this we might gain useful insights into how food marginalisations are developed. This intervention is a critique of the rationale of the statement posed. It is an unsettling of the terms of engagement because we have recognised that food inequalities, injustices and poverties exist in ways that are not always explicable within the confines of the ‘food system’ as understood by rationalistic science. We have, therefore, also drawn upon the knowledge building emergent from within the embodied practice of The Food Journey©
to support a more psycho-social and somatic approach. We also recognise that the literature on the subject is vast and complex. We draw down only that part of it that we feel can be applied, within the confines of this paper, to the histories underpinning the formalised movements of food, whilst simultaneously interrogating the term ‘Food System’. As an intervention we present novel arrangements and relations, for, above all, we seek to engage the language and feel of that relegated to outside of the enclosures of Cartesian rationality, for maybe this will offer resiliencies to face these challenging times through which we live.
2. Colonial Complexities
“What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?”
To understand the context for self-organisation of the mostly marginalised, diaspora populations of the commonwealth in Europe and their relationships to food is to recognise their connection to colonial and post-colonial relations and their decolonial resistances. The very term ‘common-wealth’ points to an (unequally) shared bounty through histories, economics and politics in common and, as Bhambra [19
] has put it, connected sociologies. This term reminds us that there are broader processes at work than that which appears on the surface of popular presentations of the food system. For example, we cannot take for granted an agreement of a common humanity as stakeholders within the food system. When we start to dig a little below the surface of our everyday public identities, we will find ourselves dropping into cavernous social, political and economic differentiations that reach back to the very earliest of food circulations. To understand these, we have to first recognise what they are based upon. Given the stark economic inequalities that persist in the world today, we can observe that lines of demarcation and separation have been drawn for some time. For example, images dating from the 11th century depicting typifications of racialised bodies, convey values indicating the inferiorisations of others held by the societies that produced them [21
]. It would seem that for some time, even prior to the colonial quests in Africa in the 15th
Century (and also with the previous Iberian invasions) [22
], that the European has sought to gain both the material and intellectual capital of others through their inferiorisation, based upon erroneously held ideas about people in distant lands [23
]. Such ideas about ‘remote’ others informed philosophies that encouraged their dehumanization, which characterised colonisation right from the outset. Yet it is important to explore the complexities of the human relationships that defined the colonising environment, particularly as shaped by the dominance of the rationalist gaze. We readily admit that the routes to meeting this complexity are foreshortened given the relative brevity of an intervention. Yet we introduce the explorations below in the knowledge that we cannot talk about an aspiration for full nourishment, which we declare is an important agenda of ours, without addressing the context in which that quest for nourishment attempts to be realised, or is thwarted. An overview of the pertinent epistemologies will help us to understand that there exists a field of scholarship that has blended a range of concepts and imaginaries to try to create a more autonomous space of resistance—one that reaches towards healing [12
]. We share just a few of these below.
] summarises the arguments of key decolonial scholars: Grosfoguel, Dussel, Mignolo, Escobar, Quijano, Maldonado Torres and Boaventura de Sousa Santos. A key attribute they have in common is the articulation of a need to produce knowledges which are beyond Eurocentric fundamentalisms and which contest modernity on terms which are outside of the normative and reductionist mode often found in Euro-American scholarship about colonialism [2
]. The colonisation of time and space defines regions of the earth as being along a linear trajectory of development and therefore contributing to an enlightenment goal of infinite economic growth and the capitalisation of everything. Santos [8
] brings the understanding of colonisation as asserting a global hegemony that orientates everything towards its needs under capitalism, into a landscape model he refers to as an abyss. This landscape portrays modernity as constructing visible distinctions between its own social reality and a non-existent/invalid other side, so the other is then radically excluded. The line is not fixed but it is heavily monitored. The production of knowledge under colonialism/coloniality is only possible through the use of a universalist, scientific and legal mode. Other modes of knowing are inadmissible and are therefore refuted by being erased, a process referred to as an epistemicide [4
]. Because there is no admission of co-presence of the other side of the line, all determinations of what is true or false are made on the colonial side of the line/abyss. This implies that the other side of the line has, therefore, no fixed territory or agency; as diverse as it may be conceded to be, it is still understood as formless, lacking epistemological unity [8
]. Resistance to colonisation and its legacies re-inscribe a presence of the coloniser logic on the other side of the line, which is, effectively, met by the colonised through acts of epistemic disobedience [25
]. Modernity as coloniality, is the knowledge-based enclosure of these ‘capitals’ (natural, social and economic) and claims them as normative on the colonial side of the line.
An ultimate form of enclosure under scientific rationalism is the enclosure of the concept of freedom, which, under a materialist ontology, is translated as the independence of the human body from its biological limitations. We are reminded that under Cartesian rationality, the mind is already divorced from the body [11
]. In this instance, however, the science arising from this enlightenment dualism re-inscribes consciousness to be a function of the brain—which is part of the material body. Modernity’s future articulates a post-human beingness, a transhuman, in its reification of the technological and so is willing to transfer the management of the body—and all bodies inferior to that body—to the ways of technology. The forms of these might include biotechnology, genetic manipulation, robotics and artificial intelligence [26
]. This, however, creates a paradox within the concept of Euro-American self because of being over-dependent upon technology and so becoming, reflexively, unfree/enclosed [26
]. This enclosure is part of the economic default pursued by the liberal human, who colonises in the pursuit of capital. Yet this same human may well be the technologist who controls the freedom being aspired for under transhumanism. The relationship of this to the food system lies within the scientific trajectory of the ‘future man’ being conceived of as realised in transhumanism. This trajectory is in alignment with the liberal logic of freedom from biology, which also means being free of the limitations of ‘nature’. Yet such a freedom would imply being subject to the limitations of laboratory creation and digital management. That both these forms of technologies are being advanced within the modern food system—biotechnology as human creationism via genetic engineering and robotics as replacing human labour—reinforces modernity as colonial but simultaneously creates a tension regarding the rights of modern man and his access to ‘nature’. The power of modernity as coloniality positions nature as simply territory to be enclosed and this ‘nature’, like everything on the other side of the line, has then to become invisibilised. As such, just like the other invisibilised inhabitants of ‘the place of no presence’, nature can be ruthlessly exploited/enslaved and denied personhood. This would appear to be one of the limits of the Eurocentric, civilising system of modernity described by Torres [4
], the others being ecological destruction, the destruction of humanity by poverty and the impasse of sustained resistance [4
]. The other limits cannot be easily embraced by modernist resistances to the industrialised management of global food circulations, because, we suggest, the liberal human is unable to accept responsibility for the global violences these limits imply. This remains as a forgetting, the paralysis of colonial amnesia [1
]. All of the foregoing limits we understand as contributing to the breaking of the modern food system.
Sylvia Wynter [10
] and other writers [12
] practise epistemic disobedience as a way of engaging the shared ways of both creatively seeing and knowing the world from the other side of the line [27
]. These writers bring an intersectional perspective, linking Indigenous American, African, Caribbean and African American experience, gender and sexuality to the ways of apprehending the colonial presence of this side of the line. Wynter [10
], in particular, sets out the challenge of the current era—now greatly accentuated in the light of environmental damage induced pandemics and the political and economic hubris that surrounds the response to this—to face (down) the overrepresentation of Man as the only archetype of the human. She identifies the effect of the colonialities of being/power/truth and freedom as producing this overrepresentation, which she likens to Quijano’s racism/ethnicism complex of the 15th/16th centuries or Mignolo’s colonial difference, upon which modernity was instituted. This overrepresentation is made up of Man1, who emerges from the Renaissance secularisation and separation from the authority of the church, and Man2, inscribed in the enlightenment philosophy and practice of which Descartes’ reification of mind over body is central. This overrepresentation is augmented by Darwinism in producing the binary of selected man and deselected ‘other’ and Malthusian in its proposal that this overrepresented human’s scientific rationalism is best placed to manage the impending scarcity of Earth’s resources [28
]. This ontological construct now defines the globally dominant ethnoclass that is identified by the terms ‘western’ or global north, ‘developed’ or first world [10
]. The relevance of the aforementioned is that this overrepresentation is systematised in relationships of subalternity, asserting an order which permitted the lands, bodies and natural resources to be put to use in accordance with the ontology of imperial science and expansionism. The act of ‘discovery’ that rendered those bodies invisible became the means of actualising the presence and authority of the coloniser having an ontological presence as liberal human. Colonialism thus was able to define the world as an assemblage of objects that required a series of enclosures and reordering in order to acquire meaning within its schema of thought. This was the dawn of the Anthropocene project [29
]. Colonisation occupied the earth it charted through its technology and capacity for violence and transformed it into territory or ‘the land’, the place that the human arrived at, or land
ed. Using colonised bodies—all of which were outside of the bounds of the human itself represented—it capitalised, as the means of generating goods and further capital. These possessions then enabled a legitimisation of the imposed hierarchy of human/non-human/animal [15
]. Colonisation undertook the ordering of space, time and bodies (the non-human of all forms: African, Native American, Aboriginal, ‘Oriental’ as well as animal, plant and mineral) as part of its own crusading mission. Through the establishment of an economic, scientific and political interplay it made logical the use of lesser bodies to produce—in mines or plantations—for superiorised bodies. The theocratic archetypes such as the role of man in dominion over all earthly life forms remained as an ideological crutch within the developing philosophies of the enlightenment [19
“Western modernity and coloniality constitutes each other (…) Europe became modern in the process of conquest and colonial expansion, a process that made colonialism more than a practice, an organising logic and a modality of knowledge, power and being—that is coloniality” [32
]. Food and non-food resources did not only serve established wealthy citizens of the colonial metropole. These also provided the basis for industrial growth and expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries. The foundations for further privations and betrayals of the working classes were laid when colonial independencies were sought against a political climate which prized the interests of powerful industrial lobbies and landowner classes over localised and just political arbitration in the colonies and in Europe [33
]. As an example of the relationships between the European metropoles and the colonies, narratives of internal oppressions, dating from early Calvinist constructions of poverty, resource enclosures as well as resistances to agricultural mechanisation were simultaneously occurring within Britain [34
]. We can observe a connection between the creation of the working and under classes in Britain through industrialisation, which was fed by colonial enterprise, and the prior land dispossessions for capital accumulation, which took place at home and abroad. This was critically to be linked to the later development of the urban consumer classes [35
], part of the structuring of the food system.
Colonialism has been distinguished from coloniality [5
] as an extension of a system of control that takes place beyond the symbolic independence of colonies. Trade, governance, culture, language and other relationships are re-ordered and re-organised under the auspices of a central colonial matrix of power, being and knowledge. What coloniality/modernity does in the world, according to Torres [32
], is to sunder the experiential world along paired axes: structure and culture, time and space, subject and object through colonialities of power, being and knowledge respectively. There is, therefore, established a tension within this duality of control in which one party dominates the other through violence. Santos [8
] speaks of Western modernity as a socio-political paradigm founded on the tension between social regulation and social emancipation. Government negotiation of this tension is fragile at the best of times, but even more so when the government is not fully autonomous, as in the precarious independencies of the global south. Where governance has not full authorship of sovereignty, in these former colonies, so as to claim the upper hand in this tension, it is because this is being claimed by colonial governance and is not shared with the colonised object. This is effected by effectively legislating the latter to be less-than-human [32
] and therefore not able to express any form of sovereignty. The conditions of independence are often such that it demands of post-colonial governance obedience to a variety of mechanisms to reproduce the conditions colonialism had formerly exacted upon the territory [36
Modernity, for example, maintains the oppressive normality of plantation culture, mineral, food and forest extractivism and epistemological erasures to suit its capitalising ends. Social and cultural forms of capitalist modernity organise and determine localised ideas of progress and stages of development [37
]. Development trajectories follow the logic of colonial time and the colonisation of space, the latter which marks some latitudes as ‘naturally’ inferior to others. In terms of food circulations, this meant that in the absence of a locally sovereign, politico-economic order within former colonised nations, political independence meant the retention of export-orientated agricultural production which becomes beholden to the former colonisers and a dependence upon unfair trading agreements [38
]. Global market systems for agricultural markets are volatile and precarious. If a nation’s economic development is almost exclusively dependent upon trading in primary products, it likewise confers upon it such vulnerability and instability and peasant agricultural economy is stymied and contingent [38
]. Furthermore, dependence on the Bretton Woods institutions for economic rescue, particularly in the post war era, resulted in reduced domestic investment within the local agricultural sector. These institutions were formed in 1943 and include the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). They were formed to help rebuild broken post-war economies and encourage international economic cooperation. In reality, they can be said to have overseen the more dramatic failures of former colonised nations to recover from the extractivism of colonialism. As such, the colonialities of power, knowledge and being are instrumentally evoked to maintain a continued exploitation by former colonial powers and coloniality’s instrumentality. The ongoing underdevelopment of localised production in former colonies underpins the fact that today the majority of these are net importers of (often processed) foods produced by their former colonisers and secondarily by the NICs (Newly Industrialised Country/ies). This is a term coined in the 1970s/80s to refer to those countries which have moved into a more industrial and urban mode from being predominantly agricultural economies. Some NICs are referred to as BRICS (BRICS Countries include: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa and characterise nations that were and are considered major emerging economies in the world. An alternative reading is that these industrialising nations are merely the result of the reorganisation of T/MNCs (Trans or Multi-National Companies). These are large corporations with operations spanning several countries and typically have an equivalent or greater economic status and legal clout which exceeds even that of many ‘developed’ nations). It is felt by some that T/MNCs optimise their own bottom lines via the use of cheap labour and fewer legislative restrictions [40
] and so out-compete developing economies. The decline of localised agricultural production, resulting from unsupportive political and macro-economic environments in these developing nations, eventually leads to a loss of grower autonomy, innovation and government or other investment [41
Once established, coloniality, as the modern project, continues this ordering and organising of the logics of power, knowledge and being into the global that we live today. It does this together with its flows of goods and services—in primary or raw state—from the various peripheries to the metropolitan centres of hegemonic power [43
]. This power controls processing, distribution and marketing in ways that reinforce its hegemonic power and self-image at the apex of colonial time.
“The ‘point of departure’ of capitalism is robbery of the immediate pre-capitalist producers of their means of production and livelihoods, of land, forests, water and other resources, forcing them to become vagabonds and beggars or, at best, people dependent on selling their labour power.” [44
The inception of this state of affairs did not go uncontested. Resistances of various forms took place across the Atlantic and Pacific world: rebellions amongst the enslaved, escapes into maroon communities, non-acquiescence at the level of individual, collective, regional guerilla warfare and strategic liaisons. All of these activities would have formed part of the armory of the colonised or enslaved, including solidarities between different communities, around food autonomies. Narratives of rice seed being braided into the hair of women who were taken captive, or the establishment of provision plots at a distance from the plantation, as well as Caribbean marronage
] are parts of what constituted a defiance of the colonial order. The resurgence of the wetiko
concept reasserts a trope of insatiable cannibalistic greed to be resisted as a latter-day defiance of the coloniality that continues to disarrange and disfigure the lives of first peoples in North America under settler colonialism [46
What also constitutes part of a narrative of resistance is the reframing of histories from the perspective of the other side of the line, of which there are many critical inputs. The range includes discourses that acknowledge speaking from the vernaculars of the many unnamed, colonised voices which are, nevertheless, party to the first encounters of colonialism [17
]. The continuous intermixing of ways and people act as a counter-narrative to the colonial ‘single story’ and emerges in a ‘poetics of relation’ [13
], commencing from the first encounters with Portuguese ambassadors through to the range of strategies and engagements, both hidden and in popular currency, in the Caribbean archipelago [48
]. Creolisations enable the crossings and unsettlings of the abyssal divide in unpredictable ways [12
] that offer alternative vistas and interpretations of colonial versions of both the past and meanings within the present [14
]. It is this possibility of a particular ‘freedom-to’ [49
] that enables a vista of possibilities to emerge, including re-imaginations and translations of ‘what is food’ using dramatic, embodied engagements.
3. Narrativising the Food Journey
Understanding how colonialism works is a task not only for the mind to process, but it also should engage the heart and be embodied. In this way we can heighten a resonance with the potential energy of transformation arising from actors—all of us—who are invited to be fully engaged, with the power of our imaginations and creative selves. To support our further explorations we have drawn upon the sensory pluralism [50
] of an interactive workshop, ‘The Food Journey©
’, designed by Community Centred Knowledge (CCK), a community-based organisation of which one of the authors is co-founder. The Journey developed out of a frustration with the predominantly discursive approaches to knowledge sharing around food autonomies circulating mainly in academic corridors or within institutions having limited interface with ‘practitioners’ and everyday people. Yet food justice and inequalities, food rights and (in)securities are all topics that interface with food sovereignty and food security at every level and are, in many forms, a part of the conversations and actions of all communities everywhere. In particular, there is a noticeable absence of certain, specific experiences, those of politically and racially marginalised communities, being shared whenever food sovereignty was on the table and this felt like a disconnection as well as a loss. How could we, as community actors, for example, engage with what we were feeling could be a more meaningful exploration of ‘good food’ within a diverse world of foodways, if the context is dominated by particular geopolitical narratives and exemplars? It was also an opportunity to explore the question, ‘what is food, anyway?’ which arose in discussions that seemed pivotal to how the subject was engaged with. Workshops that explore the nature of food, run by CCK, draw attention to the social, ethical, cultural and philosophical aspects of food. We also share the idea that food is all ‘that the body takes in which nourishes us’. Food understood in this way helps one recognise the various conduits in which we obtain nourishment in the world that are not all focused upon buccal consumption. If we take the further step of conflating the human body with the body of the Earth, according to the ways of indigenous cosmologies, then there are important implications also for nourishing earth ecology in relation to how we nourish ourselves. Eventually, after trial and error, The Food Journey©
The actual, theatre-like experience of the Journey involves participants being seated, back to back and blindfolded, and then, for a duration of approximately an hour, they are taken on an experiential odyssey in which different senses are interacted with representing the tastes, textures, sounds and narratives that tell a story of colonial encounters between Britain, Africa and the Caribbean but which also engaged people from India, China, Spain, Portugal, Syria and South America (Abya Yala). This latter being an indigenous name of the Americas, belonging to the Guna people of Central America.
As a prelude to the Journey, participants are encouraged to reflect on different aspects of their personal relationship with food and are offered, amongst other things, the following scenario:
“You leave your house each day to go about your daily activities, as normal, but every day you encounter the following scene:
Across the road is a yard, in which you can clearly see a man who is repeatedly beating a dog. The dog is crying out, barking, yelping. The dog is clearly in anguish.
This happens daily. You witness this scene of a man beating a dog every time you leave your house.
The question we pose to you is: ‘Who is being traumatised?”
depicts the three characters involved in this scenario: man beating a dog, the dog and then observer (who is you). In practice, most people identify the dog and then themselves, as observers, as being the victims of trauma. Most do not speak of the man beating the dog as traumatised; until it is pointed out that, arguably, his own trauma is central to the creation of trauma of others. It is also likely to be deeper and thus more systemic than either the dog or the observer, either of whom, it might also be argued, might be more readily socially rehabilitated. This is partly because of the ignorance of, and reprehension towards, the socially aberrant behaviour expressed by the perpetrator of this violence [51
]. Offered this latter reasoning, participants then seem suddenly aware of the critical relationship of the man’s violent behaviour to the experience of the others. Within this metaphor, in noticing that the body of the dog beater is difficult to access, he becomes unapproachable as the experience of violence appears to become ‘locked in’.
Given the repeated nature of the abuse, it is possible that the observer in his own traumatisation and habit of non-interference, starts to equate what he witnesses daily as a ‘this is normal’
. In the absence of action by any such observer, the abuse might become part of a pattern of expected behaviour in which the right to beat a dog might even become perceived as justified over time
. We cannot expect the dog to become habituated to such violence, yet, if we were to compare a parallel scenario of a master and his slave then, according to Mbembe [52
], we can notice that there is an attempt at possession of the slave/dog by the master/beater through the exercise of absolute authority of the master over the enslaved. The man within the abuser/dog/observer triad metaphor might be closer to the actual experience of racialised hierarchy between master and enslaved African than we might first assume, on two levels. Firstly, we draw from Fanon’s description in Black Skin, White Masks
], concerning how the fixity and rigidity of the expression of whiteness produces the lived experience of blackness under slavery, reciprocally, and also more generally within the colonial matrix. What he describes is a transfer of affect from coloniser to the colonised. The second level derives from Zakiyyah Imani Jackson’s [30
] pointing to, and subsequent rejection of, the binary typically applied to this situation between master and enslaved as the bestialisation of blackness within a dehumanising hierarchy of humanity. This image supports the idea of the abjection of the enslaved and thus reinforces a normativity of white humanity, leading to a justifying of colonisation and slavery [30
]. Yet for the slaver/coloniser to maintain this affect creates a form of internal stress, with its attendant production of trauma over time. Other sources of contributory stress include the master’s task of maintaining power over the conquest and the hoarding of wealth as well as protecting oneself from the ever present threat of insurrection. Awareness of this stress induced trauma in coloniser relations are key to understanding colonial responses to victimhood in the oppressed, which may often play out as denial, othering and false identification with the oppressed. When retrospect is applied, justifications for historic violations have been put forward and understood and accepted as rational [41
]. An argument is made that it is common for practitioners, or theorists of abusive relationships or atrocities to overlook the deeply embedded hurt within
the body that perpetrates violence [51
]. In the scenario of the man and the dog, it might, for example, feel counterintuitive to say that victimhood exists for any other body but that of the dog. We, however, have to recognise the critical importance of examining perpetrator trauma, especially in cases of mass atrocities, as a way of recognising the commonplace nature of such violence and therefore to begin to work on unearthing it within larger society [51
]. Middleton and colleagues [57
] also note how institutional abuse is among the most difficult to unearth in society. It is found where the hidden complicities of abusers and the abused may lead to locked-in silences, embedded in a matrix of systemic behaviour, deeply buried in histories and social structures. Despite the kinds of arguments put forward by Robinson [58
] as to the ills of colonialism, we might rather observe the kinds of knowledges these can bring to the surface when observing histories of abuse. The overrepresented human, Man1/2, described by Wynter [10
], has his experience as perpetrator of violence normalised in relation to the affective victimhood of the enslaved/colonised body because the latter body has had its humanity removed from it
. Mintz [38
] identifies this when he speaks of the general lack of recognition/unacceptability of the Haitian revolution, even by the revolutionary leaders of freedoms of the colonised worlds beyond Haiti. No kind of solidarity was demonstrated at the time or into the future, because it was/is unimaginable that the enslaved body had any right to rise against its naturalised ‘superior’. Questions around this invisibilisation need to be raised. As observers, have we remained passive in order to accommodate the discomfort of reckoning with the implied complicity of our own ancestors with historical violence—even at institutional level? Have we made a tacit agreement amongst ourselves with the principle that the dog cannot and should not face down its master, even a cruel master, and win? Have we repositioned these implicit violences as part of a normalised system of systemic behaviour: in this case that of food system extractivism? Can we understand that such responses may hold traumas which ‘shut down’ our intellectual and emotional capacities to process difficult narratives, whilst simultaneously present as having amnesia? In such forgetfulness, we lose the requirement to investigate the deeper implications of widespread complicity with violences that are foundational to the evolution of a capitalising colonialism and so commit to working towards their healing. We propose that this same capitalising colonialism is that in which the idea of a ‘food system’ is situated and insufficiently challenged. The ‘view of empire’, for many British people, for example, is one commensurate with greatness, which was ‘benevolent and civilising’, rather than acceding to the actual track record of violence concealed within the clouds of a colonial amnesia [1
]. It creates a barrier to engaging with food narratives which are rooted in historic injustices embedded in culture, politics and discourse. These need attention at every level of intervention: from national policies to regional practices and this intervention welcomes discussion which can engage with and amplify not only deeper transformational discourse but open a route towards shared radical imaginaries which portend healing.
What The Food Journey©
appears to be unearthing in its responses is what it means for generations to have self-silenced, to have refused to take responsibility for and acknowledge a collective guilt and shame for acts of violence traceable to both lineage and collective histories. This is a different scenario to creating individualized traumas as a result of personalizing experiences of shame. We understand that this can transfix, rather than progress an understanding of what can create useful change. What can be helpful is to put effort into understanding the objectified histories in which wrongs were committed as well as the aftermath of them entrenched in social theory and practice and to seek to change this for collective betterment
. Figure 2
shows two examples of the kind of feedback that demonstrates emotions experienced by Journey participants. We suggest that refusals of responsibility are evidence of a kind of psychic damage, which has been passed on intergenerationally. Césaire also alludes to this when he speaks of ‘the boomerang effect’ on colonial perpetrators of violence [17
]. Upon further discussion of the man-dog-observer triad, participants of the Journey often concur that all three parties are traumatised and this is further reflected within the feedback of participants after the journey itself. They often locate these affects as embedded in different aspects of Journey’s stages which themselves describe the movements of food from one part of the world to another—whilst narrating the development of the current food system. We must question if nourishment can be the outcome of a set of food circulations that carry such trauma, and why we should, as scholars of food and its many attributes, consider it a worthwhile task to more deeply explore the conditions under which such trauma first became established. Two areas of interest arise in relation to this. One is that any bodily sense is a complex collection of interacting subsystems, which contribute to the realisation of one named ‘sense’ [50
], referred to as ‘sensory pluralism’, separate from the awareness of synaesthesia. Secondly, we are aware that the Food Journey stimulates at sub-liminal levels and that the sensation of taste, in particular, is mediated by an array of ethical/moral and other concerns [59
]. This may mean that the act of tasting may facilitate participants to connect to the more deeply held sense of the moral and ethical world of food circulations. It may explain some of the expressions of transformative/cathartic experience that participants have given testimony to, after completing the Journey. It may also account for the almost palpable emotion that accompanies the Journey.
If trauma can be understood as resulting from the encounter of bodies that have been differentiated in relationship to repeated/intergenerational acts of violence, then how might we understand the longitudinal effects of the extractive, divisive and equally violent ordering of nourishment over this period? We explore, below, the systematisation that arose during these violent encounters and what these building blocks of its construction under colonisation were, to have shaped coloniality’s institutions. As currently articulated by those of the global north, the food system is in a state of brokenness. Is it the case that what we know of the state of the food system then might be only a microcosm of what might be said for the ‘other side of the line’? If the dog beater, after all, declares himself to be broken, what kinds of violations would have been experienced by the dog? We know that centuries of violations have resulted in the cleavage that constitutes the abyss between anthropos
, right from the outset [15
]. Therefore, a food system based upon this initial rupture is likely to fail to nourish the majority of those who depend upon it.
4. A Food System Discourse
The Food System has been described as:
“… a complex web of activities involving the production, processing, transport, and consumption. Issues concerning the food system include the governance and economics of food production, its sustainability, the degree to which we waste food, how food production affects the natural environment and the impact of food on individual and population health.” [60
We are particularly interested in the exploration of this system on account of the range and depth of responses we have had to the performances of ‘The Food Journey©’. Being immersive, it is designed to access and process knowledge together with participants in relation to the historic movements of agricultural produce and the embodiment of knowledge in relation to them.
In recent years there have been expressions of the ‘brokenness’ of this system. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation [61
] speaks of this brokenness in terms of its excessive health, economic and environmental costs, as well as its linearity, which results in high inefficiencies and waste. In contrast to this a circular economy implies a food system which is accountable and responsive to feedback flows. Narratives of ‘brokenness’ of the food system are also evident in patterns of mal-nourishment, from both over and under consumption, which result in higher than average levels of nutrition-based, non-communicable diseases, especially in marginalised populations (diabetes, heart-failure, cancer, etc.) [62
]. Food poverty, more generally, can be described as being a significant contributor to malnourishment which one might understand as a feature of a system that is unresponsive to warnings across its geopolity or sensitive to patterns at different points in its evolution. However, the food system cannot be said to be constructed over an even topography of value. Some lives evidently matter more than others. It has defined systemic roles in accordance with the imperative of its construction being centred in an idea of economic imperatives set out by a rationalist science. As an example of what is to follow, Trubek [59
] assesses the production and trading of three ‘commodities’: wine, cheese and coffee. This referencing of items all central to global north consumption patterns highlights the limitations often applied to the notion of who is the ‘normal’ human within the system under consideration. There is no discussion of equivalent items of consumption within other societies as a way of reflecting the generality of ‘Food in Time and Place’, the title of the document within which it appears [59
]. Even by looking at the history of coffee circulations across the globe, it is easy to recognise that its commercialisation has been centred upon meeting the needs of the Euro-American palate and market. Starting from a multiplicity of small producers and transporters in Eastern Africa, coffee moved through stages of being grown on large, colonial plantations at a distance from its centre of biodiversity in Ethiopia, to parts of South Asia and then to Columbia and Brazil, reliant on slave and indentured labour. Presently, it is mainly directly traded by large coffee houses whose expression of fair trade practice has changed the idea of a mode of production meant to benefit small holder producers of coffee, to a more cynical branding exercise in which equitable trade and ownership is often far from the case [59
This portrayal helps us to understand that much of the systematisation of agriculturally produced commodities within the industrialised agri-capitalist food system has not been a simple production of product from the farm, traded on the market and bought and eaten by a consumer. Rather, it has been subject to an array of global food regimes [59
] that reflect the changing structures within global society as captured by the main economic signifiers of progress within modernity. Understanding modernity to be constituted by coloniality [5
], to discuss the systematic commodification of food, requires us to keep sight of the conditions bordering the other side of the abyss, for how folks there have fared under such regimes. The consistent increase in food imports in formerly colonised economies contributes to a significant erasure of their culture and sovereignty post-independence [41
] and is one example of a decline in equity and autonomy under coloniality. These economies are often the very same ones with declining or consistently low levels of investment in the institutional structures required to underpin even subsistence production [63
Food and non-food flows globally, under colonialism and their geopolitical organisation were established by a colonial system that developed forms of management control based upon maximising the output of free labour for personal investors and the national benefit of imperial centres. Rosenthal [64
] has explored how such management methods under slavery underpinned the later centuries’ management techniques, even until today. Checks and balances in production—such as quality assurance, quantity control, subsidies and fines—were introduced, often through violence towards enslaved labour, helping to establish the systemic nature of the food industry in the national imagination of metropolitan centres and a unified systematic logic that defined modernity across the globe. Aspects of this modernity included the new wealth that enabled an expansion in numbers of the urban populations of the colonising countries [65
]. This, in turn, created a greater demand for a parallel industrialisation of home-grown food and an emerging middle class with tastes for a wider range of reliably provided food and clothing [66
]. Many food tastes had been established during the colonial period, for both master and servant, but especially amongst those whose bodies drove the industrial revolution in Europe [67
Various new ‘competences’ arose from colonial agriculture: seed management, control and distribution; chemical fertiliser input use replacing soil fertility indirectly exported to growing urban settlements as food; pesticide use—often derived from chemical warfare agents manufacture—to accommodate the erosion of balanced ecologies within expanding and industrialising farming systems [68
]; and military expansion to protect territories overseas, all fed into a range of technologies to boost production through investments in agricultural holdings. Wealthy landowners were often linked to the same landholding structures that were associated with colonial wealth. Sugar money in particular was an abundant source of income for early agricultural investment [69
]. These patterns are explained by the logic of coloniality, as will be addressed in a later section, but they were established within colonialism and the imperial illogic
of claiming the bodies of others, as labour, soil and a balanced ecology, in an extractive way without ever factoring in their true costs [70
]. The reckoning of this cost to bodies which have expressed resistance, environments which are debilitated and costs which have to be accounted for [71
] is what has significantly contributed to system brokenness.
When we pay attention to the contemporary language used to represent the development divide—global south and global north—we are reminded that these expressions are not complete categorisations in and of themselves. As in the diagram Figure 3
below, showing how the global north and the global south are not completely distinct categories. The mode of operation of colonial logic meant that the legacies of imperial economics, politics and social manipulation required overseeing by appendages of the crown, or issued under royal charter, remaining in colonised territories in order to ensure that their interests were being closely supervised directly or indirectly [42
]. The Code Noir was a set of instructions issued to French Territories in the Caribbean, in 1685, instructing inhabitants on the administration of the colony. Its residues remain, encultured, up to the present day. They exemplify the French colonial relationships with its overseas colonies in the Caribbean that helped to give assurance that its interests would be protected under remote governance [38
]. Equally, other colonised nations ‘belonged’ to their colonial metropoles; to varying degrees and so movement between periphery and centre [43
] of both commodities and labour was the order of the day. This was until, in the case of the UK, such ‘mother country’ migration came under various institutional/legal controls [20
]. Further to this, however, were the inevitable, subsequent, economic migrations which arose as a result of the economic depredations and social deprivations taking place under coloniality. Yusuff [29
] supports this when speaking about the range of anthropocene extractivisms of mineral and agricultural resources, together with the environmental and political upheavals that have characterised them. These are the violations of coloniality in its particular expression on the other side of the abyss, in terms of bodies displaced through the manufacture of deprivations. It is these same bodies who then seek refuge within the global north because they will have witnessed that the best of their national resources make their way to these places, and also because many of them would have had citizenship status for these ‘mother countries’ [72
]. Coloniality has wrought a particular expression on both ‘sides of the line’, in terms of bodies displaced through the manufacture of deprivations [73
]. Torres [4
] speaks of the consequence of the non-neutrality/universality of the rationalist normative encountering these dispersals, which produce a kind of epistemic blindness
of all that happens outside of its way of thinking. The consequence of this blindness is a kind of epistemic racism
in those it objectifies as other. Thus, communities who have been displaced who reside within the global North become marginalised, deprived [73
], disqualified and disadvantaged [74
] in all the domains of life, including the ability to formulate their own strategies of nourishment [75
]. This is a critical point because of its direct challenge to the title of this paper, namely the ability to self-organise, be sustainable and resilient within the given food system. In addition to this there is the contradiction that arises in the application of colonial time. Modernity, as part of the colonial matrix of power [5
] co-constitutes ‘colonial time’ with a hierarchy which determines Europe to be the cultural centre of the world [76
]. In terms of food production, trade and management, colonial time became an important stimulant driving the importation of both foreign—and therefore modern—goods and values in the colonised, ‘occupied’ nations. Modernity and Coloniality are co-constitutional [36
] and so the ‘tools’ of modernity are the same instruments that were and are used to extend the colonial matrix of power, being and knowledge over the colonies when colonialism formally came to a close with the various independencies claimed or granted during the 20th century [32
]. We argue that, as a tool of modernity, colonial time produces a fictional ‘system’ of produce flows globally, which accrues profit to the metropolitan centres of the Global North, extracted by undervaluing the costs of production within the Global South. This system continues to exist largely because it has constructed a logic of avoidance with the colonised other, equating civilisation and citizenship with the liberal human subject produced within enlightenment rationality [8
]. This makes the food system a derivative of an unchallenged universalist, colonial world view, which has produced a vision of what is modern, based upon historical constructions arising between 17th and 19th century Europe [7
below depicts an idea which challenges the rationally produced, but false geopolitics of what is termed ‘global south or global north’. The politics of coloniality has, over time, produced spatial pockets of qualities attributed to global ‘northness’ in the Southern hemisphere in terms of ‘centres’ which exist to control the strategic politics of their ‘peripheries’ as economic hinterlands. These may take the form of expatriate and wealthier parts of the city or outlying large farms, corruption of industrial proportions and over-consuming new middle classes. Likewise, waves of economic migration of the residents of these same countries, found in the cities and farmlands of the richer countries, are barely accommodated and live often in abject poverty in ghettoized parts of the city, some undocumented, providing the localized labour which underpins the maintenance of coloniality in situ. Currently the food system includes global and regional supply chains; state and regional policy making; food safety regulations, transport and packaging requirements, global supply and distribution channels, differentiation into food produced for an increasingly segmented market (‘Best’, ‘Essential’, ‘Organic’, ‘Fair-trade’, ‘Heritage’, ‘Gourmet’) etc., all of which have been modified over time and in different spaces. During this time society itself has been changing: from different forms of household enclosure; rapid and increasing urbanisation; the development of different types of technology for use in the home; and in the course of growing, changes in levels of processing and distribution networks. None of these things have happened in exactly the same way or at the same pace across the world.
This intervention does not permit a detailed account of all of these changes but a pattern is indicated that gives rise to a differentiated concept of development in relation, not only to Gross Domestic Product, but also in relation to the type and extent of consumption, who produces what and where, and the value of produce in terms of a single economic-fiscal measure [77
]. Accordingly, the linear trajectory of development, as earlier articulated, defines the architecture of the food system and the main flows of food as movements from South to North. Profits and final high value product accumulate in the North and primary, raw materials, low value labour, high debt and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and chemical toxicity accumulate in the global South nations, the latter largely as a result of failed green revolution imperatives [78
As a way of exploring a specific construction in history that is one of the building blocks of the food system, we look at how the idea of a rural entrepreneur, the farmer, came into being and helped to define how this role operates in subsequent food system narratives and within activism. We begin by looking at the etymology of a farmer, which reveals the following:
farmer (n.) late 14c., “one who collects taxes, etc.,” from Anglo-French fermer, Old French fermier “lease-holder,” from Medieval Latin firmarius, from firma “fixed payment” (see farm (n.)). In the agricultural sense, 1590s, replacing native churl and husbandman.
The farmer, in British history, is associated with the idea of yeomanry, an relationship of ancient times between ‘landed’ gentry and those who closely served them, often in a rent or tax collecting role, who were then rewarded with preferential leaseholds, often subsequently converted to freeholds. The origins of the yeoman farmer, as a model for all future, successful farming, were established in the 13th Century in Britain. This early tenant farmer was one who occupied the role of bailiff for the landlord and was also a serf himself. It is not until the latter part of the 14th Century that these more favoured serfs were selected by their landlords, the barons, and given some tools and livestock for production. This farmer-cum-tax-collector was able to start, if successful, to employ the labour of his neighbouring, less well-off serfs and increase his productivity whilst also elevating his status in the community. Marx [79
] describes the changing conditions in the 15th–16th century in which the Yeoman farmer proper was more established as one who was able to profit from the decrease in the cost of wage labour. This was related to the increase in circulation of precious metals, presumably from colonial exploits in South America and Africa, and the stable, low level of rents at that time. The farmer’s productivity increased significantly and in the following period, during the enlightenment, he became established as an icon of respectability, the guardian of the countryside and representative of the village as a basic unit of national governance—as one whose being is vested in the economic and social welfare of the nation [79
]. We can understand that the yeoman farmer, therefore, as a construct, modelling of a well thought of, patriotic, rural entrepreneur, espousing the core values of capitalism at that time. Born out of renaissance sensibilities and enclosures and triumphing into the enlightenment era with its scientific and industrial consolidations, he became well equipped to carry these now systemic values into a future which would herald technologically assisted farming and which would serves a role as superior rural citizen and ambassador of qualities which would serve capitalism geopolitically. As such, under settler colonialism in Africa and elsewhere, the farmer, as model citizen, became associated with the democratic ideal, and in the transition to independence, was drawn upon as a way to ensure particular values associated with democracy under coloniality might be maintained in the newly independent state [79
]. Planning history reveals that these ideas were also exported to the United States during this latter period. ‘Neo-Europes’ migrated to North America as settler colonists and were encouraged, as part of rural colonisation, to replicate their home agricultural landscapes. Collections of village communities were referred to as towns, which became the basis of planning for the supply of commodities to the growing urban populations [80
]. Their existence also speaks to the centrality of rural planning for food production being critical to French and Spanish colonists, and the use of enslaved and indentured labour being critical to the productivity of early agricultural settlements and wealth production especially, with regard to cotton production [81
]. Yet within early 19th century England, the ‘farmer’ was sometimes used as a term of derision—the farmer was the mediating agent between the poor and the capitalist, even if that farmer was a tenant farmer (Shilliam, personal communication, 2020). Might we not understand a farmer, as part of the development of rural sociology between the renaissance and enlightenment periods, as one who ‘arrived’ upon ‘the land’, contributed to a rural dispossession by way of a truly primitive accumulation and who thus served to reinforce a particular model of rural citizenship which remains unchallenged in its role of perpetuating an extractive food system? In Jamaica, Olivier, a 19th century governor and former land reform advocate in the Fabian Society argued that the Jamaican peasantry of the hamlets beyond plantations should be encouraged, theirs being a reliable form of industriousness to be emulated and encouraged. He related this model of rural industry to the outcome of a similar, and favourable colonial policy in South Africa and KenyaKenya—other British settler colonies—that promoted resettlement-through-farming with varying levels of violence [35
]. The farmer, in these ways, became an icon of local productivity and land management, espousing worthiness and nationalist loyalty, especially within the context of a colonial framing of progress and the territorial expansion of its ontologies of ‘progress’.
However, what the foregoing history also provides is a warning against arguing for the predictability of localism in rural food production as a key, or sole argument of the rural campaign politics of food sovereignty. Whilst it provides a model of land occupancy and farmed provision, it does not provide in all instances for all people. Food purchasing which favours a local marketing opportunity may also be as a result of defensive politics. Holloway and Kneafsey [82
] have revealed that, in fact, the popularity of localism may be associated more with parochialism and nationalism than the ethics of community or care. Agyeman [83
] demonstrates, when speaking of Just Sustainabilities
, that often the application of the term local
on its own cannot secure the concerns mostly touted as supportive of local agriculture (freshness, healthiness, ecological, etc.) for all
the buyers in a locality. He argues that there needs to be an application of food justice considerations that enable agricultural production in a locality to meet the needs of marginalised communities of all kinds [83
]. This draws attention to the use of the term ‘consumer’, which we criticise as a term that limits the scope of interacting with food, as it reinforces the status of what is produced from the earth as a commodity, rather than its having a value as nourishment and social instrument within complex local, global and cultural landscapes. Use of the term ‘consumer’ also renders invisible the relationality of people to the earth, in a matrix of socio-cultural and spiritual relationships, in which food may be but one ingredient of what makes up a matrix of nourishment. Even the term ‘producer’ is one that limits the discussion to one that concerns a particular local politics of land ownership, rather than factoring in the different productive creativities and capacities at all scales across the entire food scape. One can include, for example, the artisanal processing skills used in transforming a single item or a range of agricultural items into further products. Such a definition can also include the school cook, working mother, celebrity chef or fast food outlet manager, all of whom are engaged in the system of food production for those who eat. This might include the farmer, who may live in a city and avail themselves of a late night takeaway which they have played no part in bringing to the marketplace. There are complexities to be considered in evaluating localised and globalised food systems and one has to reflect upon the various socio-technical components embedded in either of these scales [84
]. We understand, therefore, that the historical, political and cultural play a major role in determining meaning and implication for the systematisation of food. Especially in its role in providing nourishment.
What we have learned from the Food Journey©
is that many of these considerations are not routinely applied by many of the actors within the food system itself, including within scholarship and activism. We wonder to what extent buried psycho-social elements are the cause for what feels like amnesia or blindness to the realities of injustice across a consideration of food system realities. We might be reminded that Venice was, early on in European history, one of the pioneer colonists engaged in a market economy around food. Even though it placed some priority on guarding against environmental degradation, its eventual collapse was due to internal, institutional weaknesses in relation to the politics within which it was embedded [85
]. The current global order is really a composite of many sub-systems but it has a central logic that strongly appeals to a colonial rationalistic order: modernity’s capitalism. Ingrained in this order is a historical heart of violence which frequently denies itself at the cliff face of activism and academic praxis. Scholarship arising out of the borderlands of resistance/resilience is challenging this silence and creating out of what Lethabo King [12
] refers to as shoals: vibrant new imaginaries based on a range of interfaces on the other side of the abyssal line. These are complex coalitions that can yet create a new model of humanity which can offer both care and nourishment.
5. Colonialism and Its Legacy
No empire has been established through peaceful processes. No empire is an exception to this, regardless of the claims of modernity’s amnesic positionings.
“Britain’s empire was established, and maintained for more than two centuries, through bloodshed, violence, brutality, conquest and war.” [86
It is difficult to adequately describe, in a brief intervention, the many narratives of conquest and control, between the 11th and 20th centuries, that accompanied and accompany the privations and deprivations carried out in the name of seeking an unending and perverse fiscal and capital growth [7
]. The terrors of enforced labour that enabled this have been variously captured across post-colonial literature, critical analyses and historical testimonies. To a lesser extent (but not less significant), the specific ways in which women’s bodies and labour have underpinned the patriarchal ascendancy of the colonial ‘project’ has also been documented in feminist and other literature [42
]. During this period, systems of colonial impositions were established, through a restructuring of knowledge and assertions of power [10
]. These defined both international and domestic impositions and their interwoven physical, procedural, governmental, economic, social and cultural landscapes to produce a systematisation of material extraction and plantation production for cash export. The sourcing of both agricultural and forest produce across the colonised landscape was based upon violent modes of extractivism. So much so that the very language, positioning and practice around modern food/non-food supplies reflect the residual trauma of this violence now commonplace. We speak, for example, of food chains
and labour as hands
There are many examples of plantation crops: tea, sugar cotton, tobacco, rubber and oil palm. One of the distinct aspects of these crops is that they are all species that are grown in an intensive way outside of their centres of biodiversity. This has generally meant that they have been involved in large scale extraction and theft of plant growth material, and large quantities of labour have been commandeered to ensure a particular productivity. This most often means that people, as individuals, families and communities, have experienced reduced opportunities to invest in their own livelihoods and put their creative human faculties to optimal best use. The products of these crop species are often exported as raw, or minimally processed, commodities for conversion into a higher value product that is a luxury or non-essential purchase, having qualities that are perceived as enabling those that purchase them from a global north market, to experience a contribution to their overall quality of life. The consequences of this demonstrate exemplar subsets of a food system involved in a net transfer of benefit from the global south to the global north, even without considering all the accessory costs to people and environment associated with the bringing of these primary products to market. It is why they reflect an undermining of the humanity of one set of peoples over another and cannot be understood as just, in a global northern market, or nourishing, never mind be truly regarded as exemplars of what it means to operate a fair trade.
Historically, the political and economic activities of London, Bristol, Birmingham and Liverpool, for example, positioned these cities as key centres for organising the development of institutionalised commerce through transnational corporations, speculative trading and mass consumption marketing. As the imperial capital of the British Empire, London particularly developed major financial centres supportive of the growth of the industrial-extractive matrix of coloniality and, thus, the development of the capitalist mode quite directly. London’s human geography and place names attest to its central role in colonial exploitations, from the Guildhall to Elephant and Castle, and there are tours to be taken which explore these features [93
]. The most lucrative and well-established of these centres involved the production, processing and marketing of oilseeds, cotton, tobacco, rubber, tea, coffee, sugar, bananas, pineapples, coconut, rice and a range of spices. The organising logic behind this can be understood as the basis of what is now described as the industrial ‘food system’. These economic relationships served to increase the power of corporations, established initially in the interest of extracting resources and commodifying free labour for industrial production. Additional activities were to procure insurances, to make speculative investment and for the regulation and transformation of the exported primary produce and access to wider markets for British manufactured products. Increasingly regimented modes of enslavement enabled the forcing of increasing productivity of cotton, for example, which drove the industrial revolution in Britain [81
]. The significant increase in investment, productivity and profit set in train modernities based upon new kinds of materialism associated with increasingly consumerist lifestyles, creating the anchor points for the industrialisation of agricultural production.
Although protests against the mercenary nature, cruelty and unchecked power of early colonial monopolies, such as the British East India Company were voiced by Adam Smith, Edmund Burke and others [94
], the political power of established high society, the landowning class, including the crown, were too deeply invested in the growing commodity markets, industrialisation and the many commercial opportunities that existed. Empire building is, of necessity, a ‘project’ of the imperial power of the ruling elite and it is they who supported, engaged with and in many cases initiated and financed mercantilism and ‘discovery’ expeditions to far-away places [95
]. Not only this, but the legal systems of imperial control, in which the enslaving of Africans was enabled—using commercial law—also provided royal agents, as merchants of the seas, with authority to alienate ‘property’ in the name of the crown [97
]. Although common law in Britain ascribed to English labour the status of freedom within the patriarchal setting of the household, the royal prerogative classified enslaved Africans to be commodities, alongside redwood, guinea grains and elephant’s teeth, in conformity with the Navigation Act [97
]. Yet, parliament attempted to bring this commercial or mercantile law under common law practice, so as to benefit the nation more generally from the wealth that was being generated. By the time crown or state governance began to recognise that the overseas monopolies were too powerful and difficult to control as corporate entities, they had already used their access to home government to establish their foothold. They were now semi-autonomous and there were fewer courses of action available, except for the enforcement of taxes and tariffs with qualitative and quantitative regulation [98
]. These arguably are the precedent for today’s border controls of tariffs, quality and custom controls managing food circulations. Abolition’s key proponents—Wilberforce, Sharp and Ramsay—argued for what was felt to be a more sympathetic, ‘regulated’ liberty under patriarchal servitude—hence invoking common law. This neither enabled a genuine freedom for the enslaved African, or a reduction in the ‘fruits of enslavement’—the commodified produce of the plantation—but had similarities with Adam Smith’s moral philosophical approach [100
]. Furthermore it was argued by them that a natural increase in labour numbers, through encouraging the survival of offspring [101
], would replace the need for imported ‘chattel’, thus enabling the 1807 legal, but not actual, end of the slave trade that was becoming increasingly difficult to economically justify [102
]. It is in this way that colonial legal systems served to underpin a deep and abiding vested interest in exploitative economics. What might be the latter day legal correlates within coloniality, applicable to food sovereignties where political sovereignty is insecure? How is ‘cheap food’ justifiable in relation to its undermining of justice and democratic ideals globally?
Coloniality constructed its own world, one which, to date, is responsible for the way in which the Western world is fed, and defines its food institutions and their relationships: grower; processor and distributor (of commodities, including labour); and finally, trader and consumer. The food industry, founded on risk-taking, free or low-cost labour and speculative trade has helped to inform normative views of the value of food, that is to say, the expectation of cheapness and standardisation. It also prefigured the modern stock market, futures markets and the continued metropolitan management of international commodity exchanges.
Agricultural production for the former colonised nations, became significantly orientated towards an export/cash, externalised economy and the socio-cultural systems upon which this relies becomes subverted to meet these ends [42
]. Many of Fanon’s writings of the era [103
] and more recently writers such as Torres [32
] and Grosfoguel [105
] elaborate on the enduring political power of coloniality to subvert economics of resilience as well as regional and local autonomies. Other Southern scholars [11
] dedicate their work to the psychology of coloniality and how colonised educational, linguistic and socio-cultural systems supported an internal colonisation which suppressed voice, agency and, in many cases, effective resistance to these devastations and their impacts. Coloniality, therefore, subjectifies the violence ingrained in these food flows as it rationalises them to be a part of an objective food system. It is a given that we have all now internalised this violence as part of an acceptable norm. Resistance therefore requires the conscious practice of a decolonial mode so as to highlight and recognise that everyday practices are also complicit in many aspects of the ongoing perpetration of violences. It is a part of the reflective practice of The Food Journey©
to help draw out these everyday blind spots and contradictions. This is part of a reflective, shared and embodied experience that participants engage with partly during and also after the performative experience.
6. Decolonisation and the Pluriversal
We agree with Grosfoguel [105
] in asserting that any universalist claim must be informed by a broad based ‘epistemic tradition’ obtained from pluriversal knowledges in critical dialogue with each other and mindful of the influences of the colonialities of power and knowledge. This hearkens back to Santos’s ‘ecology of knowledges’, which is not purely a claim for ‘inclusion’ because the credibility of cognitive constructions is measured by the capacities for real world interventions. These must be assessed not only with rational analysis, but with a rooted ethical-political stance [8
]. The pluriversal arises out of the idea, best expressed by the Zapatista as:
“a world in which all the other worlds co-exist” [106
A decolonial project will refuse forms of knowledge that propose to be universal but yet remain exclusionary, and it will re-signify a power and knowledge matrix based on those whose praxis is to be found on the other side of the abyssal line [107
]. Both Verges and Glissant [13
] speak of creolisations as resistances that arise out of the contacts and conflicts in different parts of the world, in which different cultures encounter themselves. Such meetings are spoken of as unpredictable and able to open radically new dimensions of reality that are emergent and creative. Even within Europe there are historical schisms within encounters. Suarrez-Krabbe [108
] speaks of the Black Legend
, which relegated the early colonisers of Africa who were from the Iberian peninsula as inferior to their more northern European ‘elites’. There is a complex history within Europe that is linked to the different, national or regional engagements with slavery and colonisation and their respective current political and economic status [109
], which requires further exploration and which is a major subject in and of itself. This, too, requires addressing so as to lay open the entwined and detailed narratives of early colonialism with its implications for the multiple movements of peoples in both directions between the occident and orient, and so one might better understand the ingredients of true food and nourishment democracies and the relationalities that might enable them.
Critical to understanding Wynter’s thesis, Mignolo [15
] describes the three concepts she draws upon. The first is Maturana and Varela’s Autopoiesis
, which claims a creative freedom to lay the foundation of what is seen/believed and can re-code radically free thinking. The second is C.L.R James’ Pieza
framing, which encodes a colonial estimate of the colonised as being less than full measure of a person (a piece of a man
). The third is Frantz Fanon’s Sociogeny,
which frees the colonised body to determine its own subjective reality and own development trajectory. Wynter draws on these to produce an epistemic shift: a Decolonial Scientia
that unfocuses the imperial gaze—decentring the colonial and refocuses a radical decolonised imaginary. The critical point of this is understanding that race is not located in the body but is built in the social imaginary of the coloniser who asserts an abyss, or colonial difference. What this enables is a decolonial delinking from an ontogenesis that objectifies ‘the other’ as a colonial object. This enables the colonised to understand herself as a decolonial subject within her own life.
What does this decoloniality therefore imply, in terms of food system changes, together with the prospect of more relational connections with those others, on the different sides of the abyssal line? It requires a recognition of all beings as having rights as free humans, and of the opening up of hegemonic thinking to pluriversal considerations. As such it is, fundamentally, a more-than-emancipatory move. According to Bogues [49
] emancipation is not a valid form of freedom. This is because emancipation simply expresses a movement away
from what had formerly constrained it. It is decolonial, but not yet a movement towards a self-realisation/actualisation. To be free means to inhabit oneself autonomously within a creative matrix that recognises a new vision of the human unconstrained by the colonial wound described by the violences spoken of in this intervention. The new vista of the human in Wynter’s words should be accompanied by the history of all living organisms, factoring in all the alternative stories [15
]. What we have here is beyond even Mignolo’s entanglement of several cosmologies connected by a power differential [110
]. It is beyond colonial Man1/2 and experienced as the human, which will also factor in a complexity of imaginaries that defies categorisation, as it is forever moving and evolving and learning [12
], Hall and Tandon [112
] and Shilliam [35
] have written widely on how a combined decolonial/pluriversal approach might revitalise existing systems of production across both academic and design systems. Discourse common to this enterprise might include the creation of relational and non-dualist ontologies, inter-beingness, radical equality and non-hierarchy. However, coloniality in the form of modernity persists in offering only its
reading of alterity. Such forms tend towards being still predominantly white, male and of a class that is best referred to as ‘universalised’ within the academy [35
]. This modernity will need to offer itself up for deeper dissection or reflection or to allow itself the radical vulnerability of hearing its founding story through the filters of colonised bodies: such as within experiences offered by The Food Journey©
and other processes of somatic analysis and recovery.
As such, whilst pluriversality is to be lauded as an aspirational project, it still has to find routes into challenging the ways in which it is held transfixed by the shame of what lurks in its past and impinges upon its present. The surfacing of the sensory, through the embodied remembrances of The Food Journey©
, appears, from feedback, to enable a subtle and personal access to feelings provoking catharsis in the participant, through a private accessing of shame. These feelings often enliven subsequent discussion taking the form of a release, without calling in individualised condemnation. Perhaps it works through enabling the ‘traditional technology’ of the Akan principle of Sankofa
], which might be instructional for pluriversalising this work: it is acceptable that one returns to the past to pick up that which might serve one in the future
. It asks, in other words, and for private contemplation: what is it that you can collect from your own past to transform your present and so contribute to shaping a collectively, restorative future?
Food sovereignty, in our opinion, has yet to fully embrace such a pluriversal approach which integrates a quest for localised food autonomies with what Alkon and Agyeman [114
] have referred to as Just Sustainabilities
(incorporating critical and historically conscious approaches to race, gender and class in the context of environmental and food justice). We hope that this intervention enables such a dialogue to prompt meaningful debate of the need to revisit food systematisation through an ecology of decolonial/pluriversal approaches.
7. Bringing Healing ‘Home’/Processing Violence
A European anti-racist organisation defines a mass atrocity as:
“…a deliberate, systematic attack on civilians. And like past atrocities, it is being committed by a complex organizational structure made up of people at all different levels of involvement” [115
Where, in the context of mass atrocity, Mohamed [51
] describes ‘perpetrator trauma’ as the experience of the active agent committing violence in the way described above, we are reminded of our own analogy of the ‘man beating the dog’. Mohamed speaks of the ways in which the perpetrator possesses, in cases of mass atrocity, an ‘ordinary humanity’ and that insight into the actions of such perpetrators (for they tend to be numbered in hundreds or thousands) enables us to ‘grasp history in its full dimensions’. Through acknowledging this we are able to understand that we all need to face our actual and potential capacities to contribute to ‘colonising’ (as in claiming the territory of another/others) and thus perpetuate violating ways. Fanon [103
] recognised the broader, social power wielded by colonial psychiatry against the mind of the colonised, within the context of the violence of the colonial encounter. What he did, therefore, was to draw attention to the coloniser as a traumatised perpetrator of atrocities, not just in Algeria, but systematically, across the globe [103
]. Further to this, we suggest that by applying the model internally, together with the experience of The Food Journey©
, that every participant is able to recognise that at some point in their lives that they play all three roles: dog, man beating the dog and the observer. Applying this, we might find one of the most potent contradictions within the food system: that both those who produce and those who consume are almost equally subject to the violence of the ways in which food is circulated and these violations of distribution take on a sharply classist, sexist, ableist and racist formats [35
The universalising tendency of the Euro-American-centred academic canon must also be problematised in its occupation of the leading edges of current discourse around food sovereignty, agroecology, rights to food and food as a commons [116
]. These critical issues cannot be expanded upon here; we lack scope, but we note that some core difficulties are captured [117
] by referring to what happens when distinctively Western or global north perspectives are conflated with ideas of developmental modernities. In the course of seeking solutions, modern, individualist mentalities are a source, rather than solution, of global inequality, and a more equitable world requires cultivation of mentalities attuned to the interdependence of everyday life [108
]. In this respect there is much to learn from the collectivist, interpersonal and interdependent concepts of Ubuntu, Iwa Pele, Sumak Kawsay, etc., as elaborated by people of the global South, often termed indigenous, who are knowledge holders and practitioners of these social technologies.
Summoning a cathartic remembrance, rather than a trauma of past violation, then remains challenging. The holding on to an unexplored trauma, according to Mohamed [51
], might accompany a predisposition towards further violations and, unchecked, blocks the possibility of aspiration towards atonement and a making-good through reparation. Cathartic transformation of one undergoing a provocative experience requires not just a visual stimulant, but an eliciting of all the senses in a radical act of embodiment, such as can happen somatically, as can take place in The Food Journey©
. In this experience it invokes an experiential voyage across the landscapes appropriated by imperialism. In this way it offers an insight into the underside of the historical experience and to its consequences, which impacted—and continues to impact—both coloniser and colonised. It encourages a reflection of the learning that accrues when we are able to process knowledge without the dominance of the visual sense: the imperial gaze. This is an embodied way to access facets of colonialism less explored, as both guide and witness. It brings together a discourse between different sensing of human experience to allow the possibility of recognising unaccounted for ‘bodies of history’.
When historic atrocities (genocides) [7
] have been normalised within logics of ‘methodological imperialism’ [11
], it can disable a listening-to-self, as a form of critical discernment. The man-who-is-beating-the-dog cannot then be understood as one who also requires help or assistance because we/he too suffer/s in some way. As such, we fail to critically engage with the situation in which we/he act/s out the trauma, repeatedly. There is a strong possibility that we will persist in regarding this acting out as normal or inevitable, exhibiting the same traumatic behaviour on multiple occasions. It is important to note that two significant aspects of trauma are: diminished empathy and the avoidance of reminders of the initial trauma [51
]. To understand the suffering of those who are oppressors and the dynamics between them and those they oppress requires that we also consider the observer’s own position in relation to witnessing emotional trauma. Mohamed [51
] calls for this to be recognised, noting that there is a need for a wider audience to recall and acknowledge the source of the trauma, and that it be ‘made legible, spoken of and heard’. Do we, as observers, fully comprehend the nature of colonial atrocities, or have they been so buried in a national amnesia so they contribute to a deepening of ‘undone science’? Lacking marginalised perspectives would mean an ongoing insufficiency of tools to dismantle the systems which are failing to nourish all of us.
Within the western academy, Cartesian alienation of the body has been mainstreamed: identifying thought as superior to feeling: the mind as superior to the body and situating all knowledge production within a Universalist axis, as this is, of course, the university. All of this occurs despite its complicity in engaging in epistemicides and knowledge appropriation as part of the coloniality of knowledge transfers [118
]. Can the sites of this rationality embrace and work with the value of embodiment: using the body—and differentiated bodies—as sites of diverse knowledge production within the academy? Can we, in activist-scholarship return to the body of the Earth to seek healing through embodied relearning of its multiple ways, accessed through multiple bodies: in pluriversality? Violations of the long, colonial era held a rationalism of perceiving
some human bodies solely as factors of production and therefore not as humans who held a connection to earth and with the agency of shared custodianship. It is this gaze
which requires extinguishing for the reparations of relationship to gain ground. This is a necessary decolonial act for any form of systemic toxicity to be healed. We have to admit that what we have systematised between us is failing us. It is not a system of nourishment of all bodies, yet this is what is needed, more than ever. To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr, “A threat to nourishment anywhere is a threat to nourishment everywhere”, such is the nature of interdependence that we inhabit. The abyssal line must be identified as a gulf in the capacity of the human to reimagine ourselves as all healed, as all beneficiaries of the Earth’s bounty and as all responsible for caring for all of her dimensions. The system needs healing, not merely fixing. We have maybe only just begun to recognise that the more fundamental undernourishment of the body of the planet will be experienced by all of us. It is the mould of coloniality that causes it to be experienced more by some than others, but in the final analysis we will have to admit, we all belong to Earth, so we will all be subject to Earth’s reciprocities.
8. What Truths Ahead
We have spoken of ‘truths’ because unless those of us who, invisibilised on the other side of the abyss, affirm a presence—a truth—we will remain footnotes of a history to which we have not voluntarily contributed our part. The journey of this intervention has taken us through a particular unmasking of the colonial and presented a possible way of sensing the experience of it within an embodied triad of perpetrator, victim and observer, as well as through sensing, by way of the body, a timeline of the colonial. We have, throughout, explained why the food/commodity system has been constructed from the schism of a traumatised mind that, in actively disengaging from the body, introduced terrors and violences into the world at one end of the scale and at the other end, within the everyday, has created many obstacles to resilient self-organising. We trust that our argument, which states that a system premised on co-ordinates of anti-humanism—though it declares otherwise—cannot nourish anybody, not even itself, and has supremely failed to nourish the body of the planet, which is, as a result, experiencing multiple, connected, global failures.
This intervention, in problematising the Euro-American concept of the ‘food system’ demonstrates its co-constitution within a colonial history of capitalism and the colonialities of power, knowledge and being that accompany it. These colonialities are instrumental to the creation and maintenance of earth-dividing global ontologies, but they have not yet succeeded in totally obliterating the emerging radical imaginaries seeding the freed minds of those on the other side of the abyssal line. It is the responsibility of sites of knowledge production, whether in the academy or the ‘field’ to keep the substrate fertile, organic and clear of toxins. What this means in practice is that elite knowledge producers need to be aware of their own blindspots and assumptions and propensities to shy away from fostering more pluriversal approaches or the encouragement of knowledge ecologies, especially as these pertain to what resilience, sustainability and self-organisation can mean both in practice and theory.
We suggest that the metaphor of the imaginal cell [119
] enables us to access a way of sensing what upheaval is present in the world. This is the upheaval that results from the failures which arise from the mental construct of separation between the overrepresented Man [10
] and the humans who are the marginalised majority of the earth. Being an imaginal cell means being extremely focused whilst being in the midst of confusion arising from the dissolution of the continuous present. This is the trauma of the dog, the man and the observer, who represent aspects of our colonised humanity. This confusion is the context of what the transformative mode demands of us now. Will we engage more tools that support thinking, being and doing decolonially? What can the role of transformative, somatic tools be, such as The Food Journey©
, in academic praxis? We present the ideas of theorists who, emerging out of encounters across the abyss, are the ones who are heralding new forms. Their ideas converge in what Lethabo King [12
] refers to as ‘black shoals’: encounters across ecologies of knowledges and experiences with the capacity to generate new beings that can ascend, that can fly, or at least negotiate turbulent waters [12
]. However, within the imaginal cell, before the moment of transformation, there is an intensity of resistance from the dying caterpillar cells within the self-made cocoon. It is this resistance that is also a site of trauma—that which arises from the loss of an old order. Having struggled through layers of internal challenges, butterflies, as such, come to represent a vital, evolved form. Within this metaphor we can find our possibilities of healing.
Theories of solidarity arise in the global north and propose alliances. Jennings [120
] speaks of three forms of solidarity: a standing up for, with or as the ‘dispossessed’. This intervention challenges such positionality which is still premised on the separation and otherising, which does not propose that the object of the solidarity, herself, be able to define what her own stance can mean to be materialised! Self-organisation implies free access to the diversity of conceptual and material resources to determine for oneself and one’s community, without obstruction, what is going to enable one to sustain oneself and be resilient. This means being able to be a part of defining, designing and determining the parameters of systems that nourish, based upon one’s own cosmological understanding of what nourishment constitutes. What we propose are relevant, relational, non-hegemonic systems of nourishment for all, in which the self, of self-organising, includes the wider ‘self’ of one’s environment and community. It is a pluriversal move towards healing. One which acknowledges our diverse ways and equally diverse encounters in what Glissant [13
] calls a ‘poetics of relation’; a possibility that from ‘the archive(s) of the ordinary’ there can be acts of ‘radical imagination’ [49
] to counter resistances to the domains of nourishment, which we argue offer a far more complete concept than food, if what is required is a modality of complete healing of all the bodies of the earth.
The practice of research cannot be premised on a singular cultural framing that imprisons or enslaves some scholars whilst liberating others in ways that render them inclined to colonise all available academic territories. Were the ethics of research, especially that with international implications, orientated towards the kind of sociogenic praxis that enabled all parties ensure their outputs were genuinely (a) interdependent and (b) worked towards healing, would we not all benefit? We have identified that work deepening the relationship between embodiment, knowing and nourishment will be very relevant to a future direction of research that addresses justice and sovereignty issues, in an interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral way, so as to access all of the domains that lead to full and sustained nourishment. Finally, we urge further research that is able to explore the effects of the applications of empiricist, positivist and rationalistic science on ontologically/epistemologically differently constructed environments, to make obvious the need to bridge the abyssal divide, whilst simultaneous work is carried out to build knowledge ecologies that are just. It will be more relevant to the scope of this intervention if more joined-up research can make these determinations prior to entering the field. This is particularly relevant in the light of the applications of the Global Challenges Research Fund and the politics of participation in international development partnerships [121
], where sufficient cultural and epistemological sensitivity needs to be applied to ensure the ethics described above are effectively applied.
Our argument has been premised on the need to explore our complex historical relations, yet we nevertheless urge that the time of accountability is in an ever present now. The earth is at a tipping point. It cannot, we cannot, afford irresponsibility: a shirking of the ability to respond. Food sustainability has many ingredients, one of which is how the different communities across the planet can self-organise to be resilient. We argue that this self is pluriversal, is ecological, and operates through and in the body to generate knowledge and praxis that stays in the body. We all stand to benefit from a greater understanding of the range and variety of qualities and values that can grow or diminish our capacities for resilience. We need to learn to embrace knowledge beyond what our eyes can see and to trust knowledge arising from the body, and all bodies. These discussions are but primers. There is much more we can be open to explore, but we trust that these basic premises have offered (plenty of) ‘food for thought’.