allison carruth

Allison Carruth is an Assistant Professor of English and a core faculty member in Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon. Her interests include environmental literature and media, modernist and postmodern culture, social media and globalization theory. She also has done extensive research on the cultural and environmental politics of food in the contemporary period. Her book manuscript is entitled Global Appetites: Imagining the Power of Food, and she is the organizer of the Food Justice conference (to be held at the University of Oregon from February 19-21, 2011). She is currently working on a second book project that traces shifting meanings of both environmentalism and sustainability in contemporary culture, which explores emerging ideas of green cities, urban farms and clean energy. The project looks especially at how developments in biotechnology are shaping these ideas as they are articulated in literature as well as in architecture and BioArt. Recent publications include essays in Modern DramaModern Fiction Studies and Modernism/Modernity as well as chapters in forthcoming collections from Oxford UP and Routledge and a co-edited series of reviews on the Environmental Humanities in American Book Review.

return home

The praxis of environmentalism has recently undergone a phase change, moving somewhat away from the movement’s concerns with wilderness protection and resource conservation to new investments in environmental justice, urban ecology and resource creation. We see striking evidence of this shift in the work of avant-garde artists and architects who are making use of biotechnology to generate a radical food politics. This talk will examine three such projects, all of which employ the techniques of molecular genetics and tissue culturing. The BioArt collective known as Critical Art Ensemble melds participatory art, tactical media and molecular genetics to challenge the control that corporations now exert over both agriculture and human health. Their project “Free Range Grain,” which led to the prosecution of artist Steve Kurtz and geneticist Robert Ferrell in 2004, invites participants to bring food samples from home and test them for genetically modified elements. By comparison, the “Disembodied Cuisine” experiment at Western Australia University’s SymbioticA Centeris a conceptual art project that creates new foods, a project that explores the ethics of meat sources comprised of cultured tissue and polymers instead of flesh from domesticated animals. Finally, architect Mitchell Joachim’s “In Vitro Meat Habitat” suggests that that the contemporary city may all but require biotechnology to be ecologically sustainable. Closer in spirit to “Disembodied Cuisine” than most built architecture, Joachim’s designs for the habitat posit cultured meat, rather than natural resources, as the material for building new homes and perhaps whole cities in the twenty-first century.

Food Culturing : A New Environmental Ethic?