“Letters from a Contemporary Stoic”: My 2017 Baccalaureate Service Address

On Saturday, May 13, 2017, I had the tremendous honor of addressing members of the graduating class of 2017, their friends and families, as well as faculty and staff in Houston Chapel on the campus of Randolph College.  My address, Letters from a Contemporary Stoic, urged graduates to embrace the challenge of changing a world they did not make–a world that is too often mired in hatred, ignorance, and violence.  I encouraged graduates to understand that embracing a commitment to positive change is not a monumental act of strength or skill, but a series of small choices that are wholly within their abilities to act as students of the liberal arts.

My address was inspired by Deuteronomy 30:1 1-14, 19, chosen with the guidance of the always wise and generous Rev. Marion Kanour of Grace Episcopal Church in Massies Mill, VA.

“For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. 

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.

Keynote Lecture at the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, Tulsa

Many thanks to the folks at the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities at the University of Tulsa for inviting me to participate in Something’s Brewing: A Symposium on the Craft Beer Movement.   I delivered the keynote lecture, “Craft Beer Culture: Troubling Our Thirst for a Better Brew,” on Friday, November 4.  The lecture and symposium were timely for the state of Oklahoma, which considered two referendums to modernize laws pertaining to beer and wine distribution on election day.  In addition to participating in the event I got to tour the fascinating city of Tulsa, talk to a local restauranteur, and meet the Marshall Brothers of Marshall Brewing Company, two really passionate, smart craft  brewers.


I additionally stopped by Tulsa’s NPR affiliate radio station, to do a guest appearance on StudioTulsa. Listen live at http://publicradiotulsa.org/programs/studiotulsa-895-1#stream/0.

CSA 2016: Headed to Philly

Just got the word that my paper presentation proposal was accepted for the Fourteenth Annual Conference the Cultural Studies Association (CSA).  The conference will be held at Villanova University June 2-5, 2016, striking distance to my father’s home just over the bridge in New Jersey and right next door to some old friends who live in Philly.  I am thoroughly looking forward to the conference, to visits, and in particular being able to do these things at an unhurried pace this summer.  And, of course, all suggestions for places to get a tasty or interesting bite/drink are welcomed! Details on the paper below:

commisary2From Corner Store to Commissary: Placing Correctional Food Systems in the Food Justice Movement

The corner store–its shelves packed with over-priced, highly-processed, calorie-dense, nutrient-deficient foods–has become a symbol of the crises of food access and food quality defining urban “food deserts” across the United States.  But the ubiquitous inner-city corner store has a lesser-known analogue in private commissaries that operate in a growing number of the nation’s prisons.  And significantly, product selection and pricing are not the only lines of similarity between these two retail institutions.

This paper examines the articulation of urban food systems and correctional food systems in the contemporary United States.  The analysis explores the social practices and systems of dependency that bind these retail institutions and urban communities of color.  It asserts that the corner store and the commissary share a strategic orientation to the capitalist profit imperative.  It demonstrates that both institutions are positioned to reinforce the cycle of impoverishment and incarceration by the rhetoric of individual choice–a rhetoric that is common to both the U.S. agri-industrial food system and many “good food” initiatives.  Finally, this paper argues that “placing” the correctional food system within conversations and analyses of food systems more broadly has both practical and heuristic value for the food justice movement.