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:
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.