Foodscape Lagniappe: Philanthropy in the 'new' New Orleans

Authors: Jeanne Firth*, London School of Economics
Topics: Urban Geography, Gender, Social Geography
Keywords: food, critical food studies, foodscapes, philanthropy, disasters, justice, ethnography, New Orleans
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Washington 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In South Louisiana, ‘lagniappe’ refers to a small gift or ‘a little something extra’, and this paper attempts to understand foodscape gifts in a changing post-Katrina New Orleans. What knowledges regarding social transformation and change inform philanthropic interventions in foodscapes? What guides processes of decision making about giving food gifts, and how are these processes gendered, classed and racialized? I ask these questions in the context of New Orleans, a city where foodscape projects and interventions led by private entities—particularly celebrity chefs—have flourished post Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the federal levee system.

Drawing on my ethnographic study of celebrity chefs, community food organizations, non-elite chefs, and local feeding practices, this paper aims to determine how transformations in food systems are understood within elite interventions as compared to non-elite interventions, and how these understandings inform certain knowledges and solutions. My research reveals how chef-led foodscape philanthropy stems from entrenched inequities within the restaurant industry, and that charitable work by chefs is embedded within this world. Projects, regardless of intention, operate within a field where donors, beneficiaries and staff negotiate such troubled legacies which re-emerge and can be reproduced. Comparatively, I turn to study the work of non-elite chefs (often 'cooks') and community food organizations which have different (sometimes, and sometimes similar) visions of foodscapes in the new New Orleans.

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