I am now Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper…and you all helped to make it possible
Today it became official: I am Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper. Thank you to everyone who helped to make this possible.
The photo above is of me holding my baby daughter this morning with the document stating I have been awarded my PhD.
Dissertation Title: Vegan Consciousness and the Commodity Chain: On the Neoliberal, Afrocentric, and Decolonial Politics of ‘Cruelty-Free.’
In this dissertation, I analyze how neoliberal whiteness, race consciousness, decolonization, and anti-racism operate within three different vegan food guides: PETA’s Vegan Shopping Guide, Queen Afua’s Sacred Woman, and Food Empowerment Project’s Ethical Food Choices. PETA, Queen Afua, and Food Empowerment Project are all located within the landscape of vegan politics to produce “ethical” spaces across multiple scales (i.e. consciousness, the body and the home). However, these three sites represent different engagements with food commodities for achieving ethical consumption. Such differences are not so much about food, as much as they are about the social, political, and economic relationships underlying the food commodity chain. This manuscript will reveal that these ‘differing’ vegan guides, actually effect and are affected by whiteness; both in its historical (i.e. colonial whiteness and Jim Crow segregation) and contemporary forms (i.e. neoliberal whiteness). These connections will be revealed and articulated through the primary framework of critical race materialism and the lens of critical food studies.
Chapter two is titled “’Never Be Silent’: On Trayvon Martin, PETA and the Packaging of Neoliberal Whiteness”. Vegan tomato products and So Delicious® are advocated as “cruelty-free” in PETA’s online Vegan Shopping Guide. I will engage critical race materialist and decolonial analysis of the meanings PETA has applied to these two commodities. Such analysis will reveal how PETA’s marketing of vegan products, as “cruelty-free,” conceals human exploitation that makes these foods possible. I also show how PETA’s ‘anti-racist’ use of Trayvon Martin’s 2012 murder for their new campaign, signify how both post-humanism and post-racialism work to conceal the violence of neoliberalism and racism.
Chapter three is titled, “Feed a Wom[b]man, Feed the Black Nation: Afrocentric Vegan Politics and Queen Afua’s Kitchen.” Queen Afua is one of the most popular and widely read health activists amongst Black women in the USA. In this chapter, I analyze the food that Sacred Woman recommends or abhors to ‘purify’, ‘decolonize,’ and ‘liberate’ Black Americans from legacies of colonialism and racism. First, through an Afrocentric framework, I show how Afua’s vegan philosophy resists anti-black conceptualizations of Black women as “unfeminine” and “breeders.” After this analysis, I use Black feminist theorizing to explore how the meanings Afua places on particular vegan commodities simultaneously reproduces heterosexist, ableist, and black middle-class ‘reformist’ conceptualizations of a ‘healthy’ Black nation.
Lastly chapter four is named “Food Empowerment Project and the Underside of Veganized Modernity.” Food Empowerment Project (FEP) is a pro-vegan food justice organization in South Bay California. They place great emphasis on farmworker rights and alleviating environmental racism. I show that their Ethical Food Choices guide exposes how neoliberalism, corporate-capitalist profits, and hyper-consumerism dictate “ethical” vegan marketing schemes and labels such as “sustainable,” “ethically sourced,” and “Fair Trade.” They achieve this by re-signifying the neoliberal meaning of ‘sustainable’ palm oil products and cocoa, to reflect the cruel and unethical conditions they create. Analysis of FEP’s boycott of popular ‘eco-conscious’ and ‘sustainable’ labeled vegan brands Earth Balance® and CLIF Bar® will be undertaken.
Ultimately, this dissertation articulates how something as `mundane’ as vegan food guides can be used to create new critical literacies around ethical consumption and racial dynamics, as well as reveal how neoliberal whiteness operates within the food commodity chain.