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Completed Project

African Diaspora Foodways Library and Database

Savannah Smith ’19 and Rachel Finn, Social Sciences Librarian (Library)

Diaspora can be defined as the dispersal of any people from their original homeland. Whether violently forced or voluntary, the African Diaspora can be perceived across space and time. Afro-foodways, or the gathering, preparation, and consumption of food within the African diaspora, is a point of entry in which to see the interconnections. It is a way to view how change and continuity have been contested through cultural production, local innovation, and globalization. In other words, we can see how culture is re-inscribed into different temporalities and spaces through the lens of food.

Regional cookbooks

This field, African Diaspora Foodways, is under-researched, but is important and is in need of more attention. The Ford Scholars project that I worked on with Ms. Rachel Finn, MEd, MSLS, took a multidisciplinary approach in order to create a multi-lingual database consisting of food plants, recipe names, cooking techniques, and botanical names and images. Along side of this, we compiled sources to expand regional bibliographies and included my research on medicinal plant uses in the diaspora as well. This online library and database is a digital resource for those that want to learn more about Afro-foodways, serves as a location for scholars who would like to conduct research in this field, and is also an act of resistance since this is a space where knowledge is learned, shared, and produced predominately by those within the African Diaspora.

Medicinal plant sources

I also had an independent study project over food sovereignty, which is a transnational peasant movement that started in the Global South that advocates for the right of people to define food and agriculture production and policy for themselves rather than working within the framework of neoliberal agriculture production. This involved going to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem as well as using the resources here at the Thompson Memorial Library. This independent project was framed in the locations of Mali and the United States, discussed the differences between food security and sovereignty, and essentially questions the discourse of development.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture