Defining Local, Defining Fruit: Understanding Place and Identity Through Dragon Fruit and Tomatoes.
Humiston, Mae M.
- This thesis asks how human and non-human speciesin this case, two kinds of fruitintersect in politics, economics, formations of categories, and conceptions of scales and identities. I draw on theory about consumer and material culture, place-making, and interspecies relationships to produce an in-depth reading of tomatoes and dragon fruit that reveals their deep interconnections with the human wor... read moreld. I describe my theoretical framework and methods in the first chapter of the thesis. I also discuss how my own exploration of these fruits involved border crossings and transformations of fruits and the ideas associated with them. These two specific fruit, both native to Central and South America, are useful to investigate the mediation of identities, scales, and contexts because they are simultaneously globalized and localized in notable ways. Chapter Two traces the history of tomatoes through colonization and industrial capitalism, showing how this fruit played a central part in the development of industrialized food processing and fast food marketing and how it has become American. The chapter also explores how tomatoes have found a place in contemporary alternatives to the dominant food system, including their role in local food activism and farmworkers' rights campaigns. In a similar feat of flexibility, the dragon fruit has successfully established itself as Vietnamese, as I show in Chapter Three. Although brought to Vietnam by French colonizers, it has become a mode of Vietnamese empowerment and assertion of national identity in the face of foreign domination, notably in relation to Chinese hegemony and global capitalism. Dragon fruit in Vietnam are full of histories of colonialist domination, but are mobilized as tools for Vietnamese empowerment and entry into the global market. In my final chapter, I describe my experience marching with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers for better working conditions for migrant farmworkers in Florida. This concluding chapter demonstrates the messy, contradictory, and polyvocal ideas that fruit carries and communicates and how my ideas and my self are implicated in this messiness. As these fruit both cross and shape boundaries and borders, people use them to understand and mediate changing spaces, places, economies, and identities, including our own.read less