University of Cambridge > > Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Seminars > Chiles in Mexico: History, Flavour, and Belonging

Chiles in Mexico: History, Flavour, and Belonging

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The Chile crop is iconic due to its flavour, cultural, and symbolic qualities. Unlike other staple crops or grains, its role as “basic” in many global cuisines is not related to calories but to taste and spice. More so, chile’s diversity of forms and varieties abound. From commodified and uniform products in big supermarkets to local heterogeneous fruits in desserts and house-gardens, this crop is the subject of big international investment, national genetic breeding programmes, and situated embodied knowledge transmitted from generation to generation. Why and how do aspects like flavour and identity matter when defining crops’ value? How are these discourses created and who validates them? This dissertation analyses how by failing to integrate other world views and concepts of value beyond science and genetic resources, institutional crop research and conservation efforts, such as seed banks, overlook knowledge that is essential for the continued existence of biocultural diversity. The key argument of this work is that carriers of knowledge beyond institutions, such as local cooks and communities, are the ones to actually perpetuate and conserve most diversity through everyday practices such as cooking. By calling for the inclusion of often neglected ways of knowing, I contribute to food security, sovereignty, and crop conservation studies by thinking beyond calories or famine, and centring more on value and care.

About the speaker: Daniela is a biologist converted historian of science working on cultural understandings of crop conservation and the intersections between food security and sovereignty. Her PhD explores how subjective elements such as flavour, identity and senses of belonging have an impact on the way crops are valued by different groups. She investigates different ideas of loss and imaginary futures to understand how crop conservation efforts are conceptualised and whose knowledge/participation is considered – or not. Her focus is to explore alternative and more inclusive ways of doing history, such as participatory-action research and the co-creation of past, present, and future narratives.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Seminars series.

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