I’m an anthropologist of food, economy, racism, indigeneity, and environment.

headshot 2 - mcdonellMy broad scholarly interest lies in the relationships between food culture, economic exchange, environments, and identity politics. More specifically, I’ve written about the intersections between indigenous recognition and neoliberal extraction regimes, the linkages between ideas about the curative properties of foods and global anti-hunger campaigns, the nutritional implications of boom-bust economies, the politics of agrobiodiversity as it relates to the commercialization of traditional foods, and the resonance of colonial-era discovery narratives with contemporary Peruvian chefs’ tales of lost and discovered foods.

My current book project traces the cultural politics of the quinoa boom-bust, inquiring about the ways multicultural development culinary and nationalism dovetail with global superfood economies and environmental anxieties. While rooted in anthropological theories and methods, this project is deeply interdisciplinary and converses with food studies, consumer culture studies, and agricultural economics. I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Peru, Bolivia, and the United States.

My most recent scholarly articles are “Creating the Culinary Frontier: A Critical Examination of Peruvian Chefs’ Narratives of Lost/discovered Food,” published in Anthropology of Food in 2019 (also won the Association for the Study of Food & Society’s Graduate Student Paper Award), Nutrition Politics in the Quinoa Boom: Connecting Consumer and Producer Nutrition in the Commercialization of Traditional Foods” published in the International Journal of Food and Nutritional Science in 2018 and “Miracle Foods: Quinoa, Curative Metaphors, and the Depoliticization of Global Hunger Politics” published in Gastronomica (also winner of the Schnieder Economic Anthropology Paper Prize) in 2015. I’ve also recently published a couple of public pieces, one on the quinoa bust and one on agrobiodiversity politics through the lens of quinoa, published in NACLA and EnviroSociety, respectively.

Dr. Richard Wilk and I are co-edited a volume called Critical Approaches to Superfoods, which will be published by Bloomsbury Academic in December 2020. The book examines the politics and culture of superfoods. It demonstrates how studying superfoods can reveal shifting concepts of nutritional authority, the complexities of intellectual property and bioprospecting, and the role marketing agencies play in the agro-industrial complex.

In addition to my research pursuits, I have served in various editorial positions. I was managing editor at the Graduate Journal of Food Studies and editorial assistant for Culture, Agriculture, Food & Environment, the journal for the Culture & Agriculture section of the American Anthropological Association. I also worked as editorial assistant for Gastronomica: the Journal of Critical Food Studies during 2012-13.


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