Monday, September 14, 2015

James C. Scott, interviewed in Gastronomica, The Journal of Critical food Studies.
Gastronomica has been the go-to journal for important conversations about food. With its diverse voices, cross-disciplinary mix of articles, and cross-cultural orientation, Gastronomica takes food as a starting point to probe timely and necessary questions about the role of food in everyday life. Through studies of historical trends and transformations in food and eating, analyses of the political, economic, and social dimensions of food production and consumption, research briefs on emerging issues in fields related to food research and innovation, creative reflections on the aesthetic qualities of food, and interviews with key figures in the world of food (scholars, activists, producers, and consumers), Gastronomica is at the forefront of the dynamic world of critical inquiry and debate about food.
I was trained as a political scientist and the profession bores me, to be frank. I am truly bored by mainstream work in my discipline, which strikes me as a kind of medieval scholasticism of a special kind. People ask me about the intellectual organization of my interdisciplinary work, and I have to say, it’s the consequence of boredom and the knowledge that so many other things had been written about peasants that are more interesting than anything political scientists have written about them, that I should go to those places and learn these things and read things outside of the discipline like Balzac and Zola, novels about the peasantry and memoirs. If you spend all of your time reading mainstream political science, you are going to reproduce mainstream political science. Nothing else can happen from that particular place. It seems to me, anything interesting that happens in political science is probably an import from some exotic place outside political science and I happen to go to different exotic places than other people and once in a while I stumble across something that helps me understand. The thing that attracted me to anthropology is that it insisted on a kind of eyes-wide-open fieldwork and total immersion in a peasant community and so I went from political science to a kind of anthropology envy. I can remember the first time I gave a talk when, I think it was in Toronto, and they didn’t know what discipline I came from, and they said, “Jim Scott, social anthropologist from Yale” and I thought, oh my God, I’ve finally passed. I felt so proud that they didn’t know I was a political scientist; I had succeeded in transcending my background.
Gastronomica has a chef's page [dead, now but the interviews themselves are still up] where they interview Daniel Humm, the chef and partner at 11 Madison Park

Business Insider rates it the best restaurant in America. "While the menu has changed, the decadence remains."

I have enjoyed a kind of relationship with agriculture as a mediocre farmer, as a mediocre sheep raiser, and as a mediocre beekeeper—and I’m serious about the mediocrity, I’m right there in the middle. 
The art of the designer and the happy hobbyist, without risk, not the defense attorney who defends drug dealers and killers, or the ER surgeon who loves saving lives and the danger of making the mistake that takes them.

He's happy to have "passed" as an anthropologist, and historians are an important influence, but the interviewer refers more than once to bis "intellectual project" and he doesn't challenge the terminology.

The reference to medieval scholasticism is nice.
from 2013: "Scott is an engineer of ideas defending the moral importance of a hobby."

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