Photo by: Jonathan Fong

Decolonizing Foodways

Decolonzing Foodways bannerAbout the Event: 

The Food, Identity, and Representation Working Group at UC Berkeley and University of the Pacific Food Studies program invite you to participate in an evening of critical thinking and tasting at the Decolonizing Foodways Symposium. Understanding food as a site for de/colonial struggles and strategies in the ways it is produced, consumed, circulated, prepared, and represented within a transnational advanced capitalist economy, this interactive workshop grapples with what it means to liberate our diets from colonial relationships of production and consumption both in theory and in practice. Building off the work of scholar/activists Luz Calvo and Catriona Esquibel, authors of “Decolonize Your Diet: A Manifesto,” we explore and continue to question what the process of decolonizing foodways means. We ask, for example: How do we increase the vitality of oppressed and indigenous peoples, maintain the integrity of our ancestral traditions, and embrace food and ways of cooking/eating that resist subjugation and instead nourish our palates, bodies, and lives? How do we make sense of the different realities of lived food experiences across time and space, taking into account the influences of power and privilege? How might we think through the intersections of diaspora, colonialism, assimilation, generational differences, and food gentrification/cultural appropriation? Utilizing an intersectional, audience-participatory, and multi-sensory approach, this symposium will include a panel of activists and scholars and a freshly-prepared meal by local chefs that cooks up decolonizing possibilities.

The Decolonizing Foodways Symposium is a project of the “Food, Identity, and Representation Working Group” at UC Berkeley, a consortium of crossdisciplinary scholars joined together to learn, share, and create public events around the intersection of culture, race, gender, class, sexuality, and colonialism in food systems studies.


Photo of panelists speaking at event.
Photo by: Jonathan Fong

Catriona Rueda Esquibel is Associate Professor in Race and Resistance Studies at San Francisco State University. Her family is from northern New Mexico, from Los Angeles, and from Sonora, Mexico. Dr. Esquibel lives in Oakland with her partner Luz Calvo, and together they have written Decolonize Your Diet: Plant-based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing, as well as several articles on queer Chican@ cultural studies and reclaiming heritage foods.

Gail Myers is an Agri-Cultural Anthropologist. For the last eighteen years she has researched, lectured, taught, wrote about, and recently filmed 30 stories of African American farmers, sharecroppers, gardeners, and a basket weaver. Dr. Myers received her BA from Florida State University, MA from Georgia State University, and PhD from The Ohio State University. She has taught for The Ohio State University, San Francisco Art Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine’s MPH Program, Morehouse College, and Denison College. In 2004, Dr. Myers co-founded the non-profit Farms to Grow, Inc., which assists Black farmers to maintain and grow their farms. In 2013, Farms to Grow, Inc. initiated the Freedom Farmers Market in Oakland. Dr. Myers has authored several articles including “Decolonizing a Food System: The Freedom Farmers Market as Resistance and Analysis” in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.

Ron Reed is a Karuk Tribal member, spiritual leader, and traditional Karuk dipnet fisherman. He works for the Karuk Tribe of California’s Department of Natural Resources as their Cultural Biologist. In his role, Ron develops plans for eco-cultural revitalization, leads youth cultural education camps, and fosters collaborative research at the nexus of traditional ecological knowledge and Western science. Ron plays a critical role in increasing public awareness about the impacts of colonization on the spiritual and physical health of his people and on the ecological integrity of the Karuk ancestral lands. In this capacity, he co-founded the Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative, and currently serves on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Forestry Resources Advisory Board. His work has been featured in numerous news outlets including National Geographic.

Lok Siu is Associate Professor and Head Graduate Advisor of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. Her award-winning books include Memories of a Future Home: Diasporic Citizenship of Chinese in Panama and Asian Diasporas: New Formations, New Conceptions (co-edited with Rhacel Parreñas). She is also co-editor of Gendered Citizenship: Transnational Perspectives on Knowledge Production, Political Activism, and Culture. More recently, her research has expanded to include the cultural politics of food, and she has published articles and book chapters on “Chino Latino Restaurants in New York City” and “21st Century Food Trucks.” She is currently working on a book project that explores Asian Latino cultural formation.

Dawn Weleski’s art practice administers a political stress test, antagonizing routine cultural behavior by re-purposing underground brawls, revolutionary protests, and political offices as transformative social stages. She co-directs Conflict Kitchen, a take out restaurant that serves cuisine from countries with which the U.S. government is in conflict, which has been covered by over 650 international media and news outlets worldwide and was the North American finalist for the Second Annual International Public Art Award. Weleski holds an MFA in Art Practice from Stanford University and has exhibited at the Mercosul Biennial, Brazil; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose; Anyang Public Art Project, South Korea; the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco; Townhouse Gallery, Cairo; Festival Belluard Bollwerk International, Switzerland; the Mattress Factory Museum, Pittsburgh; and 91mQ, Berlin. Weleski has been a resident at the Headlands Center for the Arts, SOMA Mexico City, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts; and is a Fellow at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University.


Chefs at Decolonizing Foodways
Bryant Terry, Aileen Suzara, and Saqib Keval (from left to right). Photo by: Jonathan Fong

Saqib Keval created the People’s Kitchen in Oakland in order to imagine and support new food systems focused on social justice movement building, political education, and accessible community dining. Under his direction, the People’s Kitchen has flourished for 8 years as a sustainable grassroots restaurant model with the belief that good food should be accessible to everyone. Keval believes that cooking and eating together are revolutionary acts and powerful tools for decolonization. He was a program director at People’s Grocery and the national COLORS director for Restaurant Opportunities Center. He spent his childhood learning how to cook from his family and learned the importance of cooking with love from his grandmother’s hands. He draws both from the diasporic foods of his people and his culinary training in the south of France. Keval has helped open and manage restaurants in California, Detroit, and New York City.

Aileen Suzara is a land-based educator, writer, and passionate cook. First sparked by the environmental justice movement, Suzara links land and culture to rebuild community health. An alumni of UC Berkeley’s Master’s in Public Health Nutrition and the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems farm program, Suzara explores the potential of Filipino food culture to prevent chronic disease and restore ecological relationships. Ongoing projects include the Bahay Kubo garden project and Sariwa, a storytelling and popup dinner. When not in the kitchen or garden, Suzara is a lover of the written word. She currently serves as Hyphen Magazine’s food and agriculture co-editor and blogs at Kitchen Kwento.

Bryant Terry is a 2015 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award-winning chef, educator, and author renowned for his activism to create a healthy, just, and sustainable food system. He is currently the inaugural Chef-in-Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) in San Francisco. Terry is author of four critically-acclaimed books, including Afro Vegan, Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine, The Inspired Vegan, and Grub (co-authored with Anna Lappe). Terry’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Food and Wine, Gourmet, Sunset, O: The Oprah Magazine, Essence, Yoga Journal, and Vegetarian Times, among many other publications and television, film, and radio outlets. Bryant graduated from the Chef’s Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City. He holds an MA in History from New York University and a BA with honors in English from Xavier University of Louisiana.

The Decolonizing Foodways Symposium is cosponsored by the Berkeley Food Institute; Department of Sociology; Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management; Department of Geography; Department of Ethnic Studies; Department of Gender and Women’s Studies; Townsend Center for the Humanities; Center for Research on Social Change; Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues; Student Environmental Resource Center; Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society; Berkeley Student Food Collective; Centers for Educational Equity and Excellence; and University of the Pacific Food Studies Program.

The Food, Identity, and Representation Working Group is hosted by the Berkeley Food Institute. Current members are:

  • Alison Alkon, Assistant Professor and Co-chair, Department of Sociology, University of the Pacific
  • Hossein Ayazi, PhD Candidate, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
  • Jill Bakehorn, Lecturer, Sociology
  • Rosalie Z. Fanshel, Program Manager, Berkeley Food Institute
  • Amy Huynh, Undergraduate Student, Geography and Environmental Economics and Policy; Asian Pacific American Student Development Liaison, Multicultural Community Center
  • Marilisa Navarro, PhD Candidate, Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego
  • Melina Packer, PhD Student, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
  • Lila Sharif, Postdoctoral Fellow, Gender and Women’s Studies
  • Aileen Suzara, MPH-Nutrition, School of Public Health
  • Kara Young, PhD Candidate, Sociology

For more information see: