Learning to see food justice
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Ethical perception involves seeing what is ethically salient about the particular details of the world. This kind of seeing is like informed judgment. It can be shaped by what we know and what we come to learn about, and by the development of moral virtue. I argue here that we can learn to see food justice, and I describe some ways to do so using three narrative case studies. The mechanism for acquiring this kind of vision is a “food justice narrative” that is particular and concrete. These kinds of stories are counter narratives to a popular and dominant “script” about food that disguises the identity of people who eat, and obscures how constraints on free choice are created by particular lived circumstances. Food justice narratives specify the social and political location of individual people who are trying to nourish themselves. Once this contextual surround is included we are in a position to ask why this person, in this set of circumstances, is impeded in their access to nutritious food. This is not a question we are likely to consider if we leave out the identity of food consumers. Food justice narratives are forward looking as well because they bring into clearer focus what actions and kinds of social activism are appropriate responses to constraints on free choice.
KeywordsEthical perception Food justice Narrative case studies Social activism
I would like to thank the Poynter Center at Indiana University for granting me a non-stipendiary fellowship during the Fall 2012 semester, which provided me with good conversation, space, and resources to work on this topic. I thank also the various audiences who helpfully commented on earlier versions of this paper at the Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum Conference, Grand Rapids, MI; the Poynter Center at Indiana University; the graduate seminar on “Food Choice, Freedom, and Politics” at Indiana University; and the Philosophy Department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Vancouver, BC. Additionally, I appreciate the anonymous reviewers of this journal for critical suggestions about how to revise and improve the main ideas I present here.
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