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Indigenous Foods and Fibers

The Willson Center Research Cluster on Indigenous Foods and Fibers seeks to understand the underpinnings of current narratives on indigenous environmental conservation and food security.

We are a group from diverse units on campus that trust scientific and humanistic endeavors should go hand in hand in a liberal arts formation of our students. Thus, our scholarly efforts will make bridging of the sciences and the humanities possible. We aim to generate applied research to capture a larger grant to facilitate interdisciplinary research and outreach on the political ecology of indigenous revival, food security, and global change adaptation on farmscapes in the Americas transformed by non-native indigenes. By doing this, we not only contribute with multidisciplinary approaches to campus activities, but also energize campus-wide units in the overarching regional themes: Institute of Native American Studies (INAS), the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute (LACSI) and the Center for Integrative Conservation Research (CICR).

Our premises rely on the trope of food as identity marker and cultural affirmation of indigenous people amidst the pressures of globalization. At present, there is little acceptance of Western societies about the use of domesticated species selected by ancestral cultures from wild relatives. Historically, just a few crops were soon assimilated after the ‘Encounter’, as to become emblematic of European cultures —like Bell Pepper in France, Potato in Ireland, Chocolate in Belgium, Beans in Spain or Tomato in Italy. On the other hand, despite of being significantly more nutritious or tasty —like Kinwa, Lulu, Chamburu or Tarwi, other cultivars from the Tropical Andes were not popularized in the West. The United Nations' International Year of Quinoa (IYQ) in 2013 is an example of the need to highlight this trend of renewing ancestral staples. Thus, we would engage our research into a better understanding of spatialities of indigenous foods and fibers in the hemisphere.

List of Cluster Core Members

Dr. Fausto O. Sarmiento (PI). Geography; Dr. Leara Rhodes. Journalism; Dr. James Reap. Historic Preservation; Dr. Dory Franklyn. Crop and Soil Science; Dr. Luke Naher. Environmental Health Science; Dr. Susana Ferreira. Environmental Economics; Dr. Cari Goetcheus, Landscape Design; Dr. Eric McDonald, Landscape Design; Dr. Sujar Sharma, Food Technology, Family and Consumer Sciences; Dr. John Schelhas, Forestry; Dr. Sarah Hitchner, CICR; Dr. Maria Navarro, Ag Education; Dr. Bynum Boley, Natural Resources; Dr. Pilaar Birch, Geography; and Jose Reyes, Food Science, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

Target Outcomes

  • Panel session on Connectivity Conservation and Indigenous Foods at the Annual Meeting of SEDAAG
  • White paper on Indigenous Food for Global Change Adaptation
  • Grant proposal for international collaborative research and training
  • Undergraduate seminar on the topic of Indigenous Foods and Fibers
  • Graduate seminar on BioCultural Heritage and the new geographies of conservation
  • Hosting a campus-wide awareness campaign on indigenous Foods and Fibers
  • Community-wide campaign for Indigenous Foods and Fibers in Athens

Willson Center's Cluster description