Anthropologist to Discuss Food and Everyday Life in Post-Soviet Cuba

Dec. 1 lecture addresses struggles of families to survive reduced food rations as socialist welfare state declines

Hanna Garth

Hanna Garth

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Medical anthropologist Hanna Garth will discuss “The Politics of Adequacy: Food and Everyday Life in Post-Soviet Cuba” on Tuesday, Dec. 1, at the University of California, Riverside.

The lecture begins at 12:30 p.m. in Interdisciplinary Building 1113. It is free and open to the public. Parking permits may be obtained at the kiosk on West Campus Drive at the University Avenue entrance to the campus.

The lecture is part of the Sustainability Studies Speaker Series presented by the UCR Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies. The Department has launched a new bachelor of science degree in Sustainability Studies that brings science and social justice together in examining environmental issues related to climate change, air and water pollution, toxic contamination, energy demands, economic growth, agricultural production, and environmental degradation.

Garth will discuss how families struggle to maintain a decent quality of life as the socialist welfare state declines in post-Soviet-era Cuba.

“With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and ensuing loss of its most significant trade partner,

Cuba entered a period of economic hardship known as the ‘Special Period,’” she explained. “As the government continues to recover from this recession, cutbacks have been made to the 50-year-old food ration, still the central source of food for most households.”

Garth studied 22 households in Santiago de Cuba to identify how families engage in a stressful struggle to acquire food, analyzing their efforts to assemble a “decent meal,” “a morally laden local social category wherein families determine whether food quality and cultural appropriateness meets their standards.” She introduces the concept of the politics of adequacy as a way to illuminate issues related to food security, food sovereignty, and the politics of distribution.

Garth is a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at UC Irvine. She is a sociocultural and medical anthropologist who studies how marginalized communities struggle to overcome structural violence. Her recent research is focused on the connections between food systems, structural inequalities, health, and well-being. She focuses on how scarcity and reduced access to affordable food influence individual and household stress levels, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as Latino and black communities in the United States.

She earned her B.A. at Rice University with a triple major in anthropology, policy studies, and Hispanic studies; a Master of Public Health degree international health at Boston University; and a Ph.D. in anthropology at UCLA. She is the author of several publications, including a recent article published in Food, Culture & Society, and she edited the volume “Food and Identity in the Caribbean” (2013, Bloomsbury).


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