Each spring, the College of Liberal Arts engages a speaker for the Distinguished Scholars presentation aimed at drawing attention to one or more of the disciplines within the liberal arts, to appeal to the general public and to faculty and students by illustrating high intellectual achievement. Programs are of general humanistic appeal with interdisciplinary topics. The speaker is asked to make one public presentation and one presentation to students.
Coconut Controversies Gone Global:
A Case Study from Ecuador
Pilar Egüez Guevara, PhD
March 1, 2024
12 p.m. | Kleymeyer Hall
For centuries coconuts have been a dietary staple and a potent identity symbol to communities of African descent living in Esmeraldas, a tropical region in the northern Pacific coast of Ecuador. However, today Esmeraldans shy away from eating this and other local and traditional foods out of fear of getting sick. The film Raspando Coco unravels the controversies overeating coconut in Esmeraldas, which are largely rooted in the clash between Western medical beliefs and local food traditions., People throughout the global tropics, where coconuts are a culturally meaningful food, share similar stories. Thus, blame and guilt are part of people’s experience of eating coconut-based and other traditional foods today in the Ecuadorian coast, and around the globe. In this talk, I will discuss the broader historical and ideological context that explains these controversies, and address some of the questions posed in the film: How do rural communities in Ecuador experience food and identity in the face of global pressures from Western medicine and food industry agents to make "better” choices? How do older adults make sense of their early-life memories about traditional foods and health practices in today's urbanized/medicalized world.
About our presenter:
Pilar Egüez Guevara, PhD is an Ecuadorian cultural anthropologist, writer and award-winning filmmaker. Over the past 20 years she has lived, worked and carried out research and community-based projects in and about Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Japan. She is co-founder and director of Comidas que Curan (Foods that Heal), an independent food education and media company dedicated to researching and promoting traditional foods and knowledge through ethnographic research and film. Her award-winning documentaries have been screened in three different languages across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia. Through her research, public speaking and films, she amplifies the voices of older men and women who are the bearers of traditional knowledge about food and medicine in Latin America. She has brought this work to communities in Ecuador through filmmaking and research education projects, as well as to US college students in the United States through film screenings and lectures. She is a published author and speaks internationally on topics ranging from cultural history, food heritage, health, nutrition and conflict transformation. She is currently lecturer at the Anthropology Department of University of Massachusetts Amherst. Learn more at http://www.comidasquecuran.org.
Kleymeyer Hall is located in the lower level of the Liberal Arts Center, next to the McCutchan Art Gallery, on the west side of the campus.
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