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Entering the Public Sphere

May 1, 2009

The past semester, I spent much time, perhaps too much time, contemplating the role of citizens in the public sphere. In class, we debated the role of government and the individual, as well as whether subjects have agency. We talk about humans as bodies, which live in a system that controls our cultural trends. We become bodies of consumption. Always the optimist, I do not like the concept of bodies who can not dialogue with the state structure. I will not remain a victim of institutional problems.

I believe that blogging is a moment to pass information, with the hope for agency. My students blog about their readings in my history class, which they analyze scholarly works and their frustrations with history. I started debating blogging five years ago. About that time, seems a world away, I learned that I needed to modify my eating in order to lead a normal, less uncomfortable life. When my diet changed, there was much confusion about what I could and could not eat, and I thought about writing about my diet problems. However, in the meantime, I discovered a blog by an old housemate, someone who I don’t speak to anymore. She wrote a rather mean story and comment about me on the internet. It hurt. I was frustrated. The internet creates a permanent, but fluid, forum for people to express their ideas. There is always the possibility for recourse and written revenge. Her blog raised issues I put to bed years ago. C. and F., my dear sister and best friend, calmed me with their words about how pathetic it must be to still be saying horrible words about people 8 years later. I agreed, and worried that a blog could hurt anyone unknowingly. I do not want to participate in negative dialogue. Blogs can replicate divisive social politics, which hold us in our social stagnation.

So when deciding to blog, I thought about the things in my life that I love, and create positive change. There are so many things, but most would bore everyone to death. I mean, I love sewing, but I am sure no one I know will want to hear how to make a cute onesie or pocket quilt. My PhD program teaches me so many fascinating ideas about how people operate, but I am not comprised of a bunch of theories. My life as a high school teacher makes each day an amazing adventure, but those moments are between my students and myself. However, in my life, food centers our conversation. Food bonds people. I created a wonderfully strong relationship with my mother-in-law over our love of cooking. I taught my sister how to cook when we lived together. My friends and I discuss great recipes, or have each other over to share good food. My best friend from high school peruses my cookbooks, made our dinners as teens, or cooks feasts for his adult friends.

How we cook and eat is a moment of agency as well. When you purchase an ingredient or meal, you create a small ripple in the economy towards that product. As consumers, we can create trends, and the market, even the shaky market, will follow. When I buy organic or buy groceries with no meat on the conveyor belt, I am making a statement about what people should be eating. If people stop buying processed food or meats, we can demand a better food choice. That is not to say I am a perfect consumer. There are moments that I create fissures in my movement towards positive eating. I have been known to eat Taco Bell or even, as my father loves to remind me, eat Five Guys (I was sick for 48 hours over that crack). The important message is to return to your goal the next meal. To become an agent in change, improve the condition of animals, and send a message about how you feel about your body. To eat well is to care about your body and your environment. How do you ensure change in your daily consumption?

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