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The Index of Public Tastes: Reading Supermarket Shelves with Tom Hertweck

Saturday | April 08, 2017 | 3:00 pm — 4:30 pm

University of the Pacific Center | 155 5th St, San Francisco, CA

Supermarkets aren’t just the most popular spaces in which consumers can gather food, they are also massive archives of eaters’ desires and anxieties indexed on food packaging. At a foundational level, food packaging provides a singular basis from which one can signal that a product is indeed edible, something not always obvious in our world of heavy processing. Whether on whole foods or scientific wonders, this text, which forms a boundary presentation of foods to their potential eaters, is a lively text that encodes and covers over issues of labor, methods of production, and affective economies that producers may want to avoid or engage when selling goods. This seminar frames the host of words, logos, and other ephemera that accompany foods into the marketplace as a form of commodity paratext, and delineates a tripartite structure for reading it. Within these modes (the objective, nostalgic, and interventionary), consumers pick and choose among political convictions, nutritional discourses, and various other aspects that provide them with value in order to feed bodies as well as identities. Equally useful for everyday eaters, critics of contemporary food consumption, and those working in food marketing, the presentation will look at key moments of food commodity paratext’s history and its contentious contemporary state. By exploring food commodity’s literary representation in the market, we will see how eaters today must read before they may eat. Attendees are welcomed and encouraged to bring along banal or intriguing food products for discussion.

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Cost: Free
Please contact organizer for wheelchair accessibility information.

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