Hunger shaped the early Northeast. As Native peoples fought back against the invasion of British and French colonizers, everyone experienced, used, succumbed to, and survived hunger.
Haudenosaunee and Wabanaki peoples had spent generations honing their subsistence strategies to their environments. Colonizers, by contrast, struggled to adapt to North America and found themselves deeply dependent upon Native American foods.
In response, colonists constructed myths of starving Native people to justify colonialism and spent centuries attacking Native food sovereignty.
While the colonial invasion did challenge Indigenous food traditions, these foodways have endured, helping Native communities survive centuries of conquest. As colonial attitudes toward hunger continue to predominate in the Anthropocene, Indigenous foodways offer powerful alternatives.
In Violent Appetites: Hunger in the Early Northeast (Yale University Press, 2022) Carla Cevasco reveals the disgusting, violent history of hunger in the context of the colonial invasion of early northeastern North America.
Locked in constant violence throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Native Americans and English and French colonists faced the pain of hunger, the fear of encounters with taboo foods, and the struggle for resources.
Their mealtime encounters with rotten meat, foraged plants, and even human flesh would transform the meanings of hunger across cultures. By foregrounding hunger and its effects in the early American world, Cevasco emphasizes the fragility of the colonial project, and the strategies of resilience that Native peoples used to endure both scarcity and the colonial invasion.
In doing so, the book proposes an interdisciplinary framework for studying scarcity, expanding the field of food studies beyond simply the study of plenty.
Carla Cevasco, an assistant professor of American Studies at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, will present her book at SUNY Albany for the 2023-2024 Janice D. and Theodore H Fossieck Lecture on November 13 from 3 until 4:20 pm in the Standish Room (on the 3rd floor of the Science Library, Uptown Campus). This event is free and open to the public.
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