Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Slow seminar no. 30

Genes, Microbes, and Climate: Rethinking Indigenous Food Systems

2017.03.01 | Mia Korsbæk

Date Mon 13 Mar
Time 16:45 19:30
Location Nobel Park, Jens Christian Schous Vej 3, 8000 Aarhus C, building 1451, room 515.

Dear friends of AURA


Our next Slow Seminar has been prepared by our new postdoctoral researcher at AURA Alder Keleman Saxena.

It will take place March 13, from 16.45-19.30 at the Nobel Park, Jens Christian Schous Vej 3, 8000 Aarhus C, building 1451, room 515.



Title of the Seminar: Genes, Microbes, and Climate: Rethinking Indigenous Food Systems


The recent "boom" in research on indigenous and traditional foodways spans multiple disciplines, draws from a broad spread of geographic regions, and enrolls a wide variety of conceptual and epistemological approaches. This area of research claims renewed urgency in the context of key patterns of global change. For example, the "nutrition transition" resulting in a rise in prevalence of non-communicable diseases, including heart disease and diabetes, disproportionately affects ethnic minorities, and is frequently conceptualized as a consequence of the loss of "traditional" diets. Meanwhile, the agro-environmental impacts of climate change, coupled with accelerating rural-urban demographic transitions, pose novel threats to many of the agroecosystems that have historically stewarded and provisioned "traditional" foodstuffs. In the context of these rapid changes, the question of how best to establish dialogue among diverse communities of food systems research and practice deserves re-doubled attention.


This Slow Seminar will combine readings from the biological and health sciences with texts from human ecology, anthropology, and the popular press. Reading these texts against each other, the seminar discussion will be framed by the following questions: 

  • How can recent advances in human biology (and particularly in the study of genes, epigenetics, and microbes) illuminate the historical and embodied relationships linking specific human populations to specific landscapes and diets?  
  • How can anthropological critiques of genetic essentialism inform or transform biological and genetic perspectives on indigeneity, with attention to the risks of re-marginalizing indigenous peoples through scientific categorization and classification? 
  • Finally, what are the material and ethical stakes of these questions?

For this seminar, we will read excerpts of two books: 

  • Chapter 4 (and/or as much of the book as is interesting) of: Yong, E. 2016. I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life. Harper Collins: New York, NY. Available as an e-book from Amazon and Harper Collins. Scanned copy of Chapter 4 forthcoming to those who RSVP. 
  • Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 6 of: Nabhan, G. 2004. Why Some Like it Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversity. Island Press: Washington, DC. Available as an e-book from Amazon, and scanned copies of relevant chapters (hopefully!) forthcoming to those who RSVP. Note: this is a fast and relatively light read, and most of the introduction and first chapter are available as either free samples on Kindle, or part of Amazon's "Look Inside!" Preview.

Additionally, we will discuss the following articles (attached/linked): 


Would you please write Alder if you plan on coming so we can order enough sandwiches and so that you may get copies of the chapters.


We hope to see you there for a very interesting seminar!



Alder Keleman S.
Postdoctoral Fellow

Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA)