Keitlyn Alcantara on Indigenous Food Habits Past and Present | eat dirt
“As I started to think more about food theories, and it’s something we do every day without fail, and it really shapes the way we interact with each other, it shapes the way we interact with our environments, the ways we network with relationships – being able to name it gave him the power to be able to use it to tap into ways of thinking about social relationships in the present and offer alternatives.
This week, we’re devoting the entire show to my conversation with Keitlyn Alcantara. She is a bioarchaeologist anthropologist at Indiana University in Bloomington, who studies eating habits as tools for empowerment.
We talk about his research on Mexican food habits during the Late Postclassic period. Using bioarchaeological methods, she studied the diet of a Mexican community that had resisted the Aztec Empire, before Spanish colonization. She was curious about the role food sovereignty might have played in their ability to resist conquest and how the community’s contemporary eating habits might be influenced by the past.
We also talk about the cooking workshops she held with Latinx college kids from immigrant communities in Nashville, Tennessee, and what she’s learning about the powerful role food can play in connecting us to our origins.
Keitlyn Alcantara started his professorship in the Department of Anthropology at IU in the fall of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. After a winter trip back to Mexico, she was inspired to start the Hilltop Healing Garden project, as a space for herself and other community members to spend time in the garden without the usual expectations found in community garden spaces. A description of the healing garden includes this passage:
“We collaborate with the garden to unlearn white supremacy practices (urgency, perfectionism, homogeneity, hierarchical decision-making, defensiveness) and creating space for multiple ways of knowing, relating to the earth and relating to each other.
Keitlyn pays tribute to Lauren McAllister from The factory truck project for contributing to this work. We address that, and more, in our conversation on this week’s episode of The Earth Eats.