Nate Gabriel
PhD, Geography
Fellow, Center for Cultural Analysis
Rutgers University
Contact me: nategabriel [at] gmail


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"Food, actor-networks, and 'the transatlantic destiny of Michel Foucault'" A paper to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (with Eric Sarmiento), April 2011.


In an intriguing but easily overlooked footnote in Reassembling the Social, Bruno Latour draws a compelling link between actor-network theory and the work of Michel Foucault, asserting that Foucault has been largely misread in Anglophone scholarship. In this paper, we explore Latour's claim and in doing so join a growing number of scholars whose work calls into question the notion that "In Foucault country, it always seems to be raining" (Thrift 2000). That is, we believe that Foucault's body of work is fundamentally interested in the productive capacity of social relations, and that the notion of discipline has been sadly misconstrued as the sole province of oppression.

After outlining a distinctly Foucauldian ANT, we suggest that it can offer a rejoinder to the work of critical scholars who conceptualize power as a limiting force in their explanations of food networks, and hence produce analyses that prematurely foreclose on an array of possibilities for fruitful(!) engagement with food.

We conclude by offering the case of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative as an opportunity to investigate a dynamic food network as an assemblage that traces relations between an array of actors exerting their wills to power and negotiating their distinct positions. We contend that broadening our understanding of 'power' in this way can produce analyses that make maximal use of actual and virtual openings and enable currently unthinkable possibilities for food provision.