Dying to Eat? Black Food Geographies of Slow Violence and Resilience


  • Naya Jones University of Texas at Austin


black geographies, black food geographies, slow violence, racial trauma, African-Americans, Afro-Latinx


How are Black food geographies, both geographies of emotional slow violence and resilience? Dominant directions in health-related food research emphasize how Black food choices cause (slow) death from diabetes, hypertension, and other medical conditions. Emphasis on individual behaviors can overlook how a felt sense of the food landscape matters (Hayes-Conroy and Hayes Conroy 2016). Through the frame of slow violence and racial trauma, I consider racial surveillance in the context of Black food geographies. Biomedical studies note the attritional effects of racial trauma on overall wellbeing, while other research and media continue to document racial profiling in food spaces. For this exploratory piece, I bear witness to testimonies of racial surveillance and food geographies using GIF-making, healing arts, and autoethnography. Testimonies drawn from interviews, media, and my personal experiences underscore how surveillance and its effects are very much visible and felt for African-American and Afro-Latinx testifiers as they navigate “food while Black.” Beyond countering the “invisibility” of slow violence (Nixon 2011), I explore affective and arts-based approaches to (re)presenting and feeling through Black food geographies. Building on Black geographies, I engage with Black life (not only death) by considering testifiers’ strategies for personal and collective resilience (White 2018).

Author Biography

Naya Jones, University of Texas at Austin

Naya Jones, PhD is an Affiliate of the University of Texas at Austin and Culture of Health Leader with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Agyeman, Julian and Jesse McEntee. 2014. Moving the Field of Food Justice Forward Through the Lens of Urban Political Ecology. Geography Compass 8(3): 211-220.

Ahmed, Sara. 2007. The phenomenology of whiteness. Feminist Theory 8(2): 149-168.

Alkon, Alison Hope, Yahya Josh Cadji, and Frances Moore. Subverting the new narrative: food, gentrification and resistance in Oakland, California. Agriculture and Human Values 1-12.

Alkon, Alison Hope and Julie Guthman. 2017. The New Food Activism: Opposition, Cooperation, and Collective Action. Oakland: University of California Press.

Alkon, Alison Hope and Christie Grace McCullen. 2010. Whiteness and farmer’s markets: Performances, perpetuations ... Contestations? Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography 43(4), 937-959.

American Psychological Association (APA). 2019. Physiological and psychological impact of racism and discrimination for African-Americans. https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/racism-stress

Ashoka. 2018. Can this oral history project help heal racial trauma? Forbes Magazine. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ shoka/2018/10/22/can-this-oral-history-project-help-heal-racial-trauma/#6c122a9b5147

Baker, Al, J David Goodman, and Benjamin Mueller. 2015. Beyond the chokehold: The path to Eric Garner’s Death. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/nyregion/eric-garner-police-chokehold-staten-island.html.

Bérmudez, J. Maria and Stanley Bérmudez. 2002. Altar-making with Latino families: A narrative therapy perspective. Journal of Family Psychotherapy 13(3-4): 329-347.

Black Farmers and Urban Growers (BUGS). https://www.blackurbangrowers.org/

Brewster, Zachary W, Michael Lynn, and Shelytia Cocroft. 2014. Consumer racial profiling in
U.S. restaurants: Exploring subtle forms of service discrimination against black diners.
Sociological Forum 29(2), 476-495.

Brown, Adrienne Maree. 2019. What your body has to do with social change: Excerpt from Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good. Yes! Magazine. https://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/adrienne-maree-brown-social-change-body-pleasure-activism-20190514

Browne, Simone. 2015. Dark Matters: On Surveillance of Blackness. Durham: Duke University Press.

Brison, Susan J. 2013. Aftermath: Violence and the remaking of a self. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Byars, Drucilla.1996. Traditional African American foods and African Americans. Agriculture and Human Values 13(3): 74–78.

Chan, Mary-Jean. 2018. Towards a poetics of racial trauma: Lyric hybridity in Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. Journal of American Studies 52(1), 137-163.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 1999. Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York: Routledge.

Comas-Díaz, Lillian and Gordon Nagayama Hall. 2019. Racial trauma: Theory, research, and healing (Introduction to the special issue). American Psychologist 74(1): 1-5.

Cuevas, Adolfo G., Beverly Araujo-Dawson, and David R. Williams. Race and skin color in Latino health: An analytic review. American Journal of Public Health 106(12): 2131-2136.

Daniel, Pete. 2013. Dispossession: Discrimination against African-American farmers in the Age
of Civil Rights. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Deener, Andrew. 2017. The origins of the food desert: Urban inequality as infrastructural exclusion. Social Forces 95(3): 1285-1309.

Degruy Leary, Joy. 2005. Post traumatic slave syndrome: America’s legacy of Enduring Injury
and Healing. Milwaukee: Uptone Press.

DiAngelo, Robin. 2018. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. Boston: Beacon Press.

DuBois, W.E.B. 1995. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Penguin Group.

Dwyer, Colin. 2018. Baton Rouge officers will not be charged in Alton Sterling’s Killing.

Facio, Elisa and Irene Lara (eds). 2014. Fleshing the Spirit: Spirituality and Activism in Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous Women’s Lives. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

Fanon, Franz. 1967. Black skin, white masks. New York: Grove Press.

Forsyth, Jessica and Robert T. Carter. 2012. The relationship between racial identity status attitudes, racism-related coping, and mental health among Black Americans. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 18(2), 128-140.

Greer, Tawanda M. 2011. Coping strategies as moderators of the relationship between race- and gender-based discrimination and psychological symptoms for African American women. Journal of Black Psychology 37(1), 42-54.

Gonzalez-Barrera, Ana. 2019. Hispanics with darker skin are more likely to experience discrimination than those with lighter skin. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/02/hispanics-with-darker-skin-are-more-likely-to-experience-discrimination-than-those-with-lighter-skin/

Gordon, Cynthia, Marnie Purciel-Hill, Nirupa R. Ghai, Leslie Kaufman, Regina Graham, and Gretchen Van Wye. Measuring food deserts in New York City’s low-income neighborhoods. Health and Place 17(2): 696-700.

Guthman, Julie. 2008. Bringing good food to others: investigating the subjects of alternative food practice. Cultural Geographies 15(4), 431-447.

Guthman, Julie. 2003. Fast food/organic food: Reflexive tastes and the making of ‘yuppie chow’. Social & Cultural Geography 4(1), 45-58.

Gross, Terry. 2018. Pediatrician Who Exposed Flint Water Crisis Shares Her 'Story of Resistance.' National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/06/25/623126968/pediatrician-who-exposed-flint-water-crisis-shares-her-story-of-resistance

Hadley, Craig and Deborah L Crooks. 2012. Coping and the Biosocial Consequences of Food Insecurity in the 21st Century. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 55:72–94.

Harper, A. Breeze. 2016. Doing veganism differently: Racialized trauma and the personal journey towards vegan healing. In Allison Hayes-Conroy (ed.), Doing Nutrition Differently: Critical Approaches to Diet and Dietary Intervention. Routledge: New York, pp. 133-150.

Harper, A. Breeze, ed. 2010. Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society. Brooklyn: Lantern Books.

Harper, A. Breeze. 2009. Eating stereotypes, racial healing, and looking at blackness beyond trauma. The Sistah Vegan Project. http://sistahvegan.com/2009/10/26/eating-stereotypes-racial-healing-and-looking-at-blackness-beyond-trauma/

Harriet’s Apothecary. Who We Are. http://www.harrietsapothecary.com/who-we-are

Harris-Perry, Melissa. 2014. Why does some food have negative stereotypes? https://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/watch/why-does-some-food-have-negative-stereotypes--365086787626

Hayes-Conroy, Allison and Hayes-Conroy, Jessica. 2010b. Visceral difference: Variations in feeling (slow) food. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 42(12), 2956–2971.

Hayes-Conroy, Jessica and Hayes-Conroy, Allison. 2010a. Visceral geographies: Mattering, relating, and defying. Geography Compass 4(9), 1273-1283.

Hemmings, Carrie and Amanda M. Evans. 2018. Identifying and treating race-based trauma in counseling. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development 46(1), 20-39.

Heard-Garris, NJ, M Cale, L Camaj, MC Hamati and TP Dominguez. 2018. Transmitting trauma: A systematic review of vicarious racism and child health. Social Science and Medicine 199: 230-240.

Heard-Garris, Nia. 2016. Protecting our children after the wounds of racism divide us even more. The Conversation. http://theconversation.com/protecting-our-children-after-the-wounds-of-racism-divide-us-even-more-62471

Helsel, Phil. 2018. Suspect in Kentucky Kroger shooting that killed 2 people pleads not guilty.

Holt-Gimenéz, Eric. 2013. Food security, food justice, or food sovereignty? https://foodfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/BK16_4-2010-Winter_Food_Movements_bckgrndr-.pdf. Food First.

Jones, Naya. 2019. Virtual exhibit: Dying to eat: Black food geographies of slow violence and resilience. https://www.nayajones.com/slowviolence

Jones, Naya. 2018. “It tastes like heaven”: Critical and embodied food pedagogy with Black youth in the Anthropocene. Policy Futures in Education 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1177/1478210318810614

Johnston, Josee, Michelle Szabo, and Alexandra Rodney. Good food, good people: Understanding the cultural repertoire of ethical eating. Journal of Consumer Culture 11(3) 293–318.

Keating, AnaLouise. 2008. “I’m a citizen of the universe”: Gloria Anzaldúa’s spiritual activism as catalyst for social change. Feminist Studies 34(1-2): 63-69.

Kwate, Naa Oyo A. and Melody Goodman. 2015. Racism at the intersections: Gender and socioeconomic differences in the experience of racism among African Americans. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 85(5), 97-408.

Kwate, Naa Oyo A. and Shatema Threadcraft. 2018. Dying fast and dying slow in Black space: Stop and frisk’s public health threat and a comprehensive necropolitics. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race 14(2), 535-556

La Via Campesina. 2003. What is food sovereignty? https://viacampesina.org/en/food-sovereignty/.

Lee, Michelle Elizabeth. 2017. Working the Roots: Over 400 Years of African American Healing. Wadastick: Laurel Hill.

Lobo, Michelle. 2014. Affective energies: Sensory bodies on the beach in Darwin, Australia. Emotion, Space, and Society 12, 101-109.

Lorde, Audre. 1984. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. Berkeley: Crossing Press.
Masters, Tatiana, Taryn Lindhorst, and Marcia K. Meyers. 2014. Jezebel at the welfare office: How racialized stereotypes of poor women’s reproductive decisions and relationships shape policy implementation. Journal of Poverty 18(2):109-129.

McCutcheon, Priscilla. 2019. “Peace be still’: Rediscovering my spirit through agrarian fieldwork. Post-workshop Symposium: “Let Justice Roll Like Waters”: The role of spirituality in African-American Environmental Activism in the US South. Antipode. https://antipodeonline.org/201617-recipients/iwas-1617-kohl/

McCutcheon, Priscilla. 2016. The ‘radical’ welcome table: Faith, social justice, and the spiritual geography of Mother Emanuel in Charleston, South Carolina. Southeastern Geographer 56(1): 16-21.

McCutcheon, Priscilla. 2015. Food, faith, and the everyday struggle for Black urban community. Social & Cultural Geography 16(4): 385-406.

McGlotten, Shaka. 2014. A brief and improper geography of queerspaces and sexpublics in Austin, Texas. Gender, Place, and Culture 21(4): 471-488.

McLeary, Kelly and Amir Vera. 2018. A video of Black men being arrested at Starbucks: Three very different reactions. https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/14/us/philadelphia-police-starbucks-arrests/index.html. CNN.

McKittrick, Katherine. 2016. Diachronic loops/deadweight/tonnage/bad made measure. Cultural Geographies 23(1): 3-18.

McKittrick, Katherine. 2011. On plantations, prisons, and a Black sense of place. Social & Cultural Geography 12(8), 947-963.

McKittrick, Katherine. 2006. Demonic grounds: Black women and the cartographies of struggle. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Mitchem, Stephanie. 2007. African American Folk Healing. New York University Press, New York.

Mohatt, Nathaniel Vincent, Azure B. Thompson, Nghi D. Thai, and Jacob Kraemer Tebes. 2014. Historical trauma as public narrative: A conceptual view of how history impacts present-day health. Social Science and Medicine 106: 128-136.

Nadal, Kevin L. 2018. Microaggressions and Traumatic Stress: Theory, Research, and Clinical Treatment. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Nettles-Barcelón, Kimberly D., Gillian Clark, Courtney Thorsson, Jessica Kenyetta Walker, and Psyche Williams-Forson. 2015. Black women’s food work as critical space. Gastronomica 15(4): 34-49.

Nixon, Rob. 2013. Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Boston: Harvard University Press.

Nicole, Candice. 2016. Black lives matter meditation. http://drcandicenicole.com/2016/07/black-lives-matter-meditation/

Padilioni Jr., James. 2018. Dignity, work, and race capitalism. https://www.aaihs.org/dignity-work-and-race-capitalism/. Black Perspectives.
Palmer, Tyler. 2017. “What feels more than feeling?”: Theorizing the unthinkability of Black affect. Critical Ethnic Studies 3(2), 31-56.

Parker, Kim, Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Rich Morin, and Mark Hugo Lopez. 2015. Chapter 4: The multiracial experience. Pew Research Center. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/06/11/multiracial-in-america/st_2015-06-11_multiracial-americans_00-04/.

Penniman, Leah. 2018. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land. Chelsea: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Ramírez, Margaret Marietta. 2015. The elusive inclusive: Black food geographies and racialized food spaces. Antipode 47(3), 748-769.

Reese, Ashanté. 2019. Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C. Chappell Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Reese, Ashanté. 2018. “We will not perish; we’re going to keep flourishing”: Race, food access, and geographies of self-reliance. Antipode 50(2): 407-424.

Richards, Marie-Louise. 2018. Hyper-visible invisibility: Tracing the politics, poetics, and affects of the unseen. Field: A Free Journal for Architecture 7(1), 39-52.

Ritchie, Andrea J. 2017. Invisible no more: Police violence against Black women and women of color. Boston: Beacon Press.

Robertson, Eric C.J. 2014. ‘Shopping while Black” Vine Rashid Polo: If profiling keeps happening, I’ll have to record it. https://www.theroot.com/shopping-while-black-vine-user-rashid-polo-if-profil-1790876505

Rouse, Carolyn and Janet Hoskins. 2004. Purity, soul food, and Sunni Islam: Explorations at the intersection of consumption and resistance. Cultural Anthropology 19(2): 226–249.

Rusche, Sarah E. and Zachary E. Brewster. 2008. “Because they tip for shit”: The social psychology of everyday racism in restaurants. Sociology Compass 2(6), 2008-2029.

Sendejo, Brenda. 2013. The cultural production of spiritual activisms: Gender, social justice, and the remaking of religion in the Borderlands. Chicano/Latino Studies 12(2): 58-109.

Sobande, Francesca, Anne Fearfull, and Douglas Brownlie. 2019. Resisting media marginalisation: Black women’s digital content and collectivity. Consumers, markets, and culture 1-16.

Slocum, Rachel. 2007. Whiteness, race, and alternative food practice. Geoforum 38(3), 520-533.

Smith, Christen. 7 July 2016. Slow death: Is the trauma of police violence killing black women? In The Houston Chronicle, accessed from www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/Slow-death-Is-the-trauma-of-police-violence-8354428.php

Sonoma, Serena. 2019. Black transwomen want the media to show them living, not just dying. Vox. https://www.vox.com/first-person/2019/6/18/18679295/black-trans-women-murder-violence

Stevens, Maurice E. 2017. Trauma is as trauma does. In Casper, Monica J and Eric Wertheimer (eds), Critical trauma studies: Understanding violence, conflict, and memory in the everyday. New York: New York University Press.

Sue, Derald Wing. 2010. Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, Class, and Sexual Orientation. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

Sue, Derald Wing, Christina M. Capodilupo, and Aisha M.B. Holder. 2008. Racial microaggressions in the life experience of Black Americans. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 39(3): 329-339.

Washington, Harriet. 2008. Medical apartheid: Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. New York: Random House.

Wertheimer, Eric and Monica J. Casper. 2016. Within trauma: An introduction. In Casper, Monica J and Eric Wertheimer (eds), Critical trauma studies: Understanding violence, conflict, and memory in the everyday. New York: New York University Press.

West, Lindsey M, Roxanne A. Donovan, and Lizabeth Roemer. 2009. Coping with racism: What works and doesn’t’ work for Black women?

White, Monica. 2019. Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement. Chappell Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Williams, David R. 2006. Race, socioeconomic status, and health: The added effects of racism and discrimination. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 896(1): 173-188.

Williams-Forson, Psyche. 2006. Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs. Chappell Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Woods, Clyde. 2017. Development arrested: The blues and plantation power in the Mississippi Delta. London: Verso.

Woods, Clyde 2007. “Sittin’ on Top of the World”: The challenges of blues and hip hop geography. In Black Geographies and The Politics of Place. McKittrick, Katherine and Clyde woods, eds. Toronto: Between the Lines. Pp. 46-81

Woods, Clyde. 2002. Life after Death. The Professional Geographer 54(1): 62-22.

Wortham, Jenna. 2015. Racism’s psychological toll. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/24/magazine/racisms-psychological-toll.html

Zook, Kristal Brent. 2015. The lessons of Jordan Davis’ murder revisited. The Nation. https://www.thenation.com/article/the-lessons-of-jordan-daviss-murder-revisited/.




How to Cite

Jones, N. (2019). Dying to Eat? Black Food Geographies of Slow Violence and Resilience. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(5), 1076–1099. Retrieved from https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/1683



Special Issue - Slow Violence (Guest Eds. Caitlin Cahill & Rachel Pain)