Ashanté M. Reese is a writer, anthropologist, and assistant professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C. (UNC Press 2019), which won the 2020 Best Monograph Prize from the Association for the Study of Food and Society and the Margaret Mead Award jointly awarded by American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology. She is also the co-editor (along with Hanna Garth) of Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice (Minnesota Press 2020). Currently, she is working on a project tentatively titled The Carceral Life of Sugar.
Title: Sweetness in the Key of Black: Notes on Baking and Belonging
Abstract: Few commodities have shaped and continue to haunt the lives of Black people across the diaspora as much as sugar. Yet, to only view Black people’s relationship to sugar through violent histories and presents is to miss a sweetness—belonging, intimacy, connection—that exceeds it. Inspired by Dionne Brand’s assertion that “reclaim[ing] the Black body from that domesticated, captive, open space is the creative project always underway,” (2001,43), this paper uses baking as method toward answering the question: how might we map a distinction between sugar—a product of racial capitalism—and sweetness, a necessary component of Black life?