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Celebrity Professor Turning his Head Toward Sustainable Food at Harvard

October 15, 2008

Rumor has it that the story begins thusly: Homi Bhabha, legendary English professor, director of the humanities center at Harvard, and kind of a weirdo, meets Alice Waters at a gathering of very impressive people in Davos, Switzerland. She apparently makes an impression on him, as she is wont to do, and Homi Bhabha becomes excited about sustainable food, as he is also apparently wont to do. A little while later, he calls her up talking about a need for sustainable food at Harvard, she calls up President of Slow Food USA and former YSFP co-director Josh Viertel, and they head off to Cambridge. Find out how Anna Deavere Smith gets involved after the jump.

So far, sustainable food at Harvard takes the form of a “Food Literacy Project,”  which, as its title suggests, focuses more on information dissemination than on dining hall purchasing programs, workshops, or a farm. That might change now that celebrity professor Homi Bhabha is throwing some of his considerable clout in the direction of sustainable food and agriculture.

One student described Homi’s new interest as “not expected, but not unexpected… he kind of lives in left field.” Regardless of how he happened upon this, it’s good to have him on our side. He brought in Alice and Josh in order to help kick off Harvard’s Sustainability Week with a conversation titled “A Delicious Revolution.”

Also, he brought in playwright Anna Deavere Smith, because he had lunch with her, and why the hell not?


The West Wing, remember?

The West Wing, remember?

The conversation dealt with internationalism and diversity in the sustainable food movement, and Josh Viertel stressed the need to shift the movement from a discussion of values to a discussion of rights. Alice stressed the importance of pleasure, as usual. The classic accusations of sustainable food being an elitist movement were raised, how GMO’s are necessary to feed the world and organics are ultimately impotent, and they were dealt with the usual fashion (more information than you probably want).

Also, Ana Deavere Smith read a monologue as the character Alice Waters from her play Twilight. The real Alice was unavailable for comment on the performance.

It’s exciting to see celebrity professors like Bhabha are beginning to turn their attention to these issues, and while it remains unclear whether or not Harvard will be expanding their Food Literacy Program to a full-on sustainable food project (T-shirts around campus indicate that Harvard sucks), the increased attention from important folks can only help. Harvard recently acquired a whole lot of land in Allston, and we all know what the best thing to do with a whole lot of land is.

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