Tainted Food and the Icarus Complex: Psychoanalysing Consumer Discontent from Oyster Middens to Oryx and Crake

Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 28 (2):255-275 (2015)
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In hyper-modern society, food has become a source of endemic discontent. Many food products are seen as ‘tainted’; literally, figuratively or both. A psychoanalytic approach, I will argue, may help us to come to terms with our alimentary predicaments. What I envision is a ‘depth ethics’ focusing on some of the latent tensions, conflicts and ambiguities at work in the current food debate. First, I will outline some promising leads provided by two prominent psychoanalytic authors, namely Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. Subsequently, I will elucidate why our chronic dependency on high-tech food production apparently fails to meet consumer needs, focusing on some scenarios of escape, such as anorexia, cultured meat and ersatz food. And I will use ‘genres of the imagination’ to flesh out how food consumption has become a podium for enacting cultural symptoms, moral outcries, provocative identities and practices of the Self. Notably, I will discuss a story by Franz Kafka, a painting by Pablo Picasso and a food novel by Margaret Atwood

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Hub Zwart
Erasmus University Rotterdam


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