Psychodietetic Narrative Remediations of Food Insecurity in African American Fiction

At the February 24, 2022 Faculty Research Lunch, Professor Lynn Johnson presented her current work on psychodietetic narratives in African-American fictions.

Professor Lynn Johnson is an Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Dickinson College. She specializes in African American literature, African Aesthetics, and African literary cultures. Her research focuses on African American literary production and theory and Middle Passage studies.

This event, titled “Psychodietetic Narrative Remediations of Food Insecurity in African American Fiction,” explores the ways in which racist and ableist ideologies embedded in the two novels Sula and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison correlate African American dietary uncertainty with pathological conceptions of Black embodiment and agency. Johnson began her lecture making a distinction between food insecurity and hunger. It is critical to understand that Black people experience food insecurity – a condition that demonstrates the lack of access to, and the lack of adequate distribution of, resources and food. As such, the issue of food insecurity speaks to the “system intersectionality” (Crenshaw 1995) that many Black individuals encounter.

Ideologies of race, class, gender, and sexuality, as well as geographical location, contribute to and exacerbate the lack of access to food and thus livelihood of the Black community. The status of food insecurity experienced by the Black community was then exploited by members of the dominant society to establish a logic that racialized bodies (Blackness) presume different dietary capabilities to produce, access, provide, and consume quality food items, compared to their white counterparts. However, in those two novels, Black characters create and use a distinct narratological mode in order to challenge this “existential exploitation” and racialized embodiment. And this is what Professor Johnson terms “psychodietetic narrative remediation.”

Written by Nhi Ly ’22, WGRC student worker

March 28, 2022