Dr. Finn Speaks to Feeding Multitudes in Apocalyptic Times

This past November, SFSI affiliate and Lecturer for the University Courses Division, Margot Finn, gave a keynote for the conference Food Futures in the Anthropocene: Place-based, Just, Convivial hosted by the University of Tasmania. You can now access this talk on YouTube here. See the abstract of the talk below.

Abstract for Dr. Finn’s Talk

“The COVID-19 pandemic and experience of quarantine has made many of us newly and more viscerally aware of the insufficiencies of the liberal individual subject. Philosophers like Lisa Heldke, Ray Boisvert, and Donna Haraway and Black scholar-poets mostly of Caribbean origin like Aimee Cesaire, Edouard Glissant, Sylvia Wynter, and Dionne Brand have long been urging us to think beyond individuality and its impoverished conceptions of rights, freedoms, and obligations. In this talk, I join this chorus of voices declaring us to be fundamentally enmeshed, dependent, and parasitic on each other and ask the question: in light of our multitudinousness, how should we eat?
I examine two stories about symbiosis. The first is a story of lamentable symbiosis: Shel Silverstein’s picture book The Giving Tree and its recent re-write by Topher Payne titled The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries. The second is a story of wise symbiosis: an episode of Farscape, the Australian-American sci-fi television show first aired in 1999, in which the living ship Moya and her stowaway passengers are threatened by parasites who can produce replicants of them.
The literatures of multiplicity and stories that capture our shared cultural wisdom about symbiosis offer guidelines for multispecies flourishing. I outline four :
1) We should approach our constituent selves and symbiotic partners with curiosity; 2) We must ensure that decisions take place somehow in the presence of those who must bear their consequences;
3) We ought to prioritise protection for the poor among humans, the most vulnerable among species and populations, and more diverse over less diverse systems;
 4) We must exercise vigilance against the self and will to power.
Even if we are new to thinking of ourselves as multiple and enmeshed, we have rich repositories to turn to for advice on being good guests, good eaters, good farmers, good cooks, and good grub all throughout our dying lives and with reverence for all our devouring selves.”

Podcast Featuring Dr. Finn’s Work

The talk was also the subject of this podcast from the Penn Liberal Arts Collective: “Symbiosis: Eating and Thinking with Multiplicity in the Anthropocene”.

In this podcast, Margot Finn’s approach to the Anthropocene and her conceptualization of apocalypse is explored. She underlines the importance of the ways we tell stories about time, the future, what it means to coexist. Coexistence and symbiosis become crucial tools for the discussion of multispecies justice in food futures in the Anthropocene, elaborated through examples of eating and thinking with companion species such as the lichen, the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid, and the Matsutake mushroom.

Margot Finn points at the difference between the metaphorical distinctions between symbiosis and parasitism and the biological reality where interrelations are not usually mutually beneficial. Finn highlights the ways the pandemic has forced her (and she hopes others) into a new awareness of the dual racist epidemics of violent policing and disproportionate COVID-19 deaths in Black & Indigenous & Latinx communities.”

Margot Finn is a writer, advisor for the Student Food Co., blogger, and lecturer for the University Courses Division.