Oregon State University

Research Dr. Nancy Rosenberger

I am looking for students in the following areas:

  1.  The Dynamics of Local, Natural and Organic Foods in Japan: Production, Distribution and Consumption: From Sept 2007 to March 2008 I lived in Japan, teaching at Waseda University for one semester and spending the last month and half doing research on the topic of food in Japan. My interests took me on interviews with organic farmers and consumers concerned with quality of food as well as a study of distribution markets for local and organic foods.  In addition, a study of media and consumer reaction to a poisoning incident from pot-stickers (gyoza) made in China engrossed me because it underlined the ideological and physical stakes involved in local food (Japan-made).  All of this takes place within the larger framework of a Japan that has a self-sufficiency rate of 38% in calories, yet a continued policy of paying farmers to let rice fields lay fallow. I'll be giving several papers on this in the months to come at the National Food Conference and the American Anthropological Association meetings.
  2. Food Systems: All aspects. Oregon, especially in rural communities, but US and international included. (My work has been on food meanings, low-income problems around food, and advocacy for local food; rural Oregon, Uzbekistan and Japan.)
  3. Power and Resistance: Questions of how power and resistance operates around market, nation, and social movements. Particular interest in food, gender, ethnicity, class. US, Asia (especially Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Central Asia), international. (My work has been on power and resistance in the arenas of marriage and fertility decisions in Japan; food and nationalism in Uzbekistan; bus driver strike for economic equity in Oregon; women NGO leaders in Tajikistan; women and consumption as resistance in Japan.)

I am looking for students in the following areas: research on food consumption, distribution, production, especially in Japan, Oregon, Central Asia; research on contemporary life in Japan, especially gender, region/city, class and other differences; research on power and resistance in terms of globalization and localization; anthropological studies of consumption, media and marketing in conjunction with Jim McAlexander in College of Business.

My areas of research include but are not limited to:

  • Gender in Asia
  • Business Anthropology (microenterprise; local implications of multinationals)
  • Issues of Globalization and Localization (food security in Oregon; Asian versions of modernization)
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Community impact studies
  • Medical Anthropology (interrelation of local and cosmopolitan health systems)
  • Expertise in Asia, especially
    • Japan
    • Uzbekistan
    • Food Security in Oregon
    • Languages I have studied are:
      • Japanese
      • Korean and French
      • Currently studying Spanish and Russian

I have two areas of research and an applied project that I am currently active in: (1) Japanese women over 11 years, (2) Uzbek food culture, and (3) food security in Benton County, Oregon.

(1) JAPAN: The first area is my ongoing research on Japanese women. In 1993, I interviewed 60 single women between the ages of 25 and 35. They represented the women who were making a quiet revolution in Japan, making marriage later and childbearing optional or late. They were trying to take control of their private lives to develop "selves" with all the responsibility and freedom attached to that in the post-modern world. They were also trying to find a companionate marriage partner and to take control of their reproduction. You can read about in my book Gambling with Virtue.

I interviewed the same 60 women again in 1998 and most recently on my sabbatical in 2004 on a Japan Foundation grant. I will be analyzing the material to see how these women who challenged the status quo changed over the course of their lives and how they have articulated with the national and societal pressures for women to follow a certain life course. Some have had children and are dealing with kindergartens that tell them how they should be raising their children. Some have not married and are broadening their dreams for a more meaningful career. Some have opted out, moving to the country for an alternative lifestyle in the Japanese context. A horizontal analysis of the 2004 data will also show variations and dynamics of power within women's lives in the 35-45 age group.

(2) UZBEKISTAN: The second area is my research on food culture in Uzbekistan. From Jan to June, 2005, I was in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on a Fulbright grant, teaching at the Institute of History and interviewing people of various ages and ethnicities about food. I asked them about food preferences and everyday habits having to do with eating, cooking, serving, growing, selling, sharing, and praying about food. I found that food is very important for tying people together socially, showing status, and showcasing their national identity. It is almost as if people wanted me to ingest their national identity-based on Uzbek ethnicity-of which they are proud since independence.

On the other hand, there are many ruptures in Uzbek life that are embedded in the story of food and interact with economic hardship and political repression that Uzbeks are now experiencing. Complaints are rarely spoken clearly, but many whispered comments indicate the dissatisfaction with life as it is. Within stories about food, people's experiences of trying to maintain status via food emerge. For example, food shows big differences in the Uzbek citizenry in traditional neighborhoods between the very rich who eat meat everyday and the poor who eat it once a week at most. It shows the gap between the city and the rural dwellers-the latter having to work hard to cultivate their half-acre gardens to survive, as most land produces cotton and wheat for sale to the government. Food also questions the sameness and unity of the Uzbek nation because it shows how people are divided by ethnic and gender relations.

3) FOOD SECURITY IN OREGON: The third area is my research and an applied project directed at trying to understand and act on the food insecurity that exists in our local area of Oregon. Joan Gross and I have carried out a qualitative study with low-income people in rural towns on their food habits, food security, and other factors in their lives that makes having enough food to eat difficult. This research was done for the Benton County Food Security Taskforce in 2003-4.

In 2005-6, we are cooperating with the local Food Systems Coalition of the Mid-Valley that is also dedicated to the idea of food security- improving the production and consumption of local food and making sure that everyone has enough of the kinds of food that they want to eat. Along with students in a service-learning class and Masters' students, we are helping the Food Systems Coalition to do a "community foods assessment" in Benton County. For example, we will be assessing farmers who want to sell locally-perhaps to set up a farm-to-school program. We will work with schools to see how this could work. Other possible research projects will relate to hunger among children and the elderly; food access among the low-income community; awareness of local food problems; reasons for low food stamp usage in this county; possibility of local food processing; or ways to help immigrant farmers farm for themselves.

(4) THE DYNAMICS OF FOOD IN OREGON: In conjunction with Joan Gross and various graduate students, I am engaged in ongoing research on the production and consumption of food in Oregon.  Joan Gross and I have studied low-income people and food in rural Oregon. Through our jointly-run field school in Lakeview, Oregon, we have studied various aspects of food in this rural town from food for minorities and youth to local food traditions to changing production of food in the area.  Joan and I are also active in the Ten Rivers Food Web, which is a non-profit dedicated to increasing the consumption of local food production and consumption in a three-county area around Corvallis.  I will be following up my research on organic production and consumption of food in Japan with comparative studies of the same in Oregon.

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