The Bonderman Travel Fellowship offers University of Washington students an opportunity to engage in independent exploration and travel abroad.
Read below about where Holly & Blake will be travelling!
You are what you eat,” affirms a simple reality; food is a fundamental part of who you are. Not just that food is essential for survival, but also that it carries non-physical sustenance. I internalized this lesson through my mother’s insistence on preparing dinner every night despite working long hours. Her meals were a time to exchange stories and family values. They became a physical representation of my mother’s love. At holidays her cooking also demonstrated how food historically connects individuals to their cultural ancestors.
If I receive a fellowship, I would start traveling in Vietnam and work my way west stopping by core sites of the history of colonialism and modern food politics. Following these paths would provide insight into how cultures incorporate global phenomenon into their unique societies by looking at how meals are composed and consumed. Through the lens of street food and other common fare I could examine how average citizens interact with the broad processes of trade and development.
Looking at the global evolution of the modern food system as a consumer of global culture through regional delicacies will put me in intimate contact with the ideals I am fighting for. Interacting with people over meals that are part of their proud history and evolving landscape are what food justice is about. Seeing their faces and eating their food will personalize a lifelong cause reminding me why this work is important, and how it is always a joy.
It is difficult to get an accurate image of the world and it’s variety of cultures, never mind accurate images of individuals through media sources. As I have embarked on looking through guidebooks to map out my itinerary, I found it upsetting that the images, discourse, and suggested sights focused on the “exotic” in each country, especially countries that are considered “developing” or “underdeveloped”. Equally disturbing to me is the increasing barrage of media stories and images of religious fanaticism throughout the world as the dominant representation especially in regards to Islam. One of the reasons I would like to travel on the Bonderman fellowship is to unravel these overt descriptions, and to explore my own internalized biases, surrounding the myth of the “exotic” and the “fanatic”. I wonder how this type of categorizing, stereotyping, and flattening of ideas, people, and cultures affects the way we communicate and connect locally and internationally.
Because I believe transnational solidarity is an important factor that is often minimized, segregated to special interests categories, or left out completely from discussions surrounding globalization, I feel it is my responsibility to actively and persistently examine my role as a Western, white, female while cultivating my awareness regarding my role, my culture, and my nation’s role in differing power dynamics without presumptions of superiority, presumptions of understanding, or self hatred for privileges I possess.
Some of the questions I have been ruminating on concerning acquisition and distribution of knowledge whether through texts or empiricism are: How can we share, communicate, and commune without making statements of authority? How can we tap into power without exerting power? How can our minds, once they fix on an idea, remain flexible? How can we keep a “beginners” mind discarding the “expert?” And, how can action, empathy, and empowerment be accessed rather than guilt, sympathy, and charity? I hope my travels will help me with these questions.