NAS Professor Jessica Bissett Perea: 'Radical Storywork: Performing Food Sovereignty through Inuit Fermentation Culture', with Prof. Maria Marco


'Radical Storywork: Performing Food Sovereignty through Inuit Fermentation Culture', Prof. Jessica Perea and Prof. Maria Marco

This course centers around Inuit knowledges and performing arts processes as a means to unsettle and expand dominant modes of knowledge production in food science research in ways that advances food sovereignty, an issue of urgent global significance.

It is framed by an analytic we call "Radical Storywork" which stems from two interrelated concepts. First, the critical explorations of storytelling in fermented food microbiology build on Cherokee scholar Eva Marie Garroutte's "Radical Indigenism"-a theoretical perspective that weaves together one's community's goals for health, survival, and growth with one's academic goals to generate new knowledge-and her call to realign the word "radical" with its Latin derivation radix, meaning "root". Through carefully curated course materials, students will learn how Inuit food fermentation practices exist in collaboration with nature (rather in control of) and how Inuit scientific knowledges demonstrate deeply rooted, or radical, relationships between human, environment, and more-than-human entities. Second, our privileging of Inuit performing arts processes (methodologies, theories, and praxes) highlight the power of what Stol:lo theorist Jo-ann Archibald calls “Indigenous storywork” and its role in the future of scientific research. For example, students will explore a range of non-fiction genres “ from academic and philosophical to artistic and embodied“ to consider what is gained and what is lost when certain knowledges are (or are not) performed in educational, cultural, and/or political spaces.

Our analyses of food sovereignty discourse and praxis are guided by the following questions: What is the significance of radical storywork in food science research? How are Inuit fermented foods represented across different non-fiction genres and how might we critically address issues such as sub/conscious bias? Whose stories matter and who decides? Instead of proposing singular truths or facts, this course invites students to consider the existence of multiple simultaneous truths, all of which are culturally constructed, performed, and in some cases politicized and policed.

Associated Artist: Planning to incorporate an Indigenous artist who share the belief that songs and subsistence are deeply interconnected ways of respecting reciprocity and responsibility one has to all human, environmental, and more-than-human relationships.

Jessica Perea

Arts/Humanities Faculty: Jessica Perea

Professor Jessica Perea, Department of Native American Studies

Dr. Perea is an assistant professor in the Department of Native American Studies at UC Davis since 2013. Prior to her appointment she received a UC President's Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Music at the University of California Berkeley where she spent her time as a researcher from 2011-2013. As an interdisciplinary scholar whose work intersects the larger fields of Native American & Indigenous Studies (NAIS) and Music & Sound Studies she specializes in Critical NAIS approaches to performance, media, and improvisation studies, and histories of Indigenous arts and activism in North Pacific and Circumpolar Arctic communities. Her research, teaching, and service priorities are informed by her lived experiences and academic training. She was born in Anchorage, Alaska and raised on her ancestral Dena’ina (Athabascan) homelands forty miles north in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. She is an enrolled member of the Knik Tribe and a shareholder in Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (an Alaska Native Corporation). Dr. Perea studied double bass and vocal performance, music education, and history at Central Washington University before pursuing an MA in Music at the University of Nevada, Reno. She completed her Ph.D. in Musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles and was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Music at UC Berkeley. Dr. Perea holds affiliations in Human Rights Studies, Performance Studies, Feminist Theory and Research, Cultural Studies, and Writing, Rhetoric and Composition Studies.

Dr. Perea’s work develops new directions for decolonial and transdisciplinary research, the significance of which has been recognized via peer-reviewed funding, presentations, and publication opportunities. Her research has been supported by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Hellman Fellows Program, the Society for Ethnomusicology, the UC Institute for Research in the Arts, the UC Center for New Racial Studies, the UC Humanities Research Institute, the UC President’s Office, and more. Her innovative research, teaching, and dedication to community outreach were recognized with a 2010 Alaska Native Visionary Award, presented by the Alaska Native Heritage Month committee and board of directors, and a 2015 UC Davis Native American Community Honoring, presented by the Native American Culture Days and Powwow Committees.

Dr. Perea received the following awards and honors:

  • 2010:  Alaska Native Visionary Award, presented by the Alaska Native Heritage Month committee and board of directors,
  • 2015: UC Davis Native American Community Honoring, presented by the Native American Culture Days and Powwow Committees.

Maria Marco

Science/Engineering Faculty: Maria Marco

Professor Maria Marco, Department of Food Science and Technology

Dr. Marco is a Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis, USA. Prof. Marco received her BS degree in microbiology from the Pennsylvania State University and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. She then worked as a postdoc and subsequently as a scientist at NIZO food research, The Netherlands where she also led a project supported by the TI Food & Nutrition. Prof. Marco initiated her laboratory at UC Davis in 2008. Her research focuses on lactic acid bacteria in food systems and the mammalian digestive tract. The broad objective of her work is to identify the attributes of microbes that can be used to guide improvements in food production to benefit human health. Prof. Marco has led numerous projects investigating probiotic Lactobacillus, emphasizing the impact of diet and delivery matrix on probiotic function. This research includes inquiry on how health can be improved by using dietary polysaccharides to modulate the structure and function of the gut microbiome. Her lab also has extensive expertise on the microbial diversity in fermented foods with specific attention to the bacterial species that have the capacity to prevent the growth and survival of foodborne pathogens and spoilage microbes. This research has received over 10 million dollars in research support from federal, state, foundational, and international agencies. Prof. Marco has mentored over 100 students, postdocs, and visiting scientists in her lab. She has over 70 publications in refereed journals and numerous patents. She received an American Society for Microbiology Distinguished Lecturer award and serves on numerous advisory and editorial boards.

Dr. Marco received the following awards and honors:

  • 1995: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Bethesda, Maryland - Pre-Intramural research training award (Pre-IRTA)
  • 2012: American Society for Microbiology - Distinguished Lecturer
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