EMPTY FRIDGES By Dr. Pamela Chrabieh
My relation to food has never been an easy, rudimentary relation; on the contrary, I have always experienced food as more than food: food as peace and war, exile and belonging, exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism, unity and diversity; food as contradictory emotions, fluid frontiers, interpenetrations, and grey zones. This multilayered experience formed both the conscious and unconscious cornerstone of the Peace Education approach I started to develop when I first taught at the University of Montreal in Canada in 2004. At that time, using food to teach about Religions of the World and Interreligious-Intercultural Dialogue was a novelty. My students were pleasantly surprised and my colleagues intrigued. I developed my food-related activities based on my own experience with food and used my stories and my students’ as my framework. It took me several years, three countries, five universities, and thousands of students to be able to improve the practice, gather data and analyze it, understand its impact and validate or deconstruct the Food Studies theories I became familiar with later on. This deconstruction-reconstruction is ongoing, but it has become extremely challenging with the multiform crises hitting Lebanon since 2019: political, socio-economic, sanitary (with the Covid-19 pandemic), and the impact of the third-largest non-nuclear blast in the history of mankind. What can our individual and collective relationships with food be when poverty continues to surge — with more than 50% of the population living under the poverty line –, when the currency lost more than 80% of its value, when unemployment has risen to more than 35%, when divisions among Lebanon’s political and sectarian factions are marking our everyday life (including food security), when people fight in supermarkets, and when most fridges have become empty? How can we think of food, and what roles can it play when everything is falling apart?
Pamela Chrabieh holds a Ph.D. in Theology-Sciences of Religions (University of Montreal, Canada). She is a scholar, university professor, visual artist, activist, writer, and consultant with more than 20 years of multidisciplinary and international experience and expertise in university teaching (Lebanon, UAE, Canada), academic research, visual arts, art direction, communication, content creation, writing, project management, training, and conference/workshop/webinar organization. Dr. Chrabieh is the author of numerous books, book chapters, academic papers, and online articles. As a visual artist, she has exhibited her work in Canada, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Italy. Since 2017, Dr. Chrabieh has been the owner and director of Beirut-based SPNC Learning & Communication Expertise, and the Nabad by Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture (nabad.art) Program Manager since 2020.