Blog Post 1: Food Insecurity in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Omar Altimany

In The Transmission of Affect, Brennan emphasizes the idea that walking into a room and “feeling the atmosphere” is due to the transmission of affects, or emotions, as she says, “the ‘atmosphere’ or the environment literally gets into the individual” (Brennan 1). She further emphasizes that within the transmission, “there is no secure distinction between the ‘individual’ and the ‘environment’” (Brennan 6). Quite simply, the energies from other individuals enter another person and that person’s “effects” are thus transmitted outwardly to the environment. Towards the last pages of her introduction, Brennan leaves us with her main argument that includes “foundational fantasy,” in that we as individuals have a “fantasy” mindset in that “we come to think of ourselves as separate from others”  and “have the strong tendency to think in active/passive terms” (Brennan 14). We thus disregard the psychoanalytical connection between individuals and their affects.

Using these theoretical concepts from Brennan, I aim to research the food insecurity problem that plagues Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, in which individuals have insufficient funds to purchase foods and therefore skip their meals. Brennan emphasizes the notion that the individual and their environment are intertwined within the transmission of affects. More and more “hip” and “cool” restaurants open throughout Bed-Stuy and replace the local delis and bodegas within the area, in which the prices of food continuously increase based on these new restaurants. The impoverished individuals living in Bed-Stuy are nonetheless affected by the dramatic changes existing in their environment (Barker).

The second I walked out of the Ralph Avenue subway stop, I could immediately “feel the atmosphere” by not only peering at the impoverished surroundings, but also hearing the relentless cries from homeless individuals begging for money and the smell of days-old trash. However, as Brennan defines it, I attempted to “secure a private fortress, personal boundaries, against the unsolicited emotional intrusions of the other” (Brennan 10). I knew beforehand the food insecurity within Bed-Stuy and knew of the emotional impact the individuals and environment would bestow upon me, but I relentlessly told myself to stay focused on my research in discovering how this problem continuously increases and the ways of preventing it further. However, it was not until I volunteered for 2 hours at the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger kitchen where my self-containment against the affects of others deteriorated. As I assisted in handling dry fruits and vegetables to customers, I felt the most depressed when I was communicating with mothers who had the energies of sorrow all around them. Brennan defines a phenomenon where when we pick up energies around us and we relate it to our personal backgrounds, to which she highlights examples like “If I pick up on your depression, my focus perhaps will be on my unfinished book” (Brennan 6). As I politely smiled and greeted these mothers, I was returned with disheartening glances. The dispiriting energies that I was unconsciously picking up drove me to attach thoughts of the affect towards my own mother and the hardships and trauma she faced while raising me. Thus, the depressing and impoverished connection between the individuals and the environment were transmitted into me to which I responded back towards the affect of sadness. 

In relation to the connection between individuals and their environments, Jane Bennett emphasizes in Vibrant Matter that “each human is a heterogeneous compound of wonderfully vibrant, dangerously vibrant, matter” and that the vibrant matter minimizes the distinctions between objects and subjects (Bennett 13).  When objects and subjects are similar due to the vibrant matter, “the status of the shared materiality of all things is elevated” (Bennett 13). Since both humans and objects are made up of vibrant matter, humans value objects as powerful and are able to establish a strong connection with the objects. The malnourished and impoverished individuals in Bed-Stuy who come to food shelters like the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger look at selection of foods with such vibrancy to the point where the energy of the nonhuman matter shape the matter of the individuals. The objects that we see as incapable of providing “vibrance” towards us, like food, in turn actually possess an energy that is capable of influencing us. Bennett defines this phenomenon as the thing-power relationship, where both objects and subjects both contain an equal level of vibrant matter

The people within Bed-Stuy have a different relationship to the food they consume than we do at NYU. We are provided with meal-plans or money from our parents, valuable ones, jobs, etc. to purchase foods to which we plan on eating throughout the day. Therefore, we have the privilege of ignoring the vibrant and powerful matter within our foods don’t because we expect to have these objects within our environments. However, those who have insufficient funds to purchase food for themselves and their households on a regular everyday basis possess a stronger relationship to food and view them with the “dangerously vibrant matter” Bennett strongly emphasizes. While the residents in Bed-Stuy value food more than we do, because of the nature of their environment, they are unable to collect these “edible objects” on a consistent basis. The question lies, how can we provide food security to individuals living within the community of Bedford-Stuyvesant? How can we provide nutritious and affordable food despite the increase of pricy “hip” restaurants?

As I further conduct my research on this recurring problem of food insecurity in Bedford-Stuyvesant, it’s important for me to breakdown the walls of my “foundational fantasy,” as Brennan defines it, and accept that the environment and its residents will affect me with their psychological energies. At the same time, it is important for me to acknowledge how me as an outsider can affect the environment as I study the thing-power relationship between individuals and their food. 

 

 

Works Cited:

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press, 2010.

Brennan, Theresa. The Transmission of Affect. Cornell University Press, 2004.

Barker, Josh. “Food Insecurity Continues to Plague Thousands of New Yorkers.” New York Amsterdam News: The New Black View, 26 Apr. 2018, http://amsterdamnews.com/news/2018/apr/26/hunger-plaguing-new-yorkers/?page=2.

 

~ by oga217 on September 28, 2019.

4 Responses to “Blog Post 1: Food Insecurity in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Omar Altimany”

  1. Affective/Most Engaging: The narrative on the author’s visit to the location is well-written and describes the emotions they felt really vividly. It was also really interesting to read about how the author reacted to the environment versus how the community’s responses – particularly the interactions between the author and the women.

  2. This blog post is the best overall in my opinion because you engaged directly with your ecology in a concrete way by volunteering at the kitchen. The way you connect the theories presented in the reading to the physical place you witnesses is effective and visceral. Additionally, comparing the differing perspectives on food that a Bed-Stuy resident and the average NYU student would have helps put the issue into perspective for your audience.

  3. Best Overall! Your post does an incredibly good job of providing concrete examples of how the reading’s theories play out e.g. the way you apply the affect of your ecology to your personal life. I also think that you make this post very engaging, because it is personal and vulnerable.

  4. BEST OVERALL – I think this post is effective because it does a great job at introducing the issue that you are going to be studying.

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