Cooking Up A Second Act: Narratives of Entrepreneurial Domesticity in a Postfeminist Neoliberal Economy

Kimberly Nettles-Barcelon, Women & Gender Studies, UC Davis

Situated within post-feminist debates about women’s work within and outside the home, this project examines the rise of middle and upper-middle class women food entrepreneurs. Drawing primarily on narratives appearing in mainstream women’s magazines (e.g. O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, MORE Magazine, The Martha Stewart Living Magazine, and Where Women Cook) and book-length culinary memoirs published within the last decade, this project explores how these women’s embrace of food work as both joyful expression of creativity and critique of still-dominant modalities of work and family engagements is represented as a sort of new women’s movement. Their celebratory tone belies the degree to which the individual choices of these women to “find themselves” through food work misses both the inequalities within food production and masks the larger economic crisis that often fuels reinvention. Critically and sadly, featuring this new “creative class” of women food workers does not make more visible the work of women of color and immigrant women often laboring in the very kitchens of the middle- and upper-middle class women food entrepreneurs whose stories receive glossy media coverage. The project seeks to illustrate the persistent tensions between feminism (as a knowledge project) and the divides of so-called productive/reproductive labor in the aftermath of the second wave of the feminist movement, and to examine how the debate in popular culture about the nature of women’s work has intensified as our economy both contracts and expands in critical areas.

Kimberly D. Nettles-Barcelon joined the Women & Gender Studies faculty in 2001. Prior to coming to Davis, she received the Ph.D. in Sociology from UCLA and, subsequently, held a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and a faculty position at the University of Memphis. Dr. Nettles-Barcelon conducted field research in Guyana with the Red Thread Women’s Development Organisation. Based on that research she has written, in her Guyana Diaries: Women’s Lives Across Difference (Left Coast Press, 2008), about Black and East Asian women’s activism in Guyana using a narrative strategy combining ethnography and autobiography. Most recently, Professor Nettles-Barcelon has been active in research on the politics of race, gender and food. She serves as the faculty advisor for the Davis Humanities Institute’s Critical Studies in Food and Culture research cluster (http://people.lib.ucdavis.edu/~davidm/CSFC.html) and is a member of the Multicampus Research Project on Food and the Body (http://foodandbody.ucdavis.edu/). Additionally, Dr. Nettles-Barcelon is the Social Science Book Review Editor for the journal Food and Foodways (http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/07409710.html). Her current research and teaching interests include issues of critical feminist pedagogy, intersectionality; ethnography, autoethnography, and narrative writing; consumption, authenticity and culinary tourism; feminism and food; women entrepreneurs.