Food Beyond Borders: Visions of Hunting and Fishing in the Myanmar Diaspora

Principal Investigator: Kathryn Fiorella

Public & Ecosystem Health
Sponsor: Cornell University Migrations Initiative
Title: Food Beyond Borders: Visions of Hunting and Fishing in the Myanmar Diaspora
Project Amount: $149,933
Project Period: May 2022 to April 2023

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): 

The US national border is the constitutive entity around which scholarly and political discourses about the migration crisis are typically framed. This spatial marker is made visible by multiple constructions: physically by walls, visually in media circulations, and discursively through the language of “illegal crossings” and “invasions.” Yet, its presence extends beyond the point where it is crossed. As Harsha Wallia observes, border regimes, or systems of ordering, surveillance, and criminality, exist diffusely throughout a nation's interior (2021). Therefore, witnessing the continuous dispossession of migrants requires looking beyond the border’s geospatial limits. We propose a project examining experiences of Myanmar migrants in the US accessing wild foods through hunting and fishing to understand how border regimes intersect with migrant lives in places far from the border itself. Hunting, fishing, and consuming wild foods are important aspects of rural lifeways in Myanmar and carry cultural significance for various ethnic identities in the region. Migrants from Myanmar, a majority of whom are from rural and ethnic minority areas, constitute the largest group to have migrated to the US over the last decade (Monin et al 2021). By using participatory workshops, interviews, documentary photography, and fish nutrient/toxin analyses with Myanmar communities in upstate NY, our work aims to 1) understand how border regimes directly shape access to food, cultural identity, and health, and 2) reinsert migrant identities into visions of the North American landscape through narrative and photographic storytelling.