Research of A. Breeze Harper

About my PhD research in intersections of black feminisms, critical race theory, and food politics

Aside from novel writing, overall my research interests are in Critical Geographies of Race and Food, with an emphasis on Critical Race studies, Feminisms, and Postcolonial theories. I specifically look at alternative  health and consumption philosophies of people in the USA (veganism, vegetarianism, raw foodism, “cruelty free”, “ethical consumption”, “green consumption”, organic foods, etc).

Currently, I am investigating how black identified females:

  1. are educated to make their food and health choices and determine what is “natural”,

  2. are applying meaning and value to health and nutrition,

  3. deal with racialized consciousness in terms of spatial and knowledge production/power within the eco-sustainable food, holistic health, and “cruelty free” consumption movements in USA and

  4. perform and understand their sense of “blackness” and “liberation” through consumption (dietary and non-dietary)

As a Ph.D. candidate in geography at the University of California, Davis, I explore how Critical Race, Critical Whiteness, Postcolonial, Decolonial, and Feminist theories, can be employed as analytical tools within Critical Food Geographies. These are the research questions:

•     How are “natural”/”nature” defined within the holistic practices of females of the African Diaspora in the USA?

  1. 1. How is “natural” (i.e. “natural foods”, “natural medicine”, “natural hairstyles”) constructed within the perceptions of  certain “holistic health” and/or “vegan” practicing African Diasporic females in the USA?

  2. 2. How does their understanding speak to or against [neo]colonialism? What about within the context of decolonization?

  3. 3.  How do race, gender, and geopolitcal location influence one’s perceptions of “natural health & nutrition philosophies” vs. “unnatural”?

  4. 4.  How is “natural” rooted in the construction of the “imagined community”? How is “natural” connected to constructions of “Afrikan”, “Afro-centric” and/or “black” identity within  plant-based nutritional “imagined communities”?

•   How does whiteness, as a system & as covert and normalizing practice, shape health, food and nutrition education/learning? What does this mean for Black females' spiritual, emotional and physical (especially reproductive) health? For example depictions of bodies on vegetarian/vegan food advertisements are mostly white showing an underlying theme of whiteness = " perfect vegetarian body ". Does this affect Black females' willingness to explore vegetarianism/veganism?

• How has the stereotypical image of black females as Aunt Jemima, " cookers of fried chicken ", etc shaped how black females learn about food and nutrition?

  1. 1. In turn, how have these stereotypes help to maintain spaces of whiteness?

  2. 2. How does this myth actually help construct “blackness” in a way that many black identified people view as “authentic”?

  3. 3.What are the repercussions of this?

Other Background Information

I engage mostly in qualitative research and believe that this is a useful complement to much of the statistical information about health in the Black community. I graduated from Harvard in 2007 with a Masters in Educational Technologies. My Masters research investigated: What are the challenges that Black female vegans using vegan-based health activism face when using cyberspace to promote and network around vegan based health advocacy and awareness, particularly for the Black community? My thesis title is: Cyberterritories of Whiteness: Language, 'Colorblind' Utopias, and Sistah Vegan Consciousness. I will connect my thesis work to my most recent anthology project: Sistah Vegan! Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Health, Identity, and Society (Lantern Books, March 2010) weaves together stories, poetry and critical essays by Black identified female vegans of the African Diaspora. Click Here for more Information.

The last project I just completed is a fiction novel, Scars, that I have written. The prose focuses on the intersectionality of race, class, sexuality, rural geography, and " perceptions of White Privilege " within the adolescent identity development of a Black teenage lesbian female named Savannah Sales and how she perceives racism's effect on her life. This is the creative writing extension and complement to my 1998 qualitative research based thesis from Dartmouth College. It will be published by Black Coffee Press for 2012.

In 1998, I earned a B.A. in Feminist Geography from Dartmouth College , minoring in Women’s Studies. My thesis focused on Sexual Orientation Identity Development in Rural spaces, drawing heavily on Michel Foucault. It is entitled Foucault and the Heterosexist Panopticon. This can be downloaded from here: The theorists and writers I have largely developed my research and inspiration from are: bell hooks, James Baldwin, Michel Foucault, Dick Gregory, Frantz Fanon, Katherine McKittrick, June Jordan, Maya Angelou, Edward Said, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Audre Lorde, Tim Wise, Thich Nhat Hanh, Angela Davis, Michelle Wright, Derrick Jensen, Lorraine Hansberry, Arundhati Roy, Arnold Farr, George Yancy and Chithra KarunaKaran.   I hope you enjoy this site and please email me at if you have any questions. 

[1] This phrasing of my interests in regards to Whiteness, food and geography comes from Rachel Slocum PhD.

Works Cited

Karunakaran, Dr. Chithra. Personal interview with professor of Sociology at    

    CUNY and former co-chair of National Women's Studies Anti White    

    Supremacy Task Force. 19 November 2006.


Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society (Lantern Books 2010) explores food politics, identity, sexuality, health, womanism, feminism, decolonization, anti-racism, eco-sustainability, and animal rights through the lens of the black female vegan experience in the USA. It is the first volume of its kind to address the racialized-gender vegan experience in the USA.

Go to
Sistah VeganSistah_Vegan.html
My Articles
& ChaptersPapers.html
Critical Race & Food Studies Intersections Listserv
Lecturing and Consulting