Anticipating the HART lecture: Interview with Professor Elspeth Probyn

Are you pleased with the reception that your book (Eating the Ocean) has received?

I was delighted to have a wonderful review by Philip Hoare in the THES. Philip is such a fantastic writer of the sea and her inhabitants, and really understood what I was trying to do – perhaps even better than me! It’s early days for academic reviews but there have been a few.

Philip Hoare in THES on Eating the Ocean:  “It is one of the most profound works I have read on the sea, and the issues with which it presents us, in the 21st century, not least because it dares to digress and move into territories that other writers and academics have hitherto neglected.” Read the whole article here.

Why do we need to focus on the oceans as well as land-based agriculture in meeting the challenges of global food security?

It is estimated that the food conversion rate for beef is between 8-20 pounds for a pound of beef. 38 percent (about 730 million tons) of the world’s grain harvest is used to produce animal protein (Brown 2006). Conversely, advances in technology mean farming salmon can require as little as two pounds of feed to produce a pound of protein. Of course some of that feed has come from fish but as I discuss in my book, Integrated Marine Trophic Aquaculture holds the possibility of farming marine protein more efficiently and with relatively little ecological damage –compared to terrestrial food production.

What’s the connection between your previous work on gender and sexuality and your current work on fishing?

On the surface not a lot, but scratching the surface there is in fact quite a lot. The obvious point is that I insist on the role of gender in the fisheries. I also draw on years of intellectual curiosity to bring together many different perspectives. And finally, there is the coincidence of how “athwart” is used in maritime studies and how I have used it to conceptually queer objects of study.

What are the challenges of working across disciplinary boundaries and how have you sought to overcome them?

All of my work traverses boundaries. I often dive into questions – be it about eating, or belonging, or emotions – that require one to bring together different angles of research. I would never say that I provide an exhaustive view but rather I try to make the object or problem interesting by looking at it from different angles and depicting it in its multifaceted being.

Find out how your can attend the HART lecture on the 11th May 2017.


About Professor Elspeth Probyn

Elspeth Probyn is Professor of Gender & Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. She has taught media, cultural studies and sociology at universities in Canada and the USA. She is the author of several ground-breaking monographs: on subjectivity and gender in cultural studies (Sexing the Self), on queer desire and belonging (Outside Belonging), on eating and identity (Carnal Appetites) and on affect and emotion (Blush: Faces of Shame). Her current research, The Future of Food: the sustainable production and consumption of fish (funded by the Australian Research Council) analyses the sustainability of the production and consumption of fish, the results of which have recently been published as Eating the Ocean (Duke University Press, 2016).

About Sydney University

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