Digital dialogues on diet: harvesting the archive for alternative patterns in Queensland food culture
Eva Phillips and Georgia Rolls

Project Outline

Digital dialogues on diet: harvesting the archive for alternative patterns in Queensland food culture investigates Queensland’s colonial history through food. The drive to seek food in known and unknown landscapes extends beyond the bowl and the fire, enabling deep inquiry on cross-cultural exchange, exploitation, and resistance. We find in food broader questions of landscape, people, and the sometimes-prickly coexistence of the human and non-human world.

This project is a meeting of disciplines. Our collaborative engagement and cross-disciplinary activity—one researcher working in archaeology, the other engaged in practice-led creative research—sparked significant moments of conversation and engagement. The outputs we present here explore tangential lines of inquiry borne from a shared pool of resources.

Georgia Rolls’ essay, ‘The politics of food: Oysters, Indigenous knowledge, and colonial exploitation’, uses newspapers, historical photographs, and cultural artefacts to investigate diverse cultural approaches to harvesting the natural world. Artistic representation and archaeological techniques, including carbon dating, oral histories, and the press, reveal how food indexes different knowledge creation, exchange, and colonial power and politics.

In a collage-based textual assemblage, Eva Phillips explores Moreton Bay’s culinary history against a backdrop provided by surveyor Robert Dixon. This feminist creative work references nineteenth-century Australian female poets, concepts of ethnographic verse, and settler and Indigenous poetics and visual art to play with ‘only absorption: made visible’ the shifting ideas of margins and marginalia. Who crafts the margins, who believe they live there, and what we can say for a more angled squint from the side-lines approach to research? Dixon’s hand has traced many landscapes along the east coast, and his time spent as surveyor in charge in the Moreton Bay district was coloured by acts of suspected mutiny and cartographical defiance—an appropriate theatrical backdrop to the convoluted text it bears.

‘The politics of food’ and ‘only absorption’ speak to each other through the past. These reflexive dialogues spring from one of our most basic needs—eating—and conjure a smorgasbord of colonial consumption; economic, political, and cultural. We hope readers engage with our work and detailed resource list in critical and creative ways.

We conducted this project on the unceded lands of the Jagera and Turrbal people. Funding was provided by Griffith University’s Arts, Education and Law summer scholars programme with the support of the Harry Gentle Resource Centre.