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Writer, food geographer Nabhan headlines event


March 09, 2009

Gary Paul Nabhan, Arab-American writer and food and farming advocate, will lecture on his recent book, “Where Our Food Comes From,” at a fundraising event to support opportunities for undergraduate English majors at Arizona State University. “Seeding the Future” is sponsored by ASU’s Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to benefit students majoring in English by funding opportunities for research, presentations, and travel during their undergraduate experience at ASU.

The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. April 18 in Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 S. McClintock drive in Tempe, Ariz. and will feature a silent auction with items such as cooking lessons with local chefs and food baskets. Tickets are $50 and can be pre-purchased at 480-965-7611.

“Especially during this moment of economic crisis, it is important for us to continue the department’s commitment to excellence, impact, and access for its more than 800 majors,” says Professor Neal A. Lester, chair of the English department.

“Our undergraduate majors attend and present at professional conferences, engage in community outreach projects, coordinate academic symposia, and publish three literary and creative writing publications,” he says.

Nabhan is a literary nonfiction writer and grassroots conservationist whose work has long been rooted in the U.S. and Mexico borderlands region. He is a research social scientist with a tenured professorship at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center.

Hailed for his “extraordinary ear for language” and “truly adventurous palate,” Nabhan has lectured at universities in Mexico, Lebanon, Peru, Oman and Guatemala, including Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy.

Nabhan has been featured on National Public Radio including “The Splendid Table,” “Talk of the Nation” and “Science Friday.”

His research centers on the relationship between people and plants, and cultural connections to place. His interests include ethnobotony, food geography, sustainable agriculture and fisheries, and local food systems. In addition, he studies cross-cultural trade and diffusion of rare place-based heritage foods and spices, especially when the trade is mediated by Arabic Moslem and Sephardic Jewish traders.

Nabhan has edited, authored or co-authored more than 20 books of natural history, history, travel and culinary folklore. His books include: “Why Some Like It Hot: Food, Genes and Cultural Diversity,” “Cross-Pollinations: The Marriage of Science and Poetry,” “Singing the Turtles to Sea,” “Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods,” “Gathering the Desert” and “The Desert Smells like Rain.”

He has been honored with the John Burroughs Medal Award for natural history writing, Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction, Western States Book Award, Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Conservation Biology, and Outstanding Leadership award for research from the Quivira Coalition.

Nabhan is a MacArthur Fellow and received a Pew Fellowship from the Pew Institute for Ocean Science. He received a doctorate in arid lands resource science and a master’s degree in plant sciences from the University of Arizona. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology from Prescott College.

Founder of Renewing America's Food Traditions consortium, Nabhan works with ethnic communities across North America to conserve local plant and animal foods that provide income to stay on their land.

In keeping with the event theme of sustainability, the food that will be served is locally grown, harvested and prepared. Nabhan’s books will be available for purchase and a book signing will take place after the lecture.