Mellon Research Fellows — Food Humanities
Claire Bunschoten is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she researches food’s relations to power. Her dissertation, “Extracts, Essences, and Political Effects: How Vanilla Shapes American Life,” examines vanilla as a flavor, fragrance, and cultural signifier to reveal how it contests and reifies boundaries of class, ethnicity, gender, and race in the United States.
As an Andrew W. Mellon Humanities for the Public Good Graduate Fellow, Claire produced Nerds in the Woods, a podcast with the National Humanities Center. Her writing has appeared in Social Text, Food, Culture, and Society, Stanford Arcades, among others. She holds an M.A. in American Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill and a B.A. from Bard College.
During her time at NYBG, Claire will work with the LuEsther T. Mertz Library and Archives’ collection of monographs and records from the 19th and 20th centuries to track the efforts of the federal government to cultivate the vanilla orchid in the U.S. and its territories. Since her dissertation and future book project embrace a wide range of objects as texts, she also looks forward to spending time with the William and Lynda Steere Herbarium’s specimens.
Audrey Jenkins is working on her Ph.D. in Public and Urban Policy at The New School’s Milano School of Policy, Environment, and Management with a focus on immigration and system transformation. Her research explores the circulation, preservation, and evolution of ecological knowledge, practices, ideas, meanings, and materials in ethnically and culturally diverse communities and networks, tracing connections between immigrant experiences and social-ecological relationships.
Audrey earned her master’s of public health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in 2017 and spent three years working at NYC Department of Homeless Services medical office. Her experiences as a city worker and community member, particularly in uptown Manhattan, have grounded her work in justice, collaborative approaches, and pathways for equitable, healthful futures.
For her dissertation research project at the Humanities Institute, Audrey is analyzing data from the NYBG’s Bronx Foodways Oral Histories Project to develop a rich map of the networks of plants, seed savers, gardeners, food-based activists, and other key actors in the South Bronx. Using multimedia methods to tell the evolving stories of three locally-important culinary plants and their relationships to people in the South Bronx, this work will highlight on-going transformations in local food traditions and infrastructures.
Mellon Visiting Scholar
Matthew Raiford, author, chef, horticulturalist, and owner of Gilliard Farms grew up “breaking the dirt, raising hogs and chickens, and rarely going to a grocery store”.
His 2021 cookbook Bress ‘n’ Nyam — “Bless and Eat” in the English-based creole of the Gullah Geechee people of the Carolina, Georgia and northern Florida coasts— pays tribute to the land, food, and heritage that has nurtured his family for seven generations. A 2018 semifinalist in the James Beard Awards Best Chef in the Southeast category, Raiford has been featured in the New York Times, Bon Appetit, and Southern Living.
During the summer of 2022 Raiford is conducting research at the New York Botanical Garden for a new book, focused on collards:
“The thought of this research is to create a timeline of how the colewort name changed to collards by using historical, agricultural and culinary writings to then create a cookbook stepped in historical content. The first time I heard the name colewort was when I was having a conversation with Dr. Jessica B. Harris about wanting to do research on the collard and its underutilization in the culinary world and how kale became this household name. The Latin name for collards was only learned by me twelve years ago when I attended The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS); I remember bursting out saying, ‘wait….. there are LATIN words for collards!?’ My instructor, Owen Martin, chuckled and again said, ‘Brassica oleracea var. acephala, or Collards’.”
Urban Foodways Internship Program
Xiomara Bryan – Nutrition and Food Science, Department of Health Sciences – Lehman College
Julie D’Onofrio – Ornamental Horticulture, Department of Biological Sciences – Bronx Community College
Anastasia Genicoff – Ornamental Horticulture, Department of Biological Sciences – Bronx Community College
Nickesia Hutchinson – Nursing, Public Health minor, Department of Nursing – Lehman College
Ang Lama – Dietetics, Foods, and Nutrition, Department of Health Sciences – Lehman College
Maker Senfis – Liberal Arts, Department of Liberal Arts/Sciences & Humanities – Hostos Community College
Mellon Summer Research Fellows — Oral Histories
Nailah Garard is a masters student at Yale Black/African Diasporic Religion and Ecology. She completed her undergraduate work at Macaulay Honors College in the City College of New York where she studied international studies, anthropology, and legal studies.
Her scholarly interests include black geographies and indigeneity, eco-womanism, and black faith traditions. She also enjoys cultivating gardens, creating poetry, paintings, and visual media to create conversation and raise sociopolitical consciousness. As an artist and scholar-activist, she is deeply invested in an interdisciplinary approach to political education and creative expression.
During the Summer of 2022, Nailah worked closely with NYBG Bronx Green-Up team to identify and interview eight community garden leaders. She helped edit and transcribe the recordings and also oversaw photo shoots of interviewees and their settings by students from the Bronx Documentary Center.
Miriam Laytner is a PhD student in Cultural Anthropology at CUNY Graduate Center, where she is also a Mellon Humanities Public Fellow. Her work examines changing narratives of urban space through the lens of the multispecies landscape.
Miriam holds a BA in History from Barnard College and an MA in Oral History from Columbia University. Prior to attending graduate school, Miriam worked for many years as a scuba instructor in the Caribbean, Alaska and Australia.
During the Summer of 2022, Miriam worked closely with NYBG Bronx Green-Up team to identify and interview eight community garden leaders. She helped edit and transcribe the recordings and also oversaw photo shoots of interviewees and their settings by students from the Bronx Documentary Center.