Gastrophilanthropy: Utopian Aspiration and Aspirational Consumption as Political Retreat

Patricia Mooney Nickel, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Angela M. Eikenberry, University of Nebraska at Omaha


In this paper we inquire into the practice of gastrophilanthropy—the individualized consumption of food products under the aegis of philanthropic action. In particular, we examine the case of the philanthropic cupcake. By positioning gastrophilanthropy within the complex of consumption and social relations of power we attempt to shed light on why it has become so well accepted in society today and how the impulse to consume and the impulse to be philanthropic relate to each other and to the contemporary political moment. We question the transformative impact of gastrophilanthropy on those who practice it and on those for whom it is supposedly practiced.