Food and Culture
College of Liberal Arts
This course will bring an anthropological perspective to the study of contemporary food systems. We will begin by explaining why people eat what they eat. Not everyone agrees on what food is, exactly, and our first task will be to try and understand how people figure that out. Although the answer may be related to the environment, it is also and profoundly determined by social structure and by culture. We will examine how the definition of food, along with the ways in which it is produced and distributed, shapes and is shaped by society and culture. We will analyze the central role food plays in the organization of kinship, relations between social classes, the practice of politics, and the shape of religious life. We will examine the relationship between changing systems of food production and distribution and the structure of societies. We will analyze food as it is shaped by culture, in the intimacy of kin relations and in our memories. We will discuss the ways our food system participates in globalization, from questions of inequality, to cultural homogenization, potential loss, and creativity. By the end of this class, you will be able to analyze global and local food systems, compare core cultural concepts about food and nutrition across cultures and societies, and critically examine the debates, policies, and social structures regarding food in contemporary society.
Older syllabi may not be applicable to the current semester. Be sure to verify content with the instructor.