Tag Archives: Anthropology

Culture & Agriculture Tech Fellowship

A note from our colleagues at Culture & Agriculture about an intriguing opportunity:

The Culture & Agriculture Section of the American Anthropological Association aims to expand its on-line and social media presence. We wish to highlight the research and policy engagements of our members as well as to promote our peer-reviewed section journal, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE), within and beyond anthropological audiences. To this end, C&A has created a position for a tech savvy, anthropology scholar/practitioner to manage our site and, in conjunction with the Board and the CAFE editors, initiate new forms of electronic outreach. We envisage this position as particularly appropriate for an Anthropology doctoral candidate or new PhD with interests in agrifood systems, the environment, and digital media, but encourage anthropologists at any stage with appropriate background, skills, and predilections to apply. The position carries an annual award of $1500.00, with a possibility for renewal. Application materials: Please send a current CV with names of at least two referees (both academic and work-related preferred), and a letter of interest outlining relevant skills and experience. The letter should include suggestions for digital projects or activities to heighten and extend the appeal of C&A and CAFE. Examples of previous work are also invited. Please send materials to Lisa Markowitz (lisa.markowitz@louisville.edu). Deadline for applications is September 15, 2015.

Leave a comment

Filed under AAA, culture and agriculture, Food Studies

Food Heritage and Culinary Practices

sorbonne musee histoire naturelle palim

Call for papers

Food Heritage and Culinary Practices

International and interdisciplinary symposium

October 14 th -16th 2015

National Museum of Natural History

57 rue Cuvier, 75005 PARIS

We propose to bring together researchers from all fields around the core theme of cooking in order to collectively understand the construction process of food heritage. Specific combinations of ingredients and techniques, from daily, festive or professional cooking, allow achieving textures, flavors, aromas and aesthetics peculiar to a social or cultural group. We wish to combine different approaches to reach this global awareness. We will engage physicists, chemists and biologists, who work on ingredients, their origins, their properties, their processing, their impact on physiology and health, along with anthropologists, sociologists, geographers, historians, archaeologists who work on terroir, food processing techniques, old and modern recipe books, consumption patterns, representations, cultural expressions, identity and, of course, heritage.

Call for papers

We expect contributions, from all disciplines, that could enlighten our understanding of culinary practices and the construction of food heritage.

Papers may address topics such as (partial list):

PRODUCTS, TECHNIQUES AND IDENTITIES

– Evolution of practices and techniques (from prehistory to the present)

– Circulation, exchange and appropriation of products and associated knowledge

– Fermentations: implementations, diversity (meals, drinks)

– Sensory aspects

– Geographic distribution of taste and distaste

CONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT OF FOOD HERITAGE

– Origins and history of food systems

– Food diversification: management, production and use of biodiversity

– Propagations, innovations, crossings

Terroirs and territories

– Heritage scenography

MARKETING AND FOOD MARKETS: QUALITY AND HEALTH ISSUES

– Economic advantages of heritagization

– Food trade channels: quality and sustainability

– The organic sector: economic and ecological issues

– Diet, lifestyle and metabolic diseases

– The development of food preferences: generational and cultural effects

The originality of the conference largely depends on its interdisciplinary nature, which constrains the content and form of presentations. In order to favor mutual understanding and to enhance discussions, speakers are asked to position their talk in a wide framework and avoid any technical jargon difficult to understand by people from other disciplines.

For any communication proposal, please send before July 10th, 2015 a title, abstract (< 400 words) in English or French, a brief CV (< 1 page) and contact information (phone / e-mail / postal address) both to Esther Katz (katz@mnhn.fr) and Christophe Lavelle (lavelle@mnhn.fr). Authors of selected proposals will be notified by end of July.

The conference will be held in French and English

Organizers (contact)

Esther Katz, IRD – Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris – katz@mnhn.fr

Christophe Lavelle, CNRS – Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris – lavelle@mnhn.fr

Scientific committee

Guy Chemla, Université Paris 4

Renaud Debailly, Université Paris 4

Charles-Édouard de Suremain, IRD – Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris

Dominique Fournier, CNRS – Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris

Jean-Pierre Grill, Université Paris 6

Esther Katz, IRD – Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris

Christophe Lavelle, CNRS – Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris

Vincent Maréchal, Université Paris 6

Vincent Moriniaux, Université Paris 4

Emilien Schultz, Université Paris 4

1 Comment

Filed under Call for Papers, France, heritage

“It’s Kind of Cool to be a Turnip Expert”: Dr. Clare Sammells on Experiential Learning through Field Trips and Food Experts

Lauren Moore
University of Kentucky

For the May installment of the Food Pedagogy Interview Series, we hear from Dr. Clare Sammells, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Bucknell University. Her popular 200-level course “Food, Eating, and Culture” asks each student to become a “Food Expert” on one particular food over the course of the semester—a technique which brings topical depth to the theoretical breadth of the course.

If you would like to participate, or would like to nominate an excellent instructor for the interview series, please email LaurenRMoore@uky.edu.

Dr. Clare Sammells

Dr. Clare Sammells

Lauren Renée Moore: I’d like to get started by hearing a little bit about your research.

Clare A. Sammells: I conduct ethnographic research in highland Bolivia and with Bolivian migrants living in Madrid, Spain. My main research areas are the anthropology of tourism and the anthropology of food. I’m especially interested in how food is used to construct touristic experiences and ideas about heritage. So, I consider touristic restaurants and how the cuisine that’s served to foreign tourists in Bolivia is in conversation with the food people are eating in their homes and in other contexts. In Spain, I researched Bolivian restaurants that cater largely to Bolivian migrants, and investigated the challenges of producing Bolivian food in that context.

LRM: What kinds of student does the course attract?

CS: I have a lot of second semester seniors, some of whom are interested in food from the point of view of other disciplines, and some of whom have an open elective and think food sounds awesome. I agree! Most of my students are not anthropology majors, and many have never taken a course in anthropology before.

LRM: Could you tell me a little about your institutional context?

CS: Bucknell is one of the largest liberal arts colleges, located in Lewisburg, PA, which is a town of about 12,000 people surrounded by agricultural areas. We have a large Mennonite population in the area. Many who live here participate in Community Supported Agriculture programs, where they buy vegetables and fruits directly from farmers. Many people here garden, can, and engage with producing food very directly.

LRM: What do you want students to get out of this course?

CS: One of the things I do want them to get out of this is a basic understanding of the subdiscipline of the anthropology of food…. so the things that we anthropologists take for granted like, how is food a symbolic part of human existence? What do food taboos mean? How can we think about commodity chain relationships? What are the economic structures that influence what foods we have access to? Those kinds of questions.

But given that so many of my students are not anthropologists, I have a more general goal, too: I want them to think critically about where their food comes from, who’s growing it, and how one can be an ethical consumer. I would hope that after this class, they wouldn’t just go to the supermarket and pick up strawberries and buy them, but might actually think about who is growing them, what kind of chemicals are going into their production, and whether people are getting a fair wage. And I hope that my students would have some idea of how to go about finding answers to those questions.

I want them to have a better understanding of anthropology, but I also want them to be ethical eaters.

LRM: Do you feel like students leave the class as more ethical eaters?

CS: Oh, absolutely. Many students take the class because they’re already concerned about this issue. I have a lot of vegetarians in my class, for example. All the students bring in a dish once during the semester, and they socialize each other into being explicit about whether the dishes have meat in them, or dairy, or gluten, etc.

One of the things that a lot of students begin to realize in this class is how little they actually know about their food. When I point out that they don’t know where the cucumbers that became the pickles on their hamburgers were grown, or where that cow was raised, then they can see that they really don’t know that much about their food. My goal isn’t necessarily to change their food habits, but rather to encourage them to ask more questions about what they are eating.

LRM: Let’s get into your syllabus. I noticed that you incorporate a field trip. Can you tell me about it?

CS: [I take students to] Owens Farm, about 40 minutes from here in Sunbury, PA. It’s an interesting farm because they are engaging in sustainable meat production of sheep and pigs. The Owens also do a lot of pedagogical events, including a Sheep Camp, where kids stay overnight at the farm during lambing season. When the sheep go into labor, they wake the kids up to help the sheep give birth. They do a lot of programs to get people engaged in agricultural work.

It’s always interesting for me to take my students there. I’ve had students who had never seen a horse in person, who didn’t know that sheep made noise. I lived on a farm in Bolivia, so all that seemed really obvious, but it’s not necessarily part of all college students’ experience to interact with animals in that way.

LRM: There’s an assignment attached to that field trip. What do you have students do in that assignment?

CS: At the time we do this field trip, we’re also reading Warren Belasco’s Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food. It’s a wonderful book, and he talks about how people have historically thought about the future of food. So I ask my students to think about Owens Farm as a very direct response to some of the industrial agricultural practices we see in our world. What is the alternative this farm presents for the future, in terms of how we could think about meat production? So I have them write a reflection paper on that experience.

LRM: You don’t allow computers in your classroom. Could you talk a little about that?

CS: I don’t allow computers in any of my classes. If I had my computer on in the classroom, I know I’d be on Facebook. So, I think it’s unfair for me to expect my students to not be on Facebook. It’s my personal quirk. I feel that for 55 minutes they can pay attention to me and to each other. I don’t spend most of my time in class lecturing, so I’m not expecting them to transcribe what I’m saying… instead, I have them sort through problems or analyze readings with each other.

I know people feel differently about electronics in the classroom, and I do make some exceptions. For example, I have them take a modified version of the Food Stamp Challenge. For that class, they bring in computers and work with one computer per group to go online shopping with a budget. But I find for the most part prohibiting electronics works pretty well. I find that if that policy is in the syllabus and I am consistent and clear about it, students accept it. It makes an enormous difference in terms of making sure students are engaged with the class. They’re paying attention, and they’re not distracting each other. I think it’s working pretty well.

LRM: Can you tell me about the “food experts” component of this course?

CS: That’s actually one of my favorite parts of this class. I think it may be part of why so many students might take it… they have snacks in class everyday!

The very first class I bring in food. I try to bring in something that the students won’t immediately be able to identify. I tell them, “If you have an allergy, you can tell me, and I will assure you that this will not kill you. But, other than that, I’m not going to tell you what this is.” Then, I have them write a description of it. I tell them that one of the challenges of writing about food is trying to describe foods to people who have never tried them. Talking about food is always audience-dependent. This time I brought in chuño (Andean freeze-dried potatoes). It was interesting to see which ones of them liked it and which ones were not as enamored.

During the first week I bring in a box with paper slips naming 50 foods. They’re all basic ingredients: chicken, spices like cardamom or cinnamon, grains like wheat or rice, tubers like potatoes or manioc, fruits and vegetables. I have them pull one name out of a hat, and then I give them a week to trade with each other or with the “leftovers” at my office. There’s a little bit of choice, but they all end up with a unique food. That’s the food they follow through for the rest of the semester.

I want them to think of it as a field-to-fork kind of assignment where they are becoming the class expert on something. They address the theoretical themes that we are talking about in class through short papers that are focused on their own food. Once during the semester, they bring in a dish that highlights their food to share with their class. Then they write a paper about the experience of working with that food, and how people responded to it.

They don’t generally cook a lot, and some students have told me, “This is my first time cooking something on campus.” It’s really interesting to see them engaged with the food in an experiential kind of way. That’s really different from just writing about something.

LRM: Can you tell me a little more about the short essays related to the theoretical components of the course?

CS: Each of the paper prompts deals with the themes for the week. Early in the class we deal with things like domestication: what’s the relationship between humans and their food? The first prompt is “Discuss the agricultural and/or environmental context of the production your food, and how that has changed over time.”

Another paper asks them to compare two dishes with the same ingredient that are eaten in different cultural contexts, and to talk about the difference in symbolism between those two dishes. So, they think about how the same food can be invoked in different meaningful ways. Another paper is to think about how their food is affected by globalization, and how it moves through global networks of people and economic systems. They follow one food all the way through.

At the end, I had one student say to me, “I never thought I’d know this much about turnips!” But that’s kind of cool, to be a turnip expert.

LRM: How do you select the foods that make that 50 foods list?

CS: I pick foods that appear in multiple cultural contexts, so they can be compared cross-culturally, and that are part of a global commodity chain of some kind. I also pick foods that I think they’ll be able to find, work with, and cook. For example, I don’t include lobster, because that’s expensive. I also don’t include foods, like llama meat or guinea pig, that would be extremely difficult to find in central Pennsylvania.

LRM: I wanted to jump to a different aspect of the course. I see that you have listed a teach-in day for Martin Luther King, Jr. day. I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about that?

CS: That was a campus-wide event at Bucknell University in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day. The challenge to all of us as faculty was to discuss questions of structural racism and structural inequality in the context of whatever classes we were teaching at the time.

I broke from the regular syllabus a bit to talk about food deserts, and to look at Monica White’s work with African American urban farmers in Detroit, and how they’re dealing with food deserts by farming their own food. The D-Town Farmers have an agreement with the city of Detroit to farm in one of the public parks. I showed the students a video interview with one of their leaders, Malik Yakini, and we looked at maps of food deserts in urban areas such as Baltimore.

I started off the class by asking them a series of questions, and asking them to stand up when they agreed. I began with, “Everyone has the right to eat,” and they all stood up. But then we got to questions like, “People should pay for food,” and “Grocery stores should have the right to open up where they think they can make the most money,” this is where we start to see the contradictions. If food is a right, how do we make sure everyone has access to it?

I don’t have the answers to that question, but I wanted them to understand that access to food parallels other kinds of structural inequalities like racism and class.

LRM: One of the challenges instructors face is getting students to pay attention to the syllabus. I notice that your syllabus has a statement about emailing you with a particular word by a particular date for extra credit. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

CS: Oh, yeah! That’s my Easter egg, and I’ve actually started doing that in a lot of my syllabi. The first assignment for all of my classes is to read the syllabus, and I’ve found that a lot of them were not doing that. So I started adding these things. The word changes every time, and I also change where it is in the syllabus. About 1/3 of the class emails me with the word, and I give them extra credit. Even though it’s not a huge thing, I think it gives them the feeling that they’re starting off on the right foot. And it ensures me that they actually have looked at the syllabus. Of course, we all want our students to know what they’re getting into, and to feel like they are agreeing to engage in the same project that we are as professors.

LRM: I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the book selections in the course? I know you use Meals to Come, and it looks like you also rely fairly heavily on Noodle Narratives. Could you talk a little bit about that?

CS: They read the The Noodle Narratives: The Global Rise of an Industrial Food into the Twenty-First Century,

picture of ramen

which I like because it takes a food that my students are probably more familiar with than they would like to admit (instant noodles) and puts it in cultural contexts that they would not necessarily consider. Instant noodles were developed in Japan, and are consumed in Papua New Guinea, on college campuses, and by many prisoners in the United States. Here in Lewisburg we’re very close to four major prisons, and it’s a major employer in the town, so this is part of our local economy. Noodle Narratives allows us to address [a wide range of] questions.

LRM: Are there other readings that are particularly successful?

CS: I really like the first chapter of Paul Stoller’s The Taste of Ethnographic Things: The Senses in Anthropology. I open with that. He and his wife are living with the Songhay, and the chapter describes an intentionally disgusting meal and what that’s meant to communicate.

My students really like this piece. It’s beautifully written and it’s a compelling story. I think the idea of being a teenager who has to communicate in non-verbal ways resonates with them to some extent. The main character who’s preparing this meal is a teenager, and she feels powerless; this is how she’s able to express herself. It gets students thinking about food in a different way. This cook’s goal isn’t to make something tasty and delicious, although she can cook. She chooses not to cook well for a specific reason, and her purpose is correctly interpreted by everyone. That’s a piece I really like to start with because it captures first what it’s like to be an anthropologist, and second, the communicative aspect of food that is so powerful.

Another piece that they found really interesting was Michael Owen Jones’ piece “Dining on Death Row: Last Meals and the Crutch of Ritual.” I showed them a short video about the procedures followed on an execution day, and we talk about that as a ritual. Then we discuss what rituals do, and why are so many people interested in what the condemned eat for their last meal. We were able to use that to talk about things like the structural inequality that exists in our incarceration system, who is put on death row, and why people would be interested in what they’re eating. [The students] had a lot of interesting things to say about that.

LRM: One of the things I’m really interested in is how you have interwoven global topics with things that are going on in North America–like freeganism–that students might relate to.

CS: I think one of the challenges for our discipline is how can we talk about big global processes and yet still think about the daily, lived experience of people who are eating meals with others particular contexts.

The freegans are particularly interesting. We spend a week talking about dystopias and how people envision the collapse of food systems. I show them clips from Soylent Green, for example. We move from that to freegans, who are commenting on waste in our society. I show them Dive: Living Off America’s Waste, a documentary about dumpster divers in Los Angeles. dive_poster-87cbd2d9

There’s a really interesting scene in this documentary in which some of these dumpster divers are confronted by the police. These dumpster divers are all clearly middle class, white, young people with nice cars, and they’re in dumpsters getting food. One of them just walks up to the police officer and shakes the officer’s hand while they film him. The police officer’s really polite to them. I challenge my students to think about whether would everyone in this situation feel comfortable doing that. That’s an incredible position of privilege to feel like you can walk up to a police officer and explain to him that, yeah, you’re breaking the law, technically, but see, you have this political project. And the police officer will be like, “Ok, can you just clean up when you’re done?” Especially in our current context, with the national discussion we’re having about the relationship between the police and African-American men, this moment in the film was really striking.

We talk about the difference between dumpster diving with your four-figure video camera and private car, versus someone who actually needs that food. My students talk about how, on the one hand, they want to reduce food waste. But on the other hand, they’re also part of the society we’re in, and their ability to do that is structured in certain ways.

LRM: Do you have any final thoughts?

CS: I think one thing that has really worked for this class is getting students to cook and to eat. I think often, especially those of us who work with college students who live in dorms who might not have their own kitchens, we can be hesitant to insist that they cook because of those structural constraints. At the same time, I have found that they are excited to do that. They come to class and talk about trying out recipes on their roommates, borrowing tools, putting out grease fires. One of the great things about food is that we can engage all the senses. It’s one of the reasons I like to have food in class, because just talking about food makes you hungry!

LRM: This sounds like an engaging and exciting class. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

1 Comment

Filed under anthropology of food, culture, Food Studies, teaching

Food and Work in the Americas

labor_12_1_2_CovPRINTfinal

Sent to us by Steve Striffler (Anthropology, University of New Orleans):

Food and Work in the Americas, a special issue of Labor: Studies in Working-Class History in the Americas, edited by Susan Levine and Steve Striffler, Volume 12 Nos. 1-2  May 2015

From the introduction:

Food studies is now a large and important field of research for scholars, journalists, activists, and others who have become increasingly interested in the history, culture, and politics of food. A sizable literature has emerged in the last two decades, largely from social scientists, which explores food from a multiplicity of angles, including foodways and identity, agricultural policy, the industrialization of food, nutrition, the body, commodity chains, alternative food systems, and globalization. Interestingly, however, very little of this recent work has taken a historical look at food and agriculture as sites of work. Workers remain marginalized in general, and historical treatments of labor and workplaces are even less common.

Labor historians, by contrast, have long considered food-related work sites. Classic studies of meatpacking occupy a central place within broader discussions of industrialization. An even larger literature has explored the variety of work and workers on farms, plantations, ranches, and haciendas throughout the Americas, shaping how we understand agrarian life and capitalist transitions. More recently, labor historians and others have moved further from agricultural production, beyond the farm or processing plant and into (food-related) domestic and service sector work sites. Yet, for the most part, these studies do not engage with food itself, in a broader sense, as a critical element in class, gender, ethnic, or racial life.

Our aim in this special issue of Labor is to challenge labor historians to think about food and work in ways that not only include the production of food itself, but the production and reproduction of working class life. We are interested in the work of food, its central location within the broader fabric of working class life, and the relationship between the two, but also in the connections between the production of food, the reproduction of working people, and the very nature and trajectory of capitalism itself.

1 Comment

Filed under anthropology, food policy, Food Studies, history, labor, work

Raising the Bar for Introductory Classes: Susan Rodgers on Challenging and Changing Students through “Food, Body, Power”

Lauren Moore
University of Kentucky

Welcome to the inaugural interview of SAFN’s new Food Pedagogy Interview Series. Each month, we will feature a food scholar who teaches a course related to food or nutrition. They will share tips, tricks, and cautionary tales from their classrooms. If you would like to participate, or would like to nominate an excellent instructor for the interview series, please email LaurenRMoore@uky.edu.

2015 kicks off with an interview with Susan Rodgers, Professor of Anthropology at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Rodgers was the 2013 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching/CASE Massachusetts Professor of the Year. Though Rodgers’ own work focuses on the politics of art and literature in Indonesia, she has developed a challenging and provocative food class for first and second year students at her college. She speaks here about the course, successful components and cautionary tales, and why anthropologists should have high expectations for introductory classes.

SAFN members can access the syllabus Dr. Rodgers discusses here through the SNAC 4 resource page.

Lauren R. Moore: Can you tell me a little about how this course got started?

Susan Rodgers:  First of all, I’m not an anthropologist of food. My work and publications are on very different things. I’ve worked with the Angkola Batak people of Indonesia since the mid 1970s on issues of the politics of print literature, and minority arts in Indonesia in general.

I came to Holy Cross to help the school set up a new anthropology program in 1989, after teaching at Ohio University for 11 years. About 7 years ago, the college made me the Garrity Chair, which is a rotating, endowed professorship [during which] you have to design a brand-new course that speaks to issues that the Garrity family was interested in—social justice issues, basically, and fine liberal arts teaching with challenging texts. At the time, I was using a lot of Paul Farmer’s work in a freshman seminar. I was really impressed by how well Paul Farmer’s work teaches to first and second year students, so I decided to create this Food, Body, Power course. It’s an anthro of food course, but undergirded very explicitly with Paul Farmer’s understanding of the structural violence of poverty.

I ask students to read Farmer pretty seriously and then see if his understanding of structural violence can be applied to issues of food insecurity both domestically and worldwide. He himself hasn’t done that yet to any extent. But I imported the theory from Paul Farmer, and based the course around that. So that’s the origin of Food, Body, Power. I had taught a more broad-based Anthro of Food course for several years before this, but Food, Body, Power is an offshoot.

LRM:  One of the things that drew me to this syllabus in the SAFN materials was how you’re really tackling complex topics and serious readings in a 100-level class. Does the institutional context at Holy Cross relate to the kind of syllabus you’ve created?

SR: Holy Cross very much makes it possible. Holy Cross is a small, highly selective, liberal arts college. We’re like Vassar and Bates and Williams and Amherst…that range. We do get, in general, very, very good students who expect to work hard. So it doesn’t shake them up when they see, for instance, 5 monographs and a whole bunch of journal articles in an Anthro 101 syllabus. That’s kind of the Holy Cross thing.

But, maybe because of my 11 years teaching at Ohio University, I feel that at almost any four-year institution, we can take our first and second year students very seriously, and pitch a course like this to them. I think they rise to the occasion.

You know, in philosophy, the professors are asking their first year students to read very tough material. They don’t flinch from that. When students take a chemistry course, they’re asked to do some pretty challenging thought-work. So, I feel that this has some translatability.

The difference, if I was teaching back at OU, is the size of a class. Here, our 100-level courses are either capped at 25 or at 19. And of course you can ask the students to write a lot more if you’ve got a class of that size versus teaching to 50 or 75 students or even more. The professor could die grading papers. This is a pretty writing intensive course, as most of mine tend to be. If I was teaching it to a larger class—above 25—I would have to scale down the amount of writing that students do. But some aspects of the current version I think would work really well at any institution.

LRM: Weeks 12 through 14, I see they’re doing group presentations. Can you tell me about those?

I always like to have students do teamwork as they go through the course. First of all, there’s four weeks of a condensed anthro of food course at the beginning. They read many chapters from C. Counihan and P. Van Esterik’s Food and Culture anthology. Then they read Paul Farmer, and then Sidney Mintz’s Sweetness and Power, and Psyche Williams-Forson’s Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs. So, they’ve already done some pretty heavy-duty things. Then, we have a section where I ask them to apply what they’ve learned, à la structural violence and so on, to issues of famine. All the way through the course they’ve been divided into 5-person teams. I have little assignments that they’ll do. After they’ve done all of that, writing essays and essay tests all along, I have those teams really do something, in terms of producing knowledge for the whole class.

They have to meet, pick a serious food insecurity issue from outside the United States, research it together, and then put together a 25-minute lecture on their selected issue. For instance, child stunting in India: what causes it? After they’ve done that lecture, they take that same critical lens and work together in their teams to identify, address, and lecture again on a food insecurity issue in Massachusetts that also has relevance for Worcester. And that’s at the end of the course.

And that, I think, could be translated to almost any institution, because students just thrive when they’re asked to do teamwork…but not just to do it, but to actually lecture in the class. One thing that makes this helpful is our reference librarian, who runs a 50-minute class for us in the computer-assisted classroom about how to find sources. So, I know they’re armed with the ability to find good sources. As a follow up to these lectures, each student picks a paper topic that has been generated by their team reports, and then they (individually) write a 7-page paper on that.

LRM: Can you give an example of a memorable project?

SR: For some reason, one whole class was fascinated with South Sudan. One of the teams did a really good job looking at basic infrastructure problems in the country, like transferring food from one city to another. That team had a couple of economics majors, and they were able to bring their expertise to the class lecture, which was trying to explain why food insecurity is so dire in Sudan. From our readings, they were already alerted to the problem of how warfare violence can lead to famine, so they brought that in.

LRM: Do they also get excited about the local topics?

SR: One thing I’ve done is ask the Executive Director of the Worcester County Food Bank to come to class and lecture about food insecurity in Worcester County. South Worcester, right down our hill, is one of the most seriously impoverished parts of Worcester. I mentioned it might be something they could look at. That sparked their interest.

One small group last spring did such a good job! They decided to see how food, in a very generic sense, was portrayed in two quite contrastive high schools. One was in a fairly impoverished part of Worcester, and they also picked the public high school in Weston, MA—do you know about Weston?—it’s so prosperous. It’s one of the most over-the-top wealthy parts of Massachusetts. They did it as an experiment. They wanted to see what the school websites told us about food.

In the Weston public high school, oh my goodness. They had a cafeteria that was basically like an organic cafe. It would provide all these different, extremely interesting, sometimes even literally organic meals; very internationalized, sophisticated cuisine; guides for parents as to how to encourage their sons and daughters to eat healthful food and everything. It was a very elaborate, upper middle class take on healthy food and why it’s good for us.

Then, the students were able to contrast that with the almost blank information about food—and relatively little outreach to the parents—in the particular public high school in Worcester. They were also able to follow the weekly menus and look at the tater tots versus the kale salads and so on in the two contrastive high schools. That was really eye opening for the class, I think. We could discuss issues of class privilege and worldview and class-shaped “taste,” in the Q and A part of the students’ lecture.

LRMHave you had things that haven’t gone as well, that you’ve elected not to do again? Do you have any cautionary tales that have come out of this course?

SR: There is one cautionary tale I could pull from my experience. When I taught the old version of this course, the more generic Anthropology of Food course, I took one class period (of a 3 days/week class), and met outside the classroom, and together we walked down the hill into south Worcester. I asked them to walk around this little strip mall, with a Wendy’s hamburger joint, a cigar shop that has a few vegetables and a lot of snack foods, and a very cheap Chinese restaurant. I asked students to walk around for 40 minutes with a field notebook, and observe the food scene. The next class period, two days later, we talked about it.

That kind of fell flat because the students really needed more background on Worcester before that would make sense to them. I think in theory it was a great exercise, but we just can’t assume that they really know much about the local community in terms of SES and class and history.

It’s very important, if you’re going to understand the food scene down at the bottom of our hill, you’ve got to understand the history of the Irish American immigration to that very spot, and the movement of the Irish Americans out to the suburbs, and the ethnic composition and poverty issues now in that area. I hadn’t told them much about that. If I were to bring that back, I would really nest it within a couple lectures—and maybe students’ own web investigations—on Worcester and social class.

LRM: That’s a good point. One of the things I’ve found when talking about food with students, it can easily devolve into class-based stereotypes or normative judgments. I wonder if that’s something you face or if you have any strategies for overcoming it?

SR: I think probably anybody who teaches almost any topic in anthropology encounters this. One of the ways I deal with this is with the readings during the first four weeks of class. For example, this article makes such a hit. It’s really tough, and as the teacher you really have to walk through it point by point, but Alice Julier’s wonderful article, “The Political Economy of Obesity: The Fat Pay All,” really makes students think about their own social class positionality.

What Julier ends up saying is that obesity works for the elite in America. It provides us a population of workers who the upper-middle class can look down on, make fun of, and underpay. Obesity also works in a sense of blaming and shaming people who aren’t at fault for their problems of overweight. They should be dealt with as people who are being victimized by the social structure, but the way pop culture works is that we can’t see those social structure dimensions, and we look at the personal and think it’s psychological.

Julier sets all that out, and then I take a whole 50-minute period to discuss that one article after the students have read it carefully with reader’s guides—I always give them a reader’s guide. Then, we can talk about social class, and food overabundance, and body and power. Certain of the articles I use in the first four weeks, introducing the topic of anthro of food, can serve that purpose of making the students aware of social class dimensions to food production and consumption, and then they carry that through the whole course.

LRM: You said you give reader’s guides. Can you tell me a little bit about those?

SR: I’ve found that students need a little guidance before they plunge into a tough article or book. It makes them more serious readers if they have a list of say, 5 dimensions of a chapter to look at beforehand. So, using Julier’s article, it would be something like “What does Julier want us to understand about how social class operates in America?” I don’t want to overdetermine what they look at. Not simply asking them to summarize an aspect of a text, but having a question that kind of comes at them a little bit at a slant, that the author himself or herself would be able to answer.

A lot of my colleagues in this department have found that, if you give the students a reader’s guide before they dive into reading an assignment, it makes for much better class discussion. Also, they sort of need it. When I was in college, I don’t think any of my professors gave me a reader’s guide, but I find that students appreciate some guidance from the professor. They need a bit of help, kind of a map. You really want to ask them provocative questions that are kind of fun to think about, so there’s a technique to writing reader’s guides.

LRM: It sounds like reader’s guides are something you do in a lot of your classes. I wonder if there’s anything you do when teaching a food-related course that differs from the way that you approach other, non-food courses?

SR: One thing I probably do more in my food course than I do in my other range of 100- and 200-level courses that seems to work well, is when there’s a really interesting article in the morning New York Times or in the Washington Post or any serious newspaper, I’ll pull off a copy. And I’ll actually make a photocopy of it for every student in the class. I pick out really well-written current stories related to the topic of that day’s lecture, and I’ll actually ask them to take 10 minutes in class and sit there and read it silently to themselves, and then relate it to the chapter or the article that we’re dealing with on the syllabus that day. That seems to really interest them a lot. Then they go out and begin to be more serious newspaper readers themselves, which is an important lesson.

There’s another thing that’s distinctive to Food, Body, Power that works really well in the food class: autobiographical reflections. When I teach Anne Allison‘s wonderful “Japanese Mothers and Obentos: The Lunch-Box as Ideological State Apparatus,” after I make sure they understand what her argument is, we relate it to the their memories of the way their family prepared lunches for them at age 5 or 6. Everybody scribbles notes, and we describe it, then we do Anne Allison’s analysis and look for the structural message underneath.

One thing that all of us, including me, say is that our parents would prepare our wonderful, nutritionally balanced meal, send us off to 1st grade, and then we’d trade things… a tuna fish salad sandwich for something yummier, for example. Once we all admit we traded away our nutritious lunch, we ask: what does that really tell you about American culture? Then they discover, well, individual choice is really valorized, standing up to authority is valorized. You can do more of that biographical work in a food course than some others.

LRM: This is a writing intensive course. Could you tell me a little bit about the writing assignments?

SR: This has four 5-page response essays. They’re not research papers… the somewhat longer essay they write at the end is more of a research exercise, but the 5-page response essays are directed to the syllabus readings. It’s to make sure that they not only understand a set of articles, but have a critical perspective on it. The best way to demonstrate that is writing. Often I’ll ask them to pair two of the articles, and what they’re doing in an exercise like that is not only showing me that they’ve read those articles in really tremendous depth–real depth of understanding—but also synthesizing it into something that’s distinctly their own. I want them to take on the voice of an anthropologist.

Another thing with having regularly spaced essays: it means that they’re really keeping up with the readings. It takes a whole lot of grading time. With 25 students, all these essays, and in-class essay exams, it’s a lot of grading. But I find it eliminates the problem of a students showing up to class and not having read. If it means more grading time for me, that’s okay, because I really want them to keep up with the syllabus and to read these texts with some seriousness.

One of the goals of college education is to become a better, more precise, and maybe more creative writer. I tell them this quite explicitly before they write their first essay: I’m really interested in excellent writing, and I’m happy to work on drafts in my office hours and help students become a better writer. So that’s undergirding everything.

LRM: Do you have any final thoughts or suggestions for other teachers?

SR: I would say they should not underestimate their students. Even for first and second year students, you can have a complex syllabus.

Paul Farmer does work very well as a theoretical framework that catches younger students’ attention. A cautionary note, though: students tend to rapidly fall in love with Paul Farmer’s work overmuch, and you have to help them draw back a little bit and be a little critical of his ethically engaged anthropology – what Nancy Scheper-Hughes calls “anthropology with its feet on the ground,” – and with Farmer’s notion of structural violence and his hopefulness about structural change. Students glom onto that and want to run with it, so you have to incorporate some critiques.

Students, they’re college students. They’re serious adults. I think our syllabi should challenge them at that level. Often they can rise to the occasion. But you’ve got to have structures in place to make sure you don’t lose a student along the way. Make sure students who don’t understand the readings come to office hours, that sort of thing. Very time intensive, all these nice things I’m saying!

You want to make sure that once they’ve taken the course, and back they go to their normal life, they never think about food in a simple way ever again. Hopefully they’ll keep that anthropological vision of the social complexity of food. With the power element of my syllabus, I hope they think of issues of social class and social inequality, which they’re going to confront when they’re 30 years old and reading the newspaper, or maybe being a boss in a corporation and hopefully being attentive to adequate salaries for their workers.

The anthropology of food… It seems like such a fun topic. It lures them in. Then you hit them with this heavy-duty economic anthropology and political anthropology, and really pretty sophisticated theory, which they begin to like. And then, hopefully, they’ll use it in their other classes, and in their larger life.

I want to really change their vision of the world, maybe more in this course than in any other course of mine. In this course, I’m not worried if these students never take another anthro course. This is not only for anthro majors. You get students into it by the title, and it could be their one anthropology course. It has allowed the student to talk as a group and reconfigure their understanding of food and body and power. That’s an impact. That’s kind of a public anthropology impact on citizenship, I think.

LRM: Thank you so much for you time, and for inaugurating the SAFN food pedagogy interview series!

3 Comments

Filed under anthropology, Food Studies, pedagogy, teaching

Call for Papers! SAFN at AAA 2015, Denver.

Your opportunity to present at the

114th American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Denver, CO November 18-22, 2015

REMINDER! REMINDER! REMINDER!

SAFN seeks proposals for Invited Sessions, Volunteered Papers, Posters, & Sessions, and alternative session formats (including Roundtables and Installations)

  The Deadline for EXECUTIVE SESSION Submission is 5 PM EST, TUESDAY FEBRUARY 17th

The Deadline for ALL OTHER Submissions is 5 PM EST, WEDNESDAY APRIL 15th

 THE THEME of this year’s conference is “Familiar/Strange. Casting common sense in new light by making the familiar seem strange and the strange seem familiar is a venerable strategy used across anthropology’s subfields. It can denaturalize taken-for-granted frames and expand the horizons of students and public alike. But useful as this process of estrangement and familiarization can be, it can lapse into exoticism through “us/them” comparisons that veil historical and contemporary relations of power and powerlessness within and across societies, begging the question of the normative templates (of the “West,” of “whiteness”) that lurk behind.

Remember that to upload abstracts and to participate in the meeting you must be an active AAA member who has paid the 2015 meeting registration fee – click here for information about exceptions. When renewing your AAA membership, please remember to select SAFN as your section affiliation. Your support helps to fund section activities and our growing portfolio of awards that support graduate student research and writing, and the promotion of food as a human right.

If you’d like to discuss your ideas for sessions, papers, posters, roundtable discussions, forums, or installations feel free to contact SAFN Program Chairs, Arianna Huhn (arihuhn@gmail.com) and Joan Gross (jgross@oregonstate.edu).

More information about submission types and presenter roles and responsibilities is available on the AAA website. A summary is provided below:

* Submit SESSIONS & ROUNDTABLES to SAFN for INVITED STATUS designation

We will select several sessions / roundtables submitted for review by SAFN for designation as INVITED. These are generally cutting-edge, directly related to the meeting theme, or cross sub-disciplinary. SESSION proposals should include a session abstract of no more than 500 words, keywords, anticipated attendance, as well as the names and roles of each presenter. Individual presenters must also submit their own abstracts (250 words), paper title and keywords via the AAA meeting website. ROUNDTABLES are a format to discuss critical social issues affecting anthropology. No papers are presented in this format. The organizer will submit an abstract for the roundtable but participants will not present papers or submit abstracts. A roundtable presenter is a major role, having the same weight as a paper presentation.

** PLEASE NOTE, one way to increase your and our presence at the meetings is to have co-sponsored invited sessions between SAFN and another society. Invited time is shared with the other sub-discipline, and the session is double-indexed. When prompted during the submission process, please select additional AAA sections for review if you think that we should be in contact with them about possible co-sponsorship.

* Submit your INDIVIDUALLY VOLUNTEERED PAPERS AND POSTERS to SAFN

For evaluation purposes, the author of each individually volunteered paper and poster must select one section for the review process. Selecting SAFN will funnel your proposal to us. A paper or poster abstract of up to 250 words is required. Accepted volunteered papers and posters will be grouped into sessions around a common topic or theme.

* Submit INSTALLATIONS to SAFN

INSTALLATIONS invite anthropological knowledge off the beaten path of the written conference paper. Presenters may propose performances, recitals, conversations, author-meets-critic roundtables, salon reading workshops, oral history recording sessions and other alternative, creative forms of intellectual expression for consideration.

Also consider:

NEW! RETROSPECTIVE SESSIONS are intended to highlight career contributions of established leading scholars (for example, on the occasion of their retirement or significant anniversary). A session abstract of up to 500 words is required.

PUBLIC POLICY FORUMS provide a place to discuss critical social issues affecting anthropology, public policy issues of interest to anthropologists, and public policy issues that could benefit from anthropological knowledge or expertise. The ideal format includes a moderator and no more than seven panelists. Generally, each public policy forum is scheduled for 105 minutes. Refer your proposal to the AAA Committee on Public Policy for review, not a section.

MEDIA SUBMISSIONS are juried by the Society for Visual Anthropology. SVA continues to welcome interactive media work and also encourages short work that is under 15 minutes. For more information see the Society for Visual Anthropology’s website at www.societyforvisualanthropology.org.

We look forward to another exciting annual meeting with strong SAFN participation! – Arianna & Joan

Leave a comment

Filed under AAA, AAA 2015 Denver, anthropology, CFP, food, nutrition

CFP: 2015 UVM Food Systems Summit

Call for Presentations
2015 UVM Food Systems Summit
The Right to Food: Power, Policy, and Politics in the 21st Century
June 16-17, 2015 | Burlington, VT

The University of Vermont (UVM) Food Systems Summit is an annual event drawing scholars, practitioners, and food systems leaders to engage in dialogue on the pressing food systems issues facing our world. This year, UVM is partnering with Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems to increase collaboration from the law and policy community. By doing so, we seek to foster transdisciplinary scholarship and cross-professional partnerships in order to further humanity’s efforts to feed itself and steward natural resources.

The 2015 Summit will feature up to 9 competitively selected presentations on the theme “The Right to Food: Power, Policy, and Politics in the 21st Century.” Anyone with a scholarly or professional expertise in food systems is invited to submit a proposal. Presentations will be selected through a peer-review process and assigned to a panel by topic (3 presentations per panel).

The panel sessions will allow time for a 15 minute presentation from each panelist, as well as Q&A and engaged dialogue with the audience. The Summit will also include 3 invited keynote addresses from food systems leaders. Unlike traditional academic conferences, the Summit is designed to optimize engagement between scholars across disciplines and practitioners outside of academia. As such, the Summit is open to the public and we welcome participation from nonprofits, farmers, food business, government, and interested community members.

Themes: The overarching theme for the 2015 Summit is “The Right to Food: Power, Policy, and Politics in the 21st Century.” With this theme, we ask, what actions are needed to ensure that all people have access to adequate and nutritious food?

Presentations related to a variety of interpretations of this theme will be considered and assigned to a panel on one of the three following categories:

  • Biophysical Constraints: This theme is about land use, water use, and other environmental considerations of agricultural production. Do we have the agricultural capacity to produce enough food to feed our growing global population? Do we have the policies and laws in place to meet demand? How are ecological limits affecting the ability of different regions to produce their own food? What technology and scientific advances are available to support agricultural production? What are alternatives to just increased agricultural capacity to reach the goal of feeding humanity?
  • Geopolitical Context: This theme is about power in the food system, and food sovereignty from a local and global perspective. What role do governments and institutions play in guaranteeing or providing food? How does current trade policy affect the ability of communities to meet their food needs? How does the economy influence who does or does not have access to food? How much individual agency should one have over one’s food? How do international policy and legal decisions impact the growing, distribution, availability and access of food to everyone?
  • Behavioral and Cultural Considerations: This theme is about how biological and social factors affect what and how we eat. What individual and social circumstances determine a person’s relationship with food? How do laws and policies aid or detract from helping society determine best practices for the individual and common good? How do diet and consumer demand drive food production and distribution systems? How might behavior change be leveraged to shift production and consumption patterns?

Potential presentation topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Land access and tenure
  • National policy initiatives
  • Water rights
  • Food assistance programs
  • Agricultural subsidies/anti-subsidy policies
  • Intellectual property
  • International trade agreements
  • Domestic trade policy
  • Gender
  • International human rights covenants
  • Nutrition
  • Culinary traditions
  • Climate change
  • Food justice
  • Public health
  • Measuring food security
  • Biotechnology

Submission process: Individuals wishing to submit a proposal should submit a proposal to food.systems@uvm.edu by January 15, 2015. The proposal (MS Word or PDF) should contain the following information:

Title of presentation
Name, address, e-mail, phone number, and affiliation of presenter or primary contact
4-6 keywords
Presentation description (1500 words maximum; title and any references cited are in addition to this word limit)

Proposals that do not comply with these guidelines will not be reviewed. Electronic acknowledgments of submissions will be sent to all submitters.

Review process: Proposals will be reviewed by the Summit Proposal Review Committee, comprised of UVM and Vermont Law School faculty and affiliates.

Proposals will be considered in terms of their significance to the field, strength of methodology/design (if research) or argument (if commentary), and clarity of writing. Special consideration will be given to proposals on scholarship or projects that are working across academic disciplines and/or across different sectors of the food system, as well as to proposals by practitioners working outside of academia. Individuals will be notified of the status of their proposal by March 1, 2015.

Accepted presenters will receive complimentary registration to the Summit. Scholarships are available on a case-by-case basis to presenters who need financial support for travel and lodging in order to participate.

Contact Alison Nihart for more information on the UVM Food Systems Summit.

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology, Call for Papers, Food Studies, food systems