Tag Archives: food studies

Second International Conference on Food History and Cultures

Call for Sessions and Papers:

Second International Conference on Food History and Cultures

26-27 May 2016 – Tours (France)

The European Institute for Food History and Cultures (the IEHCA, Institut Européen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation) is organizing the second of its henceforth annual international conferences, to be held on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 May 2016 in Tours (France).

The event falls within the scope of the continuation of initiatives carried out by the IEHCA for the past twelve years through its editorial policy, its support for research and its efforts to facilitate networking opportunities among Food Studies researchers.

The success of last year’s conference, highlighted by the participation of almost 120 researchers, has reinforced our desire to ensure it becomes an annual gathering and benchmark event. The conference is organized in partnership with the Food Studies team at the François-Rabelais University in Tours and the UNESCO Chair – “Safeguarding and Promotion of Cultural Food Heritages.”

All proposals pertaining to Food Studies will be considered and all researchers are welcome to make a submission (doctoral, post-doctoral, research lecturers, independent researchers, etc). In essence, the conference is multi- and cross-disciplinary, covering all historical periods.

Unlike last year, this communication is first and foremost a call for sessions: submissions to present thematic panels will be reviewed and selected as a priority. Individual submissions will be evaluated in a second phase.

Each session will last an hour and a half, and each panel will require a moderator and two to four speakers. Three is the ideal number (with papers lasting twenty minutes each).

Submissions should be in French or English and state the following:

  • general theme of the session;
  • names of the moderator and speakers;
  • Brief CV (max. 250 words) of all of the participants
  • institution(s) (if applicable);
  • title of the session;
  • contact details;
  • a 250-word abstract per paper.

The person submitting the proposal can be the moderator. If they are also one of the speakers, they should either choose a moderator themselves or will be assigned a moderator by the organizers.

The eventual individual submissions should provide:

  • title of the paper;
  • a 250 word abstract
  • a brief CV (no more than 250 words
  • contact details.

All submissions will be reviewed and selected by the IEHCA’s academic committee.

Papers can be presented in English or French.

Please do not hesitate to pass this information on to colleagues who may be interested.

The closing date for submissions is 30 October 2015.

Replies will be sent around the 15 January 2016.

Submissions should be sent to Loïc Bienassis (loic.bienassis@iehca.eu)and Allen Grieco (agrieco@itatti.harvard.edu)who will also be able to answer any questions.

PLEASE NOTE: although conference participants are not liable to pay a registration fee, no expenses will be reimbursed.

Academic organization :

IEHCA (European Institute for Food History and Cultures, Tours)

LÉA (Food Studies team, François-Rabelais University, Tours)

UNESCO Chair Safeguarding and Promotion of Cultural Food Heritages (François-Rabelais University, Tours)

IEHCA logoLEA logoUNESCO Chair logo

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Filed under anthropology of food, CFP, Food Studies, France, IEHCA

Letters from Camp: A Reflection on the 2015 Annual Meetings of ASFS and AFHVS

Madeline Chera
Indiana University

Madeline Chera is a PhD candidate in Anthropology with a focus on the anthropology of food. She is the student representative on the ASFS board and a 2011 winner of the Christine Wilson Award from SAFN.

The annual American Anthropological Association (AAA) meetings give food and nutrition anthropologists a much needed break at the end of the fall semester and invigorates our minds enough to push through grading final papers in dreary December. However, there is another conference that many of us attend, which takes on an air more befitting summer vacation. It’s somewhat akin to a scholarly summer camp, with critical thinking and good food. It is the joint annual meetings for the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) and the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS). Compared to the AAA meetings, it is much smaller, the feeling is more intimate, and the vibe is decidedly jovial. This year’s meetings took place over five days from June 24 through June 28 and packed in ten concurrent panels during each of twelve sessions, but there were plenty of opportunities to meet the same friendly faces throughout the weekend, whether it was at panel presentations, before the keynote, or over drinks.

This is a conference for our (i.e. SAFN’s) kind of people: those interested in exploring the local food culture with their minds and mouths, eager to collaborate in a spirit of conviviality, and ready to discuss a wide range of issues, from class and colonialism in the food system to the ins and outs of fried candy bars (my co-panelist, Christine Knight, actually covered both of these topics in her presentation on media representations and Scottish identity!). However, despite the affinities in interest and the numerous shared values of the conference-goers, one of the benefits of this event is that the participants are not all alike–and not all like us. Although SAFN does have a prominent presence at the ASFS and AFHVS meetings through numerous presenters and sponsorship of two sessions and one of the socializing (and snacking!) opportunities this year, this annual conference is not just a SAFN meeting. The meetings of ASFS and AFHVS are a valuable opportunity for SAFN members to spend time with other scholars of food and agriculture and with professionals in related fields, and to gain exposure to different methods, areas of literature, pedagogical techniques, and topics of investigation. In fact, this opportunity was highlighted in the guiding motif of the meetings. Chatham University’s Falk School of Sustainability and its Food Studies Program hosted the conference this year in Pittsburgh, a city known for its iconic bridges, and the conference theme, “Bridging the Past, Cultivating the Future,” gave a nod to the power of these structures to join together otherwise disjointed entities. The meetings united sociologists, historians, nutritionists and dieticians, philosophers, psychologists, political scientists, media studies and consumption studies scholars, environmental and agricultural scientists, entrepreneurs, non-profit staff, activists, writers, chefs, and–yes–anthropologists.

Any worthwhile conference aims to build bridges between colleagues and across existing research, as well as to cultivate ideas that steer the work that will come afterward. This one just had the good sense to set out these goals explicitly from the beginning, and it had the implicit bonus ambition to help us savor summer with the jubilant vibe–as much as any academic conference can really have–that is the hallmark of the ASFS/AFHVS annual meetings. The following are a smattering of my personal highlights from this scholarly summer camp:

  • Staying with a Falk School alumna and her housemates in the beautiful Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Not only was this a financial benefit to me as a penny-pinching graduate student, but also I got to explore and learn about the city from the perspective of a local residence and residents. I got their tips for a nearby coffee shop and tasted some cherries from their CSA, and then I had the opportunity to hear about how Pittsburgh’s food and sustainability scene impacted their lives as people who aren’t researching such issues full-time. Although it was brief, the chance to be just a bit more embedded into the context of the area made the experience richer for me.
  • Networking with fellow graduate students. Another student was staying at the house with me, and we were able to chat over last minute tweaks to our presentations. During the day, we kept running into each other in between sessions, and in turn, introduced each other to the people we had met. The size and set up of the conference this year, as in other years, was conducive to repeated exposure, which fostered familiarity and led to some potentially fruitful as well as thoroughly enjoyable connections. From discussions with graduate students, I was able to learn about the structures of other food-focused graduate programs, get insight into areas of research I never would have considered previously, and generate ideas about how to market oneself in order to find desirable work (g. When is using a tool like Good Food Good Jobs helpful and when is it not? And how does one manage the feast-or-famine cash flow of consulting work?).
  • Discussing alternative-to-academic career paths. I was part of a group of several graduate students who had all put in proposals for roundtable discussions about professionalization. In the end, our sessions were combined into a super-panel of women with advanced degrees who are not employed primarily as professors but continue to do work related to food and agriculture in some way. The participants had worked as market researchers, writers, and entrepreneurs, and in a food policy council, state extension services, a university, other non-profit organizations, and private business. Each of them traced out her own study and work trajectory, and then they all answered questions from the audience. The discussion yielded tips for translating the skills honed in graduate school to those hiring in the non-academic world and about where to look for positions. Participants also explained their experiences with job training in different types of positions, and assessed the usefulness of more schooling in different scenarios. This session affirmed for me the wide applicability and value of the grant writing, communication, data analysis, project management, and storytelling skills that my professors have helped me develop and to see that there are many ways to apply the content based knowledge of the field right along with these skills. It was heartening to see these professionals maintaining their scholarly ties through participation in the conference, and they were very kind to provide group mentorship in that form.
  • Rubbing elbows with VIPs, who treated me as a peer. Most of the time I can play it somewhat cool, but the glimmer of our own food scholar stars has not worn off for me yet, and I still get a bit excited when Esteemed Professor X listens to my paper and even asks a question, and when Recognized Expert and Author Y chats with me casually by the coffee carafe. So, I get excited fairly frequently, because this conference is usually one in which the friendliness of the group makes it easy to strike up conversations, with undergraduates and senior professors alike. The tone was one of genuine interest and mutual support, and the names from my Food Studies qualifying exams list were not only encouraging my work and the work of my fellow grad students, but also sometimes inviting us to dinner with them! Students echoed the collegial sentiment, and everyone created an environment in which new ideas could be tested out with a response as positive as that given when forthcoming book chapters were read.
  • Catching up on the latest in the field. Given that I am a borderline book hoarder, the fact that I only brought a carry-on bag with me was an important wallet-saving buffer between me and the collection of exciting new literature for sale at the conference. Many of the volumes were written or have been reviewed by conference attendees and they represented a slice of what is new in the studies of food, agriculture, and society. However, the more cutting-edge material was in the sessions themselves, where I heard about a wide range of topics, including the complicated relationships between contemporary chefs and new media; the politics mediated by travel writing and botanical classifications in the colonial period; and the assessment of behavioral and attitudinal changes of students as a result of participation in food studies programs. If only I could have been in ten sessions at once, maybe I would be totally up-to-date!
mad mex burrito

Enormous local burrito.

Alas, I could not be in ten sessions at once, so I resigned myself to absorb what I could and then enjoy the cruise-like-but-better part:

  • Eating delicious and thoughtfully selected food. It probably comes as no surprise that this crowd loves good food, so there were plenty of opportunities to socialize over delicious and well-curated food and drink, including local stand-outs Wigle Whiskey, Rivertowne beer, Venturi yogurt, and the culinary creations of Chatham students. One of the best things I had was a single fresh peach put out with the morning coffee. I got the sense that the conference organizers’ list of recommended dining options nearby had been deliberated over carefully and vetted by more than one expert. It all added to the excitement and enjoyment that punctuated every coffee break and the end of each day.
  • Sporting my collection of fruit-themed earrings and seeing one of my best friends for the first time in over a year.

    Chera selfie

    The author, with earrings and Leigh Bush.

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Filed under AFHVS, anthropology, ASFS, Food Studies

New Book: Teaching Food and Culture

Teaching Food Big CoverHere at SAFN we seem to be in the midst of a great rethinking of the ways in which we teach about food and culture. Which makes sense — interest in food and related issues is growing rapidly in anthropology and in other disciplines and we have seen the development of many new interdisciplinary programs in food studies. We are, therefore, pleased to announce the publication of a new book on this very topic. “Teaching Food and Culture,” (Left Coast Press) edited by Candice Lowe Swift and Richard Wilk, is a collection of twelve chapters by anthropologists focusing on strategies they use when teaching about food. Hopefully, we will be able to publish a review of this collection in the near future. In the spirit of full disclosure, many of the people involved in this project are SAFN members and one chapter was co-written by SAFN board members David Sutton (our glorious nominations chair) and David Beriss (your blog co-editor). Meanwhile, here is a blurb about the book from the publisher’s web site, which you can visit to learn more.

“With the rapid growth and interest in food studies around the U.S. and globally, the original essays in this one-of-a-kind volume aid instructors in expanding their teaching to include both the latest scholarship and engage with public debate around issues related to food. The chapters represent the product of original efforts to develop ways to teach both with and about food in the classroom, written by innovative instructors who have successfully done so. It would appeal to community college and university instructors in anthropology and social science disciplines who currently teach or want to develop food-related courses.”

And here is the table of contents.

Part 1: Teaching Food

Chapter 1: Introduction: Teaching With and Through Food, Candice Lowe Swift and Richard Wilk

Chapter 2: Interview with Sidney Mintz, Candice Lower Swift and Richard Wilk

Chapter 3: Relating Research to Teaching about Food, Penny van Esterik

Part 2: Nutrition and Health

Chapter 4: Teaching Obesity: Stigma, Structure, and Self, Alexandra Brewis, Amber Wutich, Deborah Williams

Chapter 5: Are We What Our Ancestors Ate? Introducing Students to the Evolution of Human Diet, Jeanne Sept

Chapter 6: Just Milk? Nutritional Anthropology and the Single Food Approach, Andrew Wiley

Part 3: Food Ethics and the Public

Chapter 7: Teaching the Experience and Ethics of Consumption and Food Supply, Peter Benson

Chapter 8: Ethnography of Farmers Markets: Studying Culture, Place, and Food Democracy, Carole Counihan

Chapter 9: Using Volunteer Service in Courses about Food, Janet Chrzan

Part 4: Food, Identity, and Consumer Society

Chapter 10: Teaching Restaurants, David Sutton and David Beriss

Chapter 11: Developing Pedagogies for the Anthropology of Food, Brian Stross

Chapter 12: Teaching Communication and Language with Food, Amber O’Connor

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, Food Studies, pedagogy

“It completely changed my mindset” Clara Broomfield with a Student’s Perspective on the Course “Food and Culture”

Lauren Moore
University of Kentucky

Last week, we heard from Prof. Aimee Hosemann about her class “Food and Culture.” In this interview, we have the opportunity to hear from Clara Broomfield, a student in Hosemann’s class. Broomfield discusses the use of popular media in the classroom, and how incorporating popular media can increase students’ ability to think critically about the media they encounter daily. She also reflects on effective ways to engage students about food, making a lecture hall a more dynamic learning environment, Canvas, and the textbook Eating Culture.

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

Lauren Renée Moore: To start with a fairly general question, what did you take away from this class?

Clara Broomfield: My perspective on food has completely changed from before I took the class. I was talking to some other students, and they felt the same way. There are just so many things I wouldn’t have thought to consider when discussing food. Like, you really have to think a lot about race and language use. Also, there’s a big emotional aspect that didn’t really occur to me before. When you’re dealing with food, you really have to pay attention to the fact that you’re dealing with peoples’ livelihood and culture. It’s very emotional, and so I think taking this class really highlighted that aspect for me—which was a big revelation for me.

LRM: Was there a particular assignment, lecture, or reading that really revealed that for you?

CB: It was definitely cumulative, but I could feel it from the very beginning, because we had these things called commensality practicums. When we would talk, I remember… the first one, we sat down and started talking about the cookbook that we wanted to do. We were all just eating, and then everyone started to jump into this discussion… we started to share stories about our memories and our experiences with food. We worked our way around to food in the prison system and the idea of food security, and I just remember that experience was really intense, because you could tell that people were engaging on a level that was more than just academic. I think that was where I really first began to be aware of the emotional aspect.

LRM: Did you feel like Prof. Hosemann guided this conversation, or was taking you to any particular point?

CB: I think it started that way, but then she sat back, ate her kale salad, and was like, “You know what, these kids got this. I’m just gonna let them do what they need to do.”

LRM: Do you think that approach to the discussion was effective?

CB: It really was. I think that was something she tried to do with most of her classes. She may have had end goals—she’s one of those sneaky people, like that. She’ll get you to go where she wants you to go. But she always was really open to letting [the students guide the discussion] and setting aside her own agenda, which I think was helpful.

You never knew what was going to happen in that class. You’d walk in, and who knows what we would be talking about. Obviously there was a syllabus, we’d start there, but that wasn’t necessarily where we would end up, and it was an exciting process.

LRM: You’ve taken other classes in a lecture hall format, and I wonder if this course uses that lecture hall space in a different way than other classes?

CB: One thing I have not seen any of my other lecture classes do: Prof. Hosemann may be up there lecturing with the PowerPoint, but the whole time, she’s asking you questions. It’s almost like a discussion format rather than a straight lecture. You’re integrated a lot into the lecture. Everyone in the class has the opportunity to speak and say things, and if you have an idea that isn’t directly related, you’re totally okay to share that—and it may change the entire trajectory of the class.

The way she did that back-and-forth between what was on her slides versus what we were thinking is very different from any other lecture class I have taken, where it was just ‘sit down and listen to a person talk for an hour.’

LRM: How does that impact your experience of the course?

CB: I think it motivates you, because the class depends on the student interaction. You make the class what you want it to be. If you don’t come prepared, and if you haven’t done the readings, you might just sit in silence for 10 minutes and she’ll wait for someone to say something. It puts pressure on you to engage with the material, which is not something I felt at all in any of my other lecture classes.

LRM: She waited for 10 minutes for someone to speak?

CB: I warned my friends before they took the class: you have to do the reading. If she asks you a question and she wants you to answer it, she just waits for you. It might not be for 10 minutes, it might be for 60 seconds, but it felt like forever. Certainly long enough for someone to speak up. I always thought that was interesting…she wasn’t going to let you get away with not wanting to answer the hard questions.

LRM: Do you feel like more students read in preparation for this course as compared to other courses you’ve taken?

CB: Absolutely. Sometimes, we would even discuss the readings outside of class. On the other hand, I’ve had classes where I haven’t done any of the readings, because I didn’t have to. I did every single one of her readings, which is a lot. They were interesting, relevant, and enjoyable to read.

LRM: Did you find the readings challenging (beyond the page length)?

CB: Absolutely. They were challenging in a lot of different ways, depending on the subject matter. For example, we read this one piece, and it included transcriptions of children having discussions with their parents over dinner. I remember reading those and just getting angry reading them, and frustrated! A lot of times, the pieces she would give you would piss you off, or they drew some kind of intense emotion that you were not expecting.

LRM: That was Paugh and Izquierdo’s piece. What pissed you off about it?

CB: I think it was… it wasn’t just me, that was the funny thing. Several people had that reaction. It was just reading them, and seeing where the parents were screwing up and being hypocritical, and also just seeing the morality issues there… it was just frustrating to read, especially since many of us had been in that situation, and we kind of conjured up those memories of being a kid and wanting to have the lemonade but having to drink your milk, and that whole frustration. That one [reading] really got to me. I just felt for those kids.

LRM: I wonder if there were any other readings that stuck out to you ask much as this one did?

CB: There are so many different ones… definitely another one that we talked a lot about was the mock spanish article, it was Rusty Barrett’s article on Chalupatown, “Language Ideology and Racial Inequality: Competing Functions of Spanish in an Anglo-owned Mexican Restaurant” and working there. It stuck out to me because I have had a very similar experience, and many students expressed that as well, having similar experiences with these issues of race and language surrounding food.

LRM: Can you tell me about the textbook? Many courses use the Crowther textbook Eating Culture, but I’ve never heard about it from a student perspective. 

CB: That’s an interesting question. I kind of went back and forth with this textbook. I’m glad that we had it, because it definitely provided a theoretical backbone, which I think was necessary and I couldn’t really get from other places. There were parts of the book that were super engaging, and there were other chapters that were just dry and dense… it depended on the section.

LRM: Which sections were particularly dry, or that you felt like you could do without?

CB: I think I could have done without the sections on cooking, probably. Other bits and pieces throughout as well. Part 5, “Digesting,” about food insecurity, wasn’t as interesting as it could have been.

LRM: What from the textbook was great?

CB: The section on eating in and eating out, for sure. Also, the section on edibility. I really enjoyed talking about “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and our classifications of nutrition and health—I think that was really interesting. I really, really enjoyed the “Theoretical Trifle” at the beginning. The whole idea of setting a dinner party… You could use that piece alone in a class, as an introduction.

LRM: You mentioned that the course made really good use of Internet resources and contemporary materials. Can you talk about that?

CB: I think one of the things I enjoyed is that any time Prof. Hosemann would have a PowerPoint, it would always be filled with these memes or something off the internet that was ridiculous but that fit really nicely with what we were talking about. I remember that, in the beginning, we were talking about different dietary practices. We were going over some of the fit-spo or pro-ana (pro-anorexia) stuff, she had interesting memes about thigh gaps and things I was so used to seeing on the Internet, but had never really looked at with a critical eye.mybeforeandafter I really enjoyed that she pulled that stuff out. But also, throughout the class, students would send in links or things from the Internet, and she would then share it with the rest of the class. I remember her sharing this parody video of what happens when two stereotypical white hipsters go to an Asian food restaurant and try to order food, and I just thought it was hilarious. She took the things we saw on the Internet, and she used them as course material, which I think was a really interesting way to talk about food.

LRM: This particular video, for example, how would she use that video?

CB: She would play these things in class, and we would talk about how we felt, and she would relate it back to the concepts that we were going over in class. I also remember her using one of Amy Schumer’s video’s, the “I’m so Bad” video. It was when we were talking about fat talk, and the ideas of health, and how food played in with gender.

She played that video, and said, “Okay—what do you think about that?” We started a discussion about how we felt about that video, what we saw in it, the things we saw it was playing off of in society. She would frequently do things like that—find these little clips and bits on the internet, or memes or quotes, and throw them out there for, “Well, what do you have to say about this?” I think it was enjoyable because it was totally unpredictable.

LRM: Do you feel like this helped you look at things on the Internet more critically?

CB: Oh yeah, absolutely. Pretty much everything I find on the Internet these days—because my Twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with food-related things—every time I see something, like this rap about being gluten free:

Normally, I would have found that really funny. Since I’ve taken this class and am looking at things critically, I now think, “Wow, maybe this isn’t the best way to present this particular dietary practice.”

Another example, she brought in this quote that I’d actually seen on my Twitter feed. It said, “If it comes through a car window, it’s not food.” Well, that showed up on her presentation the next class. Before, I would of thought, “hey, yeah, I kind of agree with that.” But now, I see classist undertones. So it’s completely changed my mindset.

 LRM: Tell me about the commensality practicum.

CB: The basic premise is that, instead of her standing up there to lecture, we all eat together. A lot of class is about what happens socially when food is involved, so I think it was important to play that out in terms of our classroom environment. It definitely changed the whole atmosphere in class when people ate and shared food with one another. It created bonding moments, and gave you the opportunity to have a more free-flowing conversation, so I think those were some of the best days we had in class.

For one of the practicums, we decided that everyone would bring in the recipe they were making from the class cookbook to try them out. We had this big eating fest, and had the weirdest combinations of food—we had everything from pancakes to roasted silkworm larvae to borscht. That day was so successful that the next week we decided to throw a class brunch. People dressed up, and brought breakfast foods, and one of the students who has a gluten free artisan waffle-making business made waffles for us. We had A Year in Burgundy playing in the background, and we were all sitting around eating. We became a kind of tight-knit group, and it all centered on eating one another’s food.

LRM: Did Prof. Hosemann have any day-to-day practices that were particularly effective?

CB: She definitely comes in with a plan, and she tries to put on a little bit of a performance for you. She uses really interesting narrative strategies to get people to engage. She may tell us a personal story, but she may tell it in a very specific way, highlighting certain aspects to spark a specific conversation. You would have no idea that she was doing it unless you went back and talked to her about it, so I think that was interesting. She would always sneak around and use these strategies to get people to discuss things that maybe they wouldn’t want to discuss before.

Also, she made sure the whole semester to include us in her practices. She would ask for our opinions on how she was teaching. For instance, and she would ask us, “do you [students] think that professors have ethical responsibility in dealing with food?” That then plays into how she teaches.

She made herself vulnerable, I think, when talking about food. She kind of let her guard down and let that difference in status level between student and professor drop. She sort of said, “we’re all in this think-tank together.” That was an interesting way to do it, rather than feeling like someone was talking at us, or food evangelizing. She made sure to… I don’t know how to explain it, but she made sure not to force opinions on us, which I liked. She never forces views on anyone, which is kind of different than some of my other professors. She made it seem like, “hey, this is how I feel about it… how do you feel about it? Maybe that will change how I feel about it.” It was an interesting dynamic.

LRM: Do you feel like that’s an effective way to approach students?

CB: I think it’s much more effective than other modes of teaching because it puts responsibility for learning on the student. Especially at larger universities and in larger classes, people tend to check out and not really actively learn. By doing that, she made the class more engaging, more bearable, more interesting… it sort of reflected back on you. If you didn’t understand something, you had a lot to do with it—it wasn’t just because she didn’t explain it well.

LRM: I know that this course uses Canvas, and I wonder if you could offer a student’s view on positive or negative ways of using Canvas in a course?

CB: Most of my classes are very Canvas-heavy, which I think is helpful. I like being able to submit papers and get responses back on Canvas, and you have a lot of access to your classmates through Canvas. I think that aspect of it needs to be utilized more.

LRM: Have you had classes that have facilitated or required student interaction (with one another) on Canvas?

CB: None of them have required it, though I think that’s a really great idea. More professors should do that. I don’t think a lot of people are aware of the functions of Canvas. In this class, other students would open up discussions or share links—but a lot of that interaction happened outside of Canvas, too. We actually created a Facebook group, which happens in a lot of other classes. That interaction is happening; it’s just not through Canvas. For many of my other classes, particularly my freshmen intro classes, a lot of them have Facebook groups. I don’t know if other universities use Facebook, but I think it’s common to have some kind of online group-making experience for classes at many different universities.

LRM: What did you think about the cookbook as a component of the course?

CB: That was one of my absolute favorite things that we did, and I think a lot of students would agree. We get this cool cookbook that we can utilize forever, but we also get to read these recipes, stories, pictures, and anecdotes… I think it’s something she should definitely keep if she were to do this class in the future. It was awesome.

LRM: What did you contribute?

CB: I ended up submitting… I have a family cookbook from about 20 years ago, that my grandmother put together with an introduction. So I submitted my all-time favorite chocolate cake recipe from that book, and included my grandmother’s introduction. Then, for kicks, I submitted a funny recipe: my family’s smothered squirrel recipe. I included family jokes and anecdotes with that. It’s a real recipe, but we don’t really eat it in my generation.

LRM: Is there anything you would add, or any suggestions you might have for others who are teaching food courses?

CB: For others, I think I would say: they should not make it about their opinions on food. Because I remember we even talked about a professor who used her class to spread veganism. We all came to the consensus that it’s not okay. Many of us felt that, if you’re teaching a food class, it’s important to be very open-minded, and to let the students also express opinions.

And then, the other thing I would say is that, even when you’re not teaching a food-specific class, you can use food and food issues in other classes. Another university in Austin is using food issues as the set-up for their composition classes. Whenever they have to write, they’ll write them on food issues. You don’t necessarily have to be teaching a food-specific course to talk about food. I think food needs to be integrated into larger contexts, because it’s so important but unfortunately gets ignored a lot in the academic sphere.

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Filed under anthropology of food, Food Studies, teaching

Food and the French Empire

French cultural studies

A special issue of French Cultural Studies (26:2) on “Food and the French Empire” is available for free through July at http://frc.sagepub.com/content/current.

Here is the table of contents:

Food and the French Empire
Guest editor: Sylvie Durmelat

• Sylvie Durmelat  “Introduction: Colonial culinary encounters and imperial leftovers”
• Blake Smith “Starch wars: Rice, bread and South Asian difference in the French Enlightenment”
• Nessim Znaien “Le vin et la viticulture en Tunisie coloniale (1881–1956): Entre synapse et apartheid”
• Christophe Lucand “Le commerce des vins de Bourgogne à la conquête des concessions françaises en Chine au début du XXe siècle”
• Van Troi Tran “How ‘natives’ ate at colonial exhibitions in 1889, 1900 and 1931″
• Lauren Janes “Writing about cannibal diets and consuming black Africans in France during the first half of the twentieth century”
• Rufin Didzambou “Le ravitaillement en vivres importés et ses incidences dans les chantiers forestiers du Gabon pendant la période coloniale (1920–1960)”
• Marie Caquel “L’impact du protectorat français sur l’industrie du poisson au Maroc”
• Tess Do “Le Palais du mandarin (2009) de Thanh-Van Tran-Nhut : Espace culinaire vietnamien et récupération postcoloniale”
• Robyn Cope “Gagging on égalité: French culinary imperialism on the island of Reunion in Axel Gauvin’s Faims d’enfance
• Angela Giovanangeli  “ ‘Merguez Capitale’: The merguez sausage as a discursive construction of cosmopolitan branding, colonial memory and local flavour in Marseille”

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Filed under Colonialism, Food Studies, France, history

“You can’t talk about food without talking:” Aimee Hosemann with a Professor’s Perspective on the Course “Food and Culture”

Lauren Moore
University of Kentucky

This month, the Food Pedagogy Series is pleased to offer a special pair of interviews. Doctoral candidate and instructor Aimee Hosemann was recommended by one of her students, and both Hosemann and the student, Clara Broomfield, agreed to be interviewed about the class. We will hear first from Hosemann, and then we will hear from Broomfield for a student’s perspective on the same course.

In this interview, Hosemann discusses the use of commensality practicums and a class cookbook in her course “Food and Culture” at the University of Texas at Austin. She also reflects on professors’ responsibilities when discussing their own diets, and the challenges of teaching as a doctoral candidate.

LRM: Before we start talking about the course, I would love to hear a little bit more about your work. 

AH: My work is linguistic and sociocultural anthropology with a Brazilian indigenous group called the Wanano/Kotiria. I’m specifically interested in women’s expressive practices.

About a year and a half ago, I was drawn into reading a bunch of stuff by vegan ultra athletes. I noticed how many professional athletes were moving into vegan or whole foods plant-based diets. They were telling stories that sounded like religious conversion narratives: they reached a moment of crisis in their lives, and found plant-based diets. They’re very powerful in the same way that religious testimony is. What started as a hobby turned into what I’m going to focus on for the next couple of years.

LRM: Looking at your course description, I noticed that the last statement says you will focus on “how flows of dietary images and discourses shape race and ethnicity, gender, social class, and other identifications.” I found that an interesting phrasing, because it seems that many food-related syllabi invert that—they look at race, ethnicity, gender, and social class shaping dietary practices rather than the other way around. Can you talk about that phrasing in particular, and about your goals for the class more generally?

AH: That’s such a great question! One of the things I’m interested in is how all manner of things have semiotic content that people interpret. Thinking about food as a globalized thing, you can imagine food and images of food moving around in different social networks. When people take those things on, there’s something appealing about those objects. I think about how people respond to these things, and how that shapes some of their ideas about themselves.

I think it would have worked equally well if I had inverted those things, but I guess I’m trying to play with the concept that dietary practices, and talk about dietary practices, are enactments of something—like the discourse-centered approach to language and culture, where language, culture, and society aren’t necessary the same thing, but they are constantly reconstituting each other.

I think that that plays in really well to my general goals for the class: more than anything, I want the students to adopt an anthropological mindset, and learn to think about things, ideas, and people as reflective of, and constituting, networks of relationships. The way that I wrote the description and my goals for the class work hand in hand with each other.

LRM: Does that approach shape the topics you address or the order of the content of the course?

AH: They did, sort of. I tried to think about things that students had ready experience with. So we have readings about coffee, and a discussion about the Paleo diet and physical anthropology evidence for or against it. Then, there is another structural element to consider, which is that we used Gillian Crowther’s textbook Eating Culture. I looked in that book for inspiration about things that students might really want to know, and things that are my interests—for example, readings toward the end of the semester, about vegan sexuality, about lacking food when you’re in a detention center a migrant, or the cultural and environmental impacts of the BP oil spill. These were things that I was really interested in at this particular moment.

LRM: It sounds like you are working to keep the content fairly current—these are very current issues, migrant detentions, and the BP oil spill.

AH: Yeah, and those two things especially, it’s not too difficult to think about how they would apply to a student body that largely comes from Texas. The oil industry is absolutely integral to a lot of people’s livelihoods here, and then in Texas we have some family detention centers that got a lot of media attention because they were not doing a very good job of housing people in a humane fashion. I really wanted to be able to think about those things, and the lens of food and food practices is a way to sneak at controversial topics.

LRM: Did you feel like that was effective, like you were able to broach more controversial topics successfully this way?

AH: I think it definitely helped. One of the things that I hammered constantly in my class was the need to understand where our food comes from, and how it is interrelated with other things, like immigration. Migrant Farm Workers AlabamaIf people want immigration reform, they need to be willing to pay more for their tomatoes. In class, we talked about: How important is a tomato to a particular cuisine? Would you pay for this cuisine that includes tomatoes, and what happens if you only want to be able to pay very cheap prices for your tomato? Who actually paid for that?

LRM: I want to back up a little bit: how big is the course, what kind of students enrolled, etc.?

AH: The class had 46 students. They were a lot of upperclassmen. It was not meant to be a super high-level course, but it assumed that students had some background in anthropology. Anthropology students got the first seats, then people from other departments. There were a number of ethnic and racial backgrounds represented, as well as traditional and non-traditional college students. Many people had worked in some kind of food-related industry, and had some experience with the work of food. That gave us the ability to really talk at a higher level about what the world of food is like.

LRM: 46 students…that’s a pretty large class to think about eating together. Could you talk a little bit about the physical structure of the class?

AH: We were in a relatively small auditorium, with about 80 chairs in it stadium-style. When I was lecturing, I tried to move around the room and get people to move around in their seats to engage. For some of the people down in the front rows, they never saw some of their classmates in the back, so they didn’t always know who was speaking. So I tried to move around as much as possible, and sometimes let them take over the conversation and turn their backs on me, and look upward in the classroom. Our eating sessions helped that, because then people could move around a lot more, and talk to different people.

LRM: You’ve mentioned this “commensality practicum,” and the student who recommended you spoke specifically about this a fantastic aspect of the course. Can you tell me more about it?

AH: It’s actually something I drew on from my high school newspaper class. We sometimes had what were called “interpersonal skills test,” which were times to kick back and let the stress melt away for just awhile. I always thought that was such a good idea, because we could talk and have fun together, and get to know each other as newspaper staff in a different way.

My class was scheduled at noon, and because it was a food class at noon, there had to be some way to integrate actual food on a reliable basis. I was really taken by the idea of having something like a discussion period every so often so that if there were things they wanted to talk about, they had a chance to do that.

LRM: Did everyone bring food to share, or their own lunches? 

AH: Everyone brought food for themselves, or somebody might have a little extra something to share with people who were close by. We had a separate day, when their recipes were due, that people made food to share. They liked that so much that the next week we had class brunch.

LRM: Was there a structured discussion topic for the commensality practicums?

AH: I would start out with an idea. One time, we talked about what kind of structure we might like our class cookbook to take on. Another time, I asked them how they feel about the concept of food as a human right. I would think about something that was in the air, and then ask them to get a conversation going. They would take it from there.

LRM: You mentioned a class cookbook. Can you tell me about that?

AH: Every student had to include a recipe. It could be for anything that they wanted, it just needed to be something that they liked, and I requested that they provide cultural or familial information; pictures if they wanted them; information on special kinds of techniques or shopping, and to really have fun with it. And some of them were absolutely amazing! Some were written bilingually, in the home language and in English. Beautiful photography, beautiful stories. People scanned and took pictures of the original recipe cards. They submitted them through Canvas, our course management site, and I am compiling them into a single document that they will all get electronically.

Taste of UT LRM: It sounds like they were excited about it. 

AH: They were very excited about it! Even if they didn’t show it in class, it came out in the writing. They talked about what the food is like, and how meaningful it is to them. I could really feel the excitement in their submissions.

LRM: Could you talk a little about a couple of the concepts you really wanted to get across in the course?

AH: There were a couple that really took on lives of their own in the course. First, “What is the idea of gender in relationship to cooking?” Professional cooking and domestic cooking are valued very differently. They really got engaged in that, especially thinking about it in relation to coming up with recipes that were good enough for class. Often, they went to female family members to ask for things, and it gave many of them a new way to think about what was happening when people were cooking at home for them versus when they were eating at restaurants.

Another was food as a marker of health and a marker of security. Because we were really trying to get to an understanding of health as something that is subjective, and even though there are things that we can say about health that seem like they’re pretty objectively true, that objectivity actually hides a lot of cultural context.

Thinking about food security and how it relates to issues of health, one of the things we discovered in class conversation is that the university has a lot of food available. They could conceivably eat just about any time they want to, but it’s not actually that accessible to them, either because of time or budgetary constraints. The things they want to eat are too expensive or too far away. Even though there is food around, as college students—even at this university that considers itself a Public Ivy—a lot of them are at least temporarily food insecure.

LRM: Can you talk a little about how you bring in linguistic anthropology to teach food?

AH: I love to use linguistic anthropology with food! And I’m a big fan of Jillian Cavanaugh’s work on salami, and her work with the documentary processes around food production. There’s a piece in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, “What Words Bring to the Table: The Linguistic Anthropological Toolkit as Applied to the Study of Food,” which details how anthropologists who do linguistics have found themselves doing food, and about how those things meld together. You can’t talk about food without talking, and the way that people talk about food—the how, the why, the when—all of these are just as important to the cuisine as the food itself. We spent a lot of time thinking about how what people say reflects ideas about food and their bodies, and what they have access to, what’s appropriate. That adds a whole level of analysis, and a lot of richness.

LRM: Did students latch on to the importance of language in relation to food?

AH: I think they did. One of the pieces we looked at was Paugh and Izquierdo’s “Why is This a Battle Every Night?: Negotiating Food and Eating in American Dinnertime Interaction” about dinnertime arguments over food. That piece is so rich because the transcripts are just beautiful, and you really get the sense of the dynamic that’s happening. I was able to show them, by talking through these transcripts, how this discussion about food is emergent but also plays onto particular family histories.

LRM: The student who recommended you commented that this course integrates many “culturally relevant internet sources and films.” I wonder if you could talk about those?

AH: What with having a Facebook or Twitter feed, I saw all these interesting things. I’m always looking for interesting snippets to show people the connection between journal articles and real life. Then, I got a Netflix account last semester, and went through their entire holding of food movies. One of the hits of the class was the French movie Haute Cuisine, HauteCuisine-teasebecause it’s such a beautiful depiction of the gender issues between a private home cooking, and high-status chef cooking. The food photography was beautiful, the talk between the characters about food was beautiful, and it just really nicely tied together a lot of things in the class.

LRM: Were there any other films you felt were particularly successful? 

AH: A Year in Burgundy was good. We watched that while we were having brunch, and that was really cozy. Both of these movies are very cozy movies. They just make you feel warm, and want to engage with other people, and so that set a really good tone for talking, and appreciating what landscape does for food, what culture does for food. Both of those worked really well. Jiro Dreams of Sushi also went over really well.

I sent out links to a lot of things through Canvas, or through our Facebook group, so that people could look at them on their own time.

LRM: Can you tell me about the Facebook group?

AH: Yeah! It was a student suggestion in the last few weeks of class. Some of the core members of the class got along together really well, and they really wanted to have a way to keep in touch with each other and keep sharing materials. I think about 16 members of the class have joined up now and have been trading videos and having discussions about different things. I’m hoping to use it to keep touch with anyone who takes a food course with me.

LRM: Do you also incorporate those extra media items into class time?

AH: Yes. Luckily with food, things come up. For example, in Crowther’s textbook, there’s a discussion of Appadurai’s work on gastro-politics, and how being a daughter-in-law in a Tamil family can be a very difficult position around food. Well, the week after we talked about this, this news story came out about a daughter-in-law who was feeling very put upon by her in-laws, and didn’t like them messing around in her marriage. She had been urinating into their tea every day for a year to get back at them. Her mother in law was so angry, and wanted her arrested or to sue her for justice—but part of Appadurai’s point with gastro-politics is that, while the mother-in-law thinks she is having particular impacts on her daughter-in-law’s food experiences, the daughter-in-law can also approach this through subversion and claim her own kind of power in relation to her family food situation. That was one that I brought in, but students like to bring things in, too.

LRM: Do you feel like students’ interactions with the world changed as a result of the class?

AH: One of the questions they could answer on their final exam was about something that they learned about food and cultural relationships, and what kind of knowledge gaps they had before the class started. So far, what seems to be very strongly coming through in their answers is that, for a lot of them, they hadn’t really thought of food as a cultural entity, or that it was bound up in other things.

That’s an interesting thing to reflect on, because if you think of food as existing outside of social and linguistic relationships, that says interesting things about your own food history. A lot of students have starting thinking about the fact that white bread, or Starbucks Coffee, or other things that seem ubiquitous actually refer to a whole bunch of other things that they didn’t even think about.

LRM: Is there anything in the course that you didn’t feel worked well, or that you won’t continue?

AH: One of the things I want to do is get the class down to a size where I can have them doing journal reflections a few times over the semester. I’ve done that in other classes, and it’s one of the single most highly rated pedagogical things that I’ve done in any class.

LRM: Can you tell me a little about how that works in other classes?

AH: The journals are their own personal reflections, on what’s really making them angry or that they have a question about but don’t want to talk about in class. So, they write 3-5 journals over the course of the semester of about 3 pages. They submit them electronically, and then I give them fairly substantial comments so that we have an actual conversation about where they are. At the end of the semester, they have this record of how they’ve change as human beings.

LRM: You’re teaching a 2-2 schedule, and you’re ABD. Do you have any thoughts or reflections on teaching these classes while also working on a dissertation?

AH: I have a lot of thoughts about that! One of the things that teaching a 2-2 does, very obviously, is slow down your progress on your dissertation in certain ways. But it also is a lesson in time management. You have to figure out very quickly what your work style is. Do you need extended periods of time to work on certain things, or can you work efficiently in short bursts? That’s been really interesting, and it’s been interesting thinking about moving on to a tenure track position–because it’s not exactly going to get any easier from this point on. So, it’s been kind of a baptism by fire, and it really does make me consider, “is this something that I actually want to do?” On the positive side, teaching things that I’m very interested in has been actually really beneficial for my research in a lot of ways. The students get excited about it, and they ask a lot of questions, and we have really good conversations. And seeing people who are just getting introduced to my work, and find it interesting and ask me questions, then gives me new things to write about.

LRM: Do you talk about your own work in your classes?

AH: I do. I trend vegan in my own diet, and there are particularly strong reasons why I feel that way, and I will talk about them. I also have sort of a complicated worldview about food, because I am also in favor of responsibly hunting. I talk about the complexity of that, but I also try to shy away from talking about my own dietary practice too much, until a student asks me directly what I eat.

Partly, that is because my perspective as an anthropologist is, “I’m not here to tell anybody how to eat.” It’s also because I don’t know anyone else’s health or nutrition status, and I don’t want to be seen as giving definitive answers for what is or is not appropriate. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to use my position as the professor to convert people to veganism. I’ll talk about why I think veganism is interesting, and why vegans believe the things that they do across the wide variety of vegan beliefs, but I would never tell a student, “you need to be vegan.”

LRM: These hesitations about not wanting to impose your own dietary views—do you talk to students about that?

AH: Yes. That came up, too, a couple of weeks ago, when there was a story about a professor who was vegan who does use her classroom as a space for evangelizing for the lifestyle. I brought that into class and said, “what do you think my responsibility is, what do you expect to see out of me?”

LRM: And how did they respond? 

AH: They responded that they absolutely did not, under any circumstances, want me to tell them how to eat.

LRM: How would you compare this to the ways some professors might advocate for local, organic, or sustainable foods when teaching about food? 

AH: I have heard about some programs where there is more explicit focus on local and organic food sources, and push people to shift their dietary practices that way. It does seem like a more widely accepted thing, if you were to evangelize for a particular diet.

However, in another class I talked to students about this. We talked about how, once you start talking about local, organic food sources—never mind even vegan stuff—you’re often dealing with people who are white and upper middle class, and their dietary experience may be very disconnected from some of the students in their classrooms.

I may have students from the Rio Grande Valley, or from underprivileged backgrounds. When they go home, they may live in a food desert. I can tell them all the reasons why local and organic food might be preferable, but I also tell them, “If you can’t afford to do those things right now, do what makes you feel like you’re doing the best that you can with the opportunities and the money that you have. You can only do what you can do.”

LRM: How do students respond to that position? 

AH: The students themselves are very critical of a lot of the food discourses that they hear. They understand that people might think them to be good ideas and very socially transformative, but they also understand that there are people who get excluded for structural reasons. They were as openly critical of those kinds of things as I might have been.

LRM: In some of the readings you’ve assigned, you touch on topics of moral judgments of obesity. Do you feel like students’ sensitivity and critiques of local food discourse is extended to the way they understand discourses around obesity, as well?

AH: Oh yeah. There’s a video from Spokane Public TV, “Our Supersized Kids” about supersized kidschildhood obesity. When we watched it, they identified a lot of things that even I hadn’t noticed. For example, while there is talk about the unhealthfulness of obesity, there is also a lot of bullying of kids who are perceived as being unhealthy. A lot of it is framed as their fault. They caused it by virtue of being obese and unhealthy. If they would change themselves, then everyone else would change. That’s a very common logic that underlies a lot of victim blaming. The students were really able to identify those very quickly.

LRM: Aimee, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. This seems like an excellent course, and I am excited you’ve opened your teaching to commentary from a student, as well. It will be wonderful to have varied perspectives on the same course.

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Filed under anthropology of food, Food Studies, teaching

Food Studies at SOAS

SOAS Food Studies Chair, Professor Harry West

SOAS Food Studies Chair, Professor Harry West

Welcome to the inaugural post of SAFN’s new Food Anthropology Program series. We will feature an undergraduate or graduate food anthropology program in each post. If you would like to participate, or would like to nominate a food anthropology program for the series, please email the series coordinator, M. Ruth Dike.

Celia Plender
Doctoral Student, SOAS

The anthropology of food has been taught at SOAS, University of London since the mid-1980s. For many years, this took the form of an optional class available to BA and MA students, which was  taught by Professor Johan Pottier. The class reflected Pottier’s research interests in Central Africa, including the study of famine, armed conflict, refugee migration and the disruption of food markets.

When Professor Harry West joined the department in 2003 he was embarking on food-related research with a focus on artisanal cheese making, the notion of re-embedding food systems in locality and the emergence of ‘heritage’ foods. Concurrently Doctor Jakob Klein—who had recently finished his PhD at SOAS and was beginning to lecture in the Anthropology Department—continued to work on the transformation of regional cuisine in the People’s Republic of China. These three academics were interested in learning more about each other’s research, and over time decided to collaborate to develop a full-unit class in the anthropology of food, which combined their diverse interests. Originally the class was open to postgraduate and undergraduate students, but as demand grew availability was limited to MA students only. From 2007, this class became the core of a full master’s programme in the Anthropology of Food.

2007 also saw the inauguration of the SOAS Food Studies Centre, which has developed strong links with an international network of food researchers, and attracted academic speakers such as Sidney Mintz, James L. Watson and Melissa Caldwell, and food writers and chefs including Claudia Roden and Yotam Ottolenghi.

Restauranteur Yotam Ottolenghi--known internationally for his books and television programs on Mediterranean food--gave a Distinguished Lecture in the SOAS Food Studies Centre in November 2014, to the delight of centre members and SOAS alumni.

Restauranteur Yotam Ottolenghi gave a Distinguished Lecture in the SOAS Food Studies Centre in November 2014, to the delight of centre members and SOAS alumni.

As well as hosting lectures, workshops and conferences, the Centre holds a weekly Food Forum during term time. This research seminar is designed to complement the structure of the anthropology of food course, giving its students an opportunity to engage with people active in food-related scholarship, businesses and activism. West is currently Chair of the Food Studies Centre. Klein is Deputy Chair. The Centre currently has 47 members and an additional 803 associate members. The MA in the Anthropology of Food covers a broad range of topics and approaches food at many different scales, ranging from the body, to the household, the nation state and the global food system. Ethnographic examples are drawn from all parts of the world and discussed in a seminar format. Although grounded in anthropology, the syllabus explores different disciplinary perspectives including historical, scientific, nutritional, geographic and economic amongst others. While Johan Pottier has now retired, Harry West and Jakob Klein continue to co-ordinate and teach the core course.

The MA programme, directed by Harry West, currently has an annual intake of around 25 students. The programme attracts a diverse range of students of different ages, nationalities and professional/academic backgrounds. The programme can be pursued full-time over twelve months, or part-time over two or three years. Around a third of students take the part-time route. The MA is made up of four modules – the core course in the anthropology of food, a dissertation of 10,000 words and two other options (or as many as four half unit options). For those who have not studied anthropology before, one of these is filled by a compulsory course in theoretical approaches to social anthropology. Option courses are available in the Anthropology Department as well as others such as Politics, Economics, Development Studies, Law, Religion and Languages. Students also audit a course in ethnographic research methods in order to further prepare them for their dissertation.

Doctoral student Katharina Graf, who studies how cooking knowledge is passed down in Moroccan households, prepares couscous for an ethnographic dinner.

Doctoral student Katharina Graf, who studies how cooking knowledge is passed down in Moroccan households, prepares couscous for an ethnographic dinner.

In addition to the passion that West and Klein have for their subject matter, one of the many strengths of the programme is its location in London, which is home to a broad range of alternative food businesses, NGOs, food purveyors, media organisations and other food-related activities. This is reflected in a half unit option which is available to students on the MA – a directed practical study in the anthropology of food. Students taking this identify an institution, organization or enterprise in which to work as an intern. The combination of work experience, directed readings and reflective written assignments allows students to bridge the divide between theoretical and practical concerns, and in many cases helps students to reflect on their future career paths, while expanding their relevant networks. Alumni of the course have gone on to work in a broad range of food-based jobs, details of which can be found on the food studies alumni profile page.

About the author:

Celia Plender is an alumna of the MA Anthropology of Food and current doctoral student in the Department of Social Anthropology at SOAS studying consumer food co-ops in the UK under the supervision of Harry West.

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, Food Studies