ANT 324L • Anthropology of Food
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
Much about the ways we produce, distribute, prepare, and consume the food we eat has been changing over the years. The technological revolution, capitalism, advertising, and the rapid pace of our lives, among other things, have strongly influenced what, where, when, how, and sometimes even why we eat. In short, our behaviors and our worldviews have adapted to, as well as created, new conditions and situations in which food is produced, distributed, and consumed, along with new means, symbols, and values associated with these activities. Change in foodways, because it reflects and influences change in other aspects of culture, is like a window through which to view meaning in culture and like an index in the book of cultural adaptation to changing natural and social environments. Food sustains us, giving meaning, order, and values to our lives; and food reflects the symbolism in our ideological systems. Patterned variations in production and consumption of food help to maintain and reflect social categorization such as gender, ethnicity, religion, education, race, class, etc. Food plays an important part in our identity construction, our religious practices, and our socialization. Foodways can thus tell us a lot about the society in which they play a part. This course will investigate the facts that we communicate messages by means of as well as about food, that we communicate frequently, and much, with and about foods, and that we can look at foodways to discern cultural presuppositions underlying our communicative styles.
Topics explored in this course will include food preferences and taboos, cuisines of the world and how they change, food and medicine, meals and manners, fast foods, genetically engineered foods, food branding and advertising, foreign dishes and hybrid cuisines, food and education, food and religion, food and sex, food and identity, food and power, food and the senses, and food in relation to the flow of time,. Food participates in multiple symbolic systems in a society, and one goal of this course, conducted in a lecture and discussion section format (but with some opportunity for questions and discussion even in the lectures), will be to discern some of the meanings that can be read into the patterns to be found in the communicative choices people make with respect to what, when, where, and how they eat, along with the cultural options from among which the choices derive.
Margaret Visser 1991. The Rituals of Dinner . Eric Schlosser 2001. Fast Food Nation Marvin Harris 1986. Good To Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture A small number of short readings may be made available online.