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Charles R. Hale, Director SRH 1.310, 2300 Red River Street D0800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512.471.5551

Fall 2007


Unique Days Time Location Instructor
41845 M
7:00 AM-1:00 PM
EPS 1.128

Course Description

Food sustains us, giving meaning, order, and values to our lives; and food reflects the symbolism in our ideological systems.  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.  Furthermore, foodways change both in the influencing and reflection of a society's technology.  This course will investigate the facts that we communicate messages by means of foods, as well as about foods, that we communicate frequently and much about foods, and that we can look at foodways to discern cultural presuppositions used in communication.         Topics explored in this course will include food preferences and taboos, genetically modified food,fast foods, technology in food production (reproduction [seed, egg, stock] growth, maintenance [weeding, feeding], harvest, packing, storage), distribution, and consumption (preparation, eating, disposal), food and energy utilization, conversation during the production, distribution, preparation, consumption and  disposal of food, food as a topic of conversation, naming and beliefs about foods, food metaphors, social structure in seating and eating, meals and manners, food and education, food and religion, food and sex, food and identity, food and power, food and forensics, food and the senses, food and the flow of time, and maize in Mesoamerica.        Food participates in multiple symbolic systems in a society, and one goal of this course, conducted in a seminar format, will be to discern some of the meanings that can be read into the language-like patterns to be found in the choices and variations in what, when, where, and how people eat, as well as what, where, when, why, and how they talk about food.        In this course we will have three ethnographic projects, in which participants will collect information on foods or food related information that could be interesting and relevant to the course.      While this course does not consist exclusively Latin American content, there will be a greater emphasis on Latin America than on other parts of the world

Grading Policy

Requirements: Grades will be assigned on the basis of class preparation and on the written (+/- 8 pages each) and oral presentations of  the results of three ethnographic exercises, as well as on keeping and up to date journal.   Each week one (or two) of the participants will have volunteered to lead the discussion of the assigned reading, by preparing notes on the reading assignment for the week and questions for discussion.  


Texts: Required             Marvin Harris.   1985.   Good to Eat.   ISBN 1-57766-015-3                                     Nabhan, Gary  2004.  Some Like it Hot.   Island Press       ISBN  1-59726-091-6               Pollan, Michael.   2006.  The Omnivore's Dilemma:  A Natural History of Four Meals. 


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