Brian Stross Anthropology 324 L () Spring
Brian Stross office hours TTH in EPS 2.204 & appt. e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
TA: office hours. e-mail
T Th 9:30-11 Burdine 108
COURSE EVALUATION SURVEY https://utdirect.utexas.edu/diia/ecis/
Much about the ways we produce, distribute, prepare, and consume food 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. The concept of adaptation will be a theme of particular importance in this course.
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. Food practices 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 foods, as well as about foods, that we communicate frequently, and much, with and 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, conversation about and during the production, distribution, preparation and consumption 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 the senses, food and the flow of time, and maize in Mesoamerica.
Food participates in multiple symbolic systems in a society (e.g. language, religion, healing, politics), 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.
Requirements: One midterm exam (approx 25%), one final exam (approx 50%), and one short paper (ca. 10 pages, due Thursday, May 3) (approx25%). I recommend that you maintain a journal / notebook in which you keep recopied class notes, notes on readings, interesting newspaper articles, interesting pictures, and other memorabilia of your interest in food during the course of the semester. Class participation will be appreciated. Attendance is expected, and missing two classes, if unexcused, can lower one's average by a half grade.
Harris, Marvin. 1985. Good To Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture
Nabhan, Gary 2004. Why Some Like it Hot. Island Press ISBN 1-59726-091-6
Pollan, Michael. 2006. Omnivore's Dilemma.
Notebook/Journal - I recommend that all participants keep a running record or journal of insights, thoughts, and general notes about food and culture that occur in the course of the semester (format & medium up to you). Among other things you might want to put in the journal, recopied and reorganized class notes, notes on films and on readings, insights about food that you might get at various times, pictures relating to food, etc. Each week I would like you to pick a food or perhaps a class of foods and do a little research and write approximately a page on that particular food, to be added to the journal. I hope to reserve a few minutes of each class for individuals to report on interesting things they have put in their journal recently and relevant to the week's topic.
Anthropology Question - For each topic discussed it will be useful to keep in mind a broader question about the anthropology of food. One can ask oneself: What does this information about the use and relationship of food to the various forms of human endeavor tell us about the peoples involved, about people in general, and about the anthropological topics broached? What does it tell us about variation (diversity), about functions, about correlations, about history, and about adaptation; and always, what is its "meaning" or "significance."
Introduction: scope of the course, food, adaptation, symbolism, discourse, culture.
((Thursday, Jan 18: short video on spices of life – Chili peppers))
Homework: (due by 1st meeting week 2) Read Pollan 1-109; Foster & Cordell Ch 4.
also, come to Class prepared to discuss the assigned reading
and to discuss "seeing the other" (the link above).
Optional. "Oil in your Food" http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/03/26/ING3PHRU681.DTL
MAIZE IN MESOAMERICA: production, distribution, preparation,
and consumption of maize - discourse, work cycles, aesthetic enterprises,
nutrition, etc. related to maize.
((Thursday Jan 25: short video on spices of life- Garlic ))
Homework: (due for meeting week 3) Read Harris, Chapters 1, 2;
Nabhan pp. 1-35
Optional: (Food and Body, Ch.1)
Further Reading: (Flavio Rojas Lima 1988. La Cultura del Maiz en Guatemala.;
Taube, Karl 1985. "The Classic Maya Maize God: A Reappraisal." in V.M. Fields
and M.G. Robertson (eds.) Fifth Palenque Round Table, 1983, Vol. VII. San Francisco:
Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute, pp. 171-182; Karl Taube 1996. The Olmec maize
god: the face of corn in formative Mesoamerica. RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics
29/30; González, Roberto J. 2001. Zapotec Science: Farming and Food in the
Northern Sierra of Oaxaca. University of Texas Press. Brian Stross 1994" Maize
and fish: the iconography of power in late formative Mesoamerica." RES: Anthropology
and Aesthetics 29/30; Brian Stross 1992, "Maize and Blood: Mesoamerican Symbolism
on an Olmec Vase and a Maya Plate." RES: Anthropologyand Aesthetics 22.
B. Fussell 1999. Story of Corn. K. Bassie 2000 "Corn Deities and the Complementary
Male/Female Principle" presented at Tercera Mesa Redonda de Palenque;.
J. Staller et al. Histories of Maize: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Prehistory,
Linguistics, Biogeography, Domestication, and Evolution of Maize (Zea Mays L.),
(abbreviated version reprinted as; Histories of Maize in Mesoamerica: Multidisciplinary Approaches,San Francisco: Left Coast Press
Week 3 Jan 30, Feb 1
FOOD PREFERENCES AND TABOOS (snakes, cannibalism, snails,
levels. A society's food preferences and taboos (what is implied about that
society's experiences (history), perceptions, beliefs, boundaries, classification
systems, needs, adaptive strategies, etc.)
An individual's food preferences and taboos (what does it say about that
individual's experiences, personality, etc.).
FOOD AND FORENSICS (e.g. the palo verde pod in the pickup truck –
DNA in a Phoenix murder trial; coprolite analysis to see what people ate,
in jar in tomb at Apatzingan; chocolate in vessel at Rio Azul, Guatemala)
(Thursday, Feb 1: short video on food preferences and taboos)
Homework: (due for meeting in Week 4); Harris Ch. 3; Nabhan Ch. 2
Optional: (C. Food and Body, Ch.2); Visser Ch. 2; C&V Ch.1, 2, 8
(F&A Consuming Passions Ch. 6)
FOOD DISCOURSES: Conversation during and/or about food practices,
including production (supply), distribution, preparation, cooking, serving
( food riots )
Planting prayers, harvesting rituals and sayings, saying grace, to your health,
complimenting the cook, asking for seconds, offering food, toasting,
urban legends (such as "live monkey brains").
Classification of forms and contexts; functions of the discourses
in each context. (Planting and harvesting, cooking and serving, fasting and
feasting) diversity . CocaCola
(Feb 8: short video on cannibalism- discourse)
FOOD JOKES The character and incidence of jokes about food can reveal
much about how food is thought of in the society, about social stresses
concerning food, and about the nature and use of stereotypes in the society
Homework: (due for meeting in week 5), Harris Ch. 4; Nabhan Ch.3
Optional: (Food and Body, Ch.8, 9); Visser Ch. 3; C&V Ch. 3, 4, 7;
Week 5 Feb 13, 15
FOOD NAMING, CLASSIFICATION, AND BELIEFS ABOUT FOODS
and associated constructs (Categorization of kinds of food, kinds of eating;
kinds of food (e.g. fruits, vegetables, or meat; carbs, fat, or protein; red
meat, white meat, or fish), Coca-Cola Classic
kinds of food preparation (roasting, boiling, smoking), hot and cold foods)
((short video on the food quest in biological perspective – D. Morris The
Hunting Ape-look for classification, naming here))
Homework: (due Week 6) Read Nabhan Ch. 4, 5
Optional: (Evon Z. Vogt 1976. Tortillas for the Gods – Skim to
get a sense for the parts played by foods in Tzotzil Maya ritual life); Visser Ch. 4;
Week 6 Feb. 20, 22
FOOD METAPHORS (he's a nut; piña, chayote, mango; chile, nuts; that's
corny; he brings home the bacon; that's a lot of bread to get from the bank;
food in films, food in popular song;
What are the bases for such metaphors, what purposes do they serve, and
how do they influence perceptions in the process of social reproduction.
(cf. e.g. G. Lakoff and M. Johnson, Metaphors We Live By; G. Lakoff, Women, Fire,
and Dangerous Things; G. Lakoff and M. Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh:
The Embodied Mind & Its Challenge to Western Thought.)
Internet food metaphors
FOOD SYMBOLISM (tamale = human body, tortilla = ?, durian = ?,
rice = ?, maize ear = head, wine = Christ's blood, wafer [host] = Christ's
What are the bases for such symbols, what purposes do they serve, and how
do they inform us concerning a society's history, interests, and adaptive
((short video on animals eating plants Trials of Life: Finding Food))
FOOD RITUALS AND RITUAL FOODS (where the symbolism often
becomes explicit); ceremony and ritual (eating out; saying grace, washing
hands, brushing teeth,drinking coffee, having tea); Coca Cola
Homework: (due for Week 7) Read Harris Ch. 5, Foster & Cordell Ch Intro, 1, 7
Optional: C&V Ch. 9, 10, 11;
Week 7 Feb 27, March 1
SOCIAL STRUCTURE (differentiation and hierarchy as maintained, expressed, and/or
created through differential use of foods) In the time and place of food production, food
distribution, food preparation, and food consumption (e.g. seating locations,
who eats first, who does the planting, who does the gathering, who does the
hunting, who cooks the staples, how is food transported from place of
production to place of consumption; what meals are eaten when; eating out,
eating in; who you can eat with – e.g. who you can eat with is defined by caste
MEALS AND MANNERS table manners (using knife fork and spoon
continental or American style V 138-241) (belching to show appreciation
of food V 297-358)
(topics of conversation – eg. usually dinner conversation doesn't include
bathroom habits, but children often find ways to get into such topics - (Visser 262-272)
((March 1: short video on spices of life – Chili Peppers ))
Homework: (due for week 8) Foster & Cordell Ch 2, 3, 8
Optional: Visser Ch. 5, postscript; C&V Ch. 12, 13;
Week 8 March 6, 8
FOOD AND RELIGION feast, festival, fast, forbidden
Food for the Gods (e.g. chocolate, incense [e.g. copal ], candle; food
sacrificed to the gods),
food and drink in the wafer and the wine – the bread of life;
sacrifice of only perfect specimens; the holy meal.)
Food in this Life - Harvest festivals
( Religious vs. secular holydays and festivities: where is the dividing line?
Food in the afterlife (food for the soul, food on the journey)
FOOD AND ART examples of food in art and iconography
identification of food
((March 10 short video: Food for the Ancestors))
Homework: (due for week 9) Read Harris Ch. 6; Foster & Cordell Ch 5, 6
Optional: (Consuming Passions Ch. 7; Weismantel Ch. 6 )
MIDTERM EXAM March 8
March 12-17 - Spring Break
Week 9 March 20, 22
FOOD, GENDER, SEX, and CHILDBIRTH Food, gendered and
sexual. (metaphors linking food and sex [and gender],
beliefs about food and gender [production, distribution, preparation,
consumption], food facilitators and inhibitors of sexuality; gender related
eating problems [anorexia, bulimia]; pregnancy cravings; geophagy); food
taboos for new mother.
((Thursday March 22: short video on the Meaning of Food: Food & Life ))
Homework: (due for week 10) Harris Ch 7; Foster & Cordell Ch. 9
Optional: (Food and Body, Ch.4, 6); (C&V Ch 15, 19, 20); R. Wilk, "'Real
Belizean food': building local identity in the transnational Caribbean".
Week 10 March 27, 29
FOOD AND IDENTITY Strategies for manipulating identity (of self
and of other) through food and discourse on food. (Cancuqueros are
known to eat snakes", "The Mixe claim to be cannibals", "I like Chinese
food"; "I love pizza"; French "Frogs" and German "Krauts");
rituals of identification (ethnicity and/or ethnicities – that one identifies
with - by means of food); locale one identifies with - of origin or growing
up - by means of food; time/era/decade one identifies with - of birth or
growing up - by means of food ["We used to have fresh pumpernickel from
these little bakeries", "I remember when they rationed chocolate/sold Kanana
banana flakes"]; social class one identifies with - ["I remember trying to drink
the water from the fingerbowl", "I used to love roast possum"; "I'd like to just
sit around and eat caviar"]. Ethnic origins can be apparent when looking
around someone's kitchen;
Religious affiliations/identity in food (e.g. Muslims and Jews – no pork; Hindus
no beef); Where you buy your food shows your politics.
Doing it yourself: (growing your own food; preparing a meal from
scratch – connecting with tradition, appreciating the activities, "getting your
((Thursday March 29: short video on Meaning of Food: Food & Culture ))
Homework: (due week 11) Harris Ch. 8 ; Pollan Ch 8, 9, 10, 11
Optional: (Food and Body, Ch. 5); C&V Ch. 21, 22 ; pp. 74-80, 96-110 of
Michael Kearney's The Winds of Ixtepeji; Weismantel Ch. 5,
Week 11 April 3, 5
FOOD AND POWER (giving, receiving, and refusing food; food
sharing/ commensalism; genetically engineered food plants [golden rice1,
food production – power in control of irrigation system; food
distribution - power in control of how food gets distributed and stored;
food preparation – power in control of the preparation of foods
(specialized knowledge among other things, the power to poison);
food consumption – power in control of who eats, when and where.
Conspicuous consumption; public giving away of food; Display of food
staple in/on ruler's attire or body (says the ruler is the nurturer of his people,
and the food is thus a symbol of power); control by hunger strike (refusing
Food is chemically transformed in the body yielding calories through
digestion. This energy constitutes another form of power (energetic, caloric).
Some foods are in this sense more powerful than others.
Cooking food requires energy – much of which is from firewood, gas, or
electricity. A solar alternative holds many promises (CooKit 1 ,
FOOD AND WAR - The relationship of war to food production,
distribution, and consumption. Food for troops and for those left behind.
Seiges, distributing food packets to innocents in opposition territory.
Wars fought for food, and food fights. Manipulation of food and food
references in time of war (e.g. French fries become "freedom fries" by an act
of Congress, March 2003). Coca Cola vs Pepsi Cola (the ongoing food war)
((Thursday April 5: short video on Meaning of Food: Food & Family ))
Homework: (due week 12); Harris Ch. 9 ; Pollan Ch. 12, 13, 14
Optional: (Food and Body, Ch. 3, 7); C&V Ch. 23; handout to be distributed
Further Reading: Frances Moore Lappe, Diet for a Small Planet (1971)
Week 12 April 10, 12
FOOD AND TIME [time as duration, as sequence (of events), as order
(w/in a cycle), and as frequency]
Cycles by which food crops or gathered food plants organize the activities of
the year; (and cycles of food crop pests that also affect planting, and
Times of food preparation, time it takes to prepare meals, special meals;
consequences?) Coca Cola w/ the burger and fries
Cycles of food consumption that organize the day; cycles of food
consumption that reflect other cycles of time, like the month, the year,
or the decade;
Famine foods for times of famine (also relates to food preferences, or lack of them).
Time duration for abstinence from certain foods for ritual purposes;
Time duration following eating before swimming, sex, other activities;
((Thursday April 12: short video on Spices of Life: Cloves ; ½ of Future of Food ))
Homework: (due week 13) Harris Ch. 10, Nabhan ch 6, 7, 8 ; & read
Unhappy Meals (Michael Pollan)
Optional: 1984. Anthropological perspectives on diet. Annual Review of
Anthropology 13:205-49) [look in library's electronic journals]:
Week 13 April 17, 19
FOOD AND NUTRITION (protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals);
(salt in foods, lime and protein in maize, msg, genetically engineered foods, entomophagy)
Store Wars w/ Obe Wan Canoli
((Thursday April 19: short video on spices of life – allspice; ½ of Future of
Further Reading: Bryant et al, The Cultural Feast.
FOOD AND MEDICINE (tofu and menopause - estrogen production,
Homework: (due week 14) Harris Chapter 11; Pollan Ch 15, 16, 17
Optional: (Consuming Passions Ch. 1, Epilogue); C&V Ch. 24, 25
Further Reading: Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen Chicken Soup & Other Folk
Remedies. ; John Robbins, The Food Revolution
Week 14 April 24, 26
FOOD AND EDUCATION (formal and informal)
learning about life during food production and consumption
learning about food during non-food experiences
school and food (the cafeteria, catsup as a vegetable, food vending machines
in school, Coca Cola sponsoring Channel 1 in AISD)
(one learns a lot around the "dinner table", learning about life while planting
maize, shopping for food, or working in the kitchen)
formal (and informal) education about food production and consumption
((short video on spices of life – Cinnamon))
FOOD AND THE FUTURE energy, fertilizer, and food production;
Meat vs vegetarian food production costs and consumption costs
Grain vs. root production and storage costs
Homework: (for week 15) Pollan Ch. 18, 19, 20
Week 15 May 1, 3
FOOD AND THE SENSES (the smell of baking bread, living near the
stockyards, a sprig of parsley on the plate, eating with the fingers, the sound
of chewing, lip-smacking; piquant chile burning the mouth), the fizz of CocaCola, sweeteners
((short video on spices of life – Peppercorns))
Counihan, Carole & Penny Van Esterik, eds., 1998, 2007. Food &
Culture: A Reader (second edition) ISBN: 10: 0-415-97777-0
Marvin Harris. 1985. Good to Eat. ISBN 1-57766-015-3 (pb)
Deborah Barndt. 2002 or 2007 Tangled Routes: Women, Work, and
Globalization on the Tomato Trail. 2007 ISBN-10: 0742555577,
2002 or ISBN-10: 0847699498 pb
E.N. Anderson. 2005. Everybody Eats. ISBN 0-8147-0496-4 (pb)
Nabhan, Gary 2004. Why Some Like it Hot. Island Press
ISBN 1-59726-091-6 (pb)
Plotnicov, Leonard and R. Scaglion. 1999. The Globalization of Food.
Peter Farb and George Armelagos. 1980. Consuming Passions: The
Anthropology of Eating. (out of print, but useful read)
Counihan, Carole M. 1999. The Anthropology of Food and Body:
Gender, Meaning, and Power.
F. William Engdahl. Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda
of Genetic Manipulation (on GMOs)
Bryant, Carol, DeWalt, Kathleen, Courtney, Anita and Jeffrey Schwartz.
2003. The Cultural Feast (2nd ed.)
Visser, Margaret. 1991. The Rituals of Dinner . ISBN 0-00-637909-5
(now out of print )
Visser, Margaret 1999. Much Depends Upon Dinner:The Extraordinary
History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos,
of an Ordinary Meal.
Robbins, John 2001. The Food Revolution. ISBN: 1-57324-702-2
Kahn, Miriam. 1986. Always Hungry, Never Greedy: Food and the
Expression of Gender in a Melanesian Society.
Schlosser, Eric. 2001. Fast Food Nation
López, Ann Aurelia 2007. The Farmworkers’ Journey.
Striffler, Steve 2005. Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of
America's Favorite Food.
Harris, Marvin 1977. Cannibals and Kings. ISBN 0-394-72700-2
Mary J. Weismantel 1988. Food, Gender, and Poverty in
the Ecuadorian Andes. ISBN 1-57766-029-3
Christie, Maria Elisa 2008. Kitchenspace: Women, Fiestas, and Everyday
Life in Central Mexico. ISBN 978-0-292-71794-7
The Spice of Life Series – traces the history of spices and herbs over the centuries and into present day kitchens.
Chilies: a Dash of Daring,
Cinnamon, the Elegant Addition
Cloves: Natures Little Nails
Curry Around the World
Garlic's Pungent Presence
Herbs: Aromatic Influences
Mustard, the Spice of Nations
Nutmeg, Nature's Perfect Package
Pepper, the Master Spice
Peppercorns, Fresh Ground Flavor
Saffron, Autumn Gold
The Spices of India