Cuisines are like history; they begin as raw ingredients and raw "facts," and it is the human hand and mind that create them and give them meaning. This class is designed to serve three purposes: first, it is a broad survey of particular moments of change with political, economic, technological, and cultural shifts that impact food. Second, it is a survey of historiography (the practice of historical discipline) by considering the role of theory and methods within the field. Third, we will ruminate on culinary history, meaning how dishes themselves change, as well as how they are made, how they are eaten, and how they are valued. With all of this taken together, students will gain greater understanding of the cultural construction of food and history, by taking not only food and "facts," but also how these "truths" are contested and interpreted by people to give meaning to both the past and the present. These topics are weighty and complicated, certainly, and it would be a disservice to attempt to cover them all from the dawn of civilization to the present, and spanning across the globe. As such, we will concentrate largely on the west, but consider global perspectives as points of comparison.
This course will look at the food system in a way that takes into account the social, economic, political, environmental, and cultural impacts of food on our lives as citizens. Essentially, it connects individuals to their food in terms of how it is grown, produced, marketed and its consequences on society, be it positive, negative or a little of both.
The landscape of food policy is shaped in a highly contested environment in which actors from government, industry, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and international organizations all exert influence. This course will examine the role these actors play in the disputed environment that shapes food policy in both rich and poor countries. We will review the influence of agribusiness, social movements (food activists), NGOs, state actors, and intergovernmental actors. The course uses an interdisciplinary approach utilizing resources from several academic disciplines including political science, economics, sociology, law, and anthropology; but emphasis will be on the political economy of food-understanding the power of dynamics that underlie both food and farming policy in domestic and international context.