All people have to eat to live, but food is a cultural celebration that embraces much more than human survival. Explores the rich cross-cultural variety of food traditions and the ways that food in all cultures creates group identity; marks class status and ethnicity; and involves religion, gender, economics, politics, power, and more. Students are introduced to the structure of global food systems in order to better understand the social, cultural, and political implications of US food traditions in relation to those of other cultures.
Goals, Topics, and Objectives
There are two underlying goals for this course: 1) introduce students to the importance and role of food in human cultures, and 2) illustrate to students how they are situated food consumers. Students will develop familiarity with the cross-cultural diversity of food traditions and with the common cross-cultural functions/roles of food in human cultures. In addition, students will apply the information and concepts used in the course to their own lives and develop a working knowledge of their own food traditions and of the food systems that contextualize their own food choices and alternatives.
- Key analytical concepts
- History of food production
- Functions of food in culture and society
- Cross-cultural variation in food traditions
a. Ethnicity/Identity/Solidarity b. Social organization/Kinship c. Religion/symbolism d. Gender Identity/Relations e. Power/Domination/Class f. Diet/Health/Nutrition g. Culture change
- Food in/and the US
- Food/traditions in the US
- Global and local food systems
- Describe and apply basic anthropological/sociological concepts involved in the analysis of society and culture generally, and those required to study food in a cultural context.
- Illustrate the cross-cultural diversity of food traditions using specific ethnographic examples, and categorize that diversity within the range of human subsistence practices (cross-culturally and in terms of human history).
- Organize the common roles/functions of food in human cultures and societies.
- Apply any particular culture’s/society's food traditions and practices to other aspects of that culture (a holistic understanding of food) including environment, subsistence practices, religion, social organization, etc.
- Apply the information, theoretical and empirical, covered in the course; and illustrate the students' own food traditions in relation to aspects of their culture, including the commodity chains, global food systems, and markets that characterize US food production, distribution, and consumption.
- Categorize the variation of food traditions in human cultures through the cross-culturally similar functions and uses of food in human culture. **
- Compare and contrast the social, economic, and cultural components of subsistence, market-based, and industrialized food production/distribution systems; and evaluate the relative benefits and drawbacks of each.**
- Assess one's own food cultures/traditions by describing how our food choices are embedded (or not) in larger regional and national patterns of production, distribution, and consumption. **
** meets critical thinking outcome
Assessment and Requirements
Means of assessing student achievement of the described goals are left to the discretion of the instructor.
General course requirements are left to the discretion of individual instructors.
Choice of course readings is left to the individual instructor.