Spring Foodways Syllabus: Food, Place, & Power

back to schoolWe’re thrilled with the reader enthusiasm last fall’s Semester of Southern Foodways series generated. This spring, foodways professor Dr. Catarina Passidomo teaches an anthropology course on Food, Place, and Power, and we again have the privilege of seeing how the study of foodways plays out in her classroom. Take a peek at the course description and syllabus below, and stay tuned for our first dispatch from the foodways classroom.

Food, Place, and Power

A course by Dr. Catarina Passidomo at the University of Mississippi

What do you know about where the food you eat comes from? Every day we consume food that is produced hundreds or even thousands of miles away. For breakfast, we may eat oranges from Florida, jam that was packaged in England, granola that contains nuts grown in Hawaii, or drink coffee made from beans that grow in Brazil. Or, we might be eating eggs from our backyard chickens or peaches grown by a local farmer. In any case, the “act of eating” links us into geographic networks of food production, distribution, consumption, and, ultimately power (Who decides what those networks look like? Who profits from this system?).

Each time we eat, we are connected by complex commodity chains to growers in Latin America, processors in Europe, labor leaders in the Caribbean, trade negotiators in Washington, D.C., and their counterparts in dozens of countries. Meanwhile, the modern food system relies upon considerable social dislocation and environmental disruption. The rise of international markets for foodstuffs is closely linked to the history of colonialism and empire, as well as to agricultural, industrial, technological, and social revolutions. Entire national economies have been formed based on the export of single commodities such as coffee or sugar.

This course is intended to inform you about the “where” of your food, stimulate your curiosity about where your food comes from, and illustrate how people, places, governments, and economies are connected to one another in the production of food, and how those connections are made possible. In addition to considering the modern food system, we’ll consider alternatives to it, and how those alternatives are also made to account for social, political, and ecological concerns.

Course Readings

Why study food?

Introduction to the course

Reynolds and Agyeman. 2015. “Food studies is not as frivolous as you might think.”

Production and Consumption

Mintz, Sidney. 1985. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books

Introduction, Chapters 1-3

Power, Eating and Being

Mintz, Chapters 4-5

From Farming to Agribusiness

Whatmore, S. (1995) From farming to agribusiness.

Film: Food, Inc.

Food, Culture, and Place

Gabaccia, Donna R. 1998. We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Introduction, Chapters 1-3

“Traditional” and Industrial Food and Farming

Gabaccia, Chapters 4-7

Food and Identity

Gabaccia, Chapter 8 and Conclusion

Film: Finding Gaston

Bread! The Staff of Life

Bobrow-Strain, Aaron. 2012. White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf. Boston: Beacon Press.

Introduction, Chapters 1-3

Food Discourse

Bobrow-Strain, Chapters 4-6, Conclusion

The Production of Unequal Access

Alkon, Alison Hope and Julian Agyeman. 2011. Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Introduction and Part I (The Production of Unequal Access)

Film: Soul Food Junkies

Consumption Denied

Alkon and Agyeman: Chapter 5-6

Will Work for Food Justice

Alkon and Agyeman: Chapters 7-11 and 8

Future Directions

Alkon and Agyeman: Chapters 12-15

Beyond Food?

Passidomo (2013) Beyond food.

Film Food Chains