Setting the Homeless Table

Piko Ewoodzie

For weeks we’ve introduced you to chefs, speakers, films, and performances that will occur at our 17th annual fall Symposium. The theme of inclusion and exclusion is intended to spark conversation. Joseph “Piko” Ewoodzie, visiting instructor of sociology at Kenyon College, will continue the discussion of “Who’s welcome at the Welcome Table?” by inviting the homeless to the conversation.

Ewoodzie’s talk will focus on African American foodways in Jackson, Mississippi. While researching his dissertation, he conducted a year-long ethnographic study that followed over a dozen black Jacksonians to observe and experience how they make decisions about food. Ewoodzie focuses on four socioeconomically diverse groups: the homeless, those living well below the poverty line, middle income, and wealthy families.

We interviewed Ewoodzie over the phone in advance of his trip to Oxford:

Your dissertation work was an ethnographic study focused on the foodways and eating practices of African Americans in Jackson, Mississippi. Could you share any misconceptions you found through your study?

Out of all four groups in the study, the group that ate the most consistently (three meals a day) was the homeless.

As a past attendee of the symposium, what are you looking most forward to while here in Oxford?

I attended the BBQ Symposium in 2012. I find the Symposium to be one of my favorite conferences to attend because you are surrounded by incredibly knowledgeable people of various occupations and backgrounds with a common interest and passion in the region and food. Even though you are surrounded by brilliance, the atmosphere is casual and the people are down to earth. I’m looking forward to experiencing the Symposium with individuals whose work I look up to.

You attended Ithaca College for your undergraduate degree. Where did you grow up?

I’ve lived all over. I was born in Ghana, West Africa, and lived there until I was thirteen. I’ve lived in rural Illinois, the South Bronx, and upstate New York before attending college. I’m currently a PhD candidate at University of Wisconsin and teach in Gambier, Ohio.

Not able to attend the Symposium? Find out more about Ewoodzie’s work here and stay tuned for recordings of each talk, including this one.