Artwork of agriculture with crops, animals, and food

Audrey Richards, the great British anthropologist, once pointed out that the need to eat is the most basic and important of all human drives. We need food more frequently and more urgently than we need sex. The central place of food in our lives has made food one of the major foci of human existence. How we grow, process, distribute, and consume our food often defines us as a society. In our society, the food system has become the target of enormous critique in the last ten years, and also enormous innovation. How does what we eat define us? What does it mean to eat food made in factories and advertised on television, or to seek out "fresh," local or organic food? How do we use food to define ourselves as men and women, as Americans or punks, or Chinese, as children or adults? What does it mean to eat too much, or too little, and how does it define us as social beings? These are the key questions we'll be asking in this course. This course approaches food from two perspectives. The first is the political economy of food. We will look at food as a commodity, and study where it comes from, how it connects members of different societies and social groups as it travels along the commodity chain, and how it creates social and geopolitical inequalities. We will also study food as culture, including the symbolic meanings of different foods in various world cultures, the role of food in defining gender, national identity, and social class. We'll look at food, memory and place, the relationship between food spaces and gender/race, and the role of food in transnational culture.

See the University Catalog for specifics, recommendations, and prerequisites.