Food & Culture Research from IUSB's Anthropology of Food Course, Fall 2018

Welcome to the public page for Indiana University South Bend's Food & Culture course!

ANTH-A460 Food & Culture is part of the Anthropology curriculum at IU South Bend and met in Wiekamp Hall during Fall 2018.

This is a showcase of the work our senior-level seminar students completed throughout the semester, culminating in a unique final project from every student.

Over the course of 16 weeks, we studied and discussed research in the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition and Food Studies, and each person prepared a unique project based on personal interests. Read on below to learn about some of this work.

(Un)Fair Trade: Ethical Concerns of Cocoa Production in West Africa

by Kristin Kobb

West African cocoa production, which provides approximately seventy percent of the world’s cocoa supply, is an industry rife with ethical issues. The predominantly small-scale, family-run farms often deal with issues such as hazardous working conditions, child labor, poverty and illiteracy, lack of access to the world market, outdated agricultural practices, and ecological concerns, such as soil depletion, pest, and disease of cocoa trees. To keep up with the world’s insatiable taste for chocolate, it is critical that small scale cocoa farmers and their communities are empowered to improve the economic and environmental sustainability and the social issues currently surrounding cocoa production.

The fair trade movement is one such effort currently underway to solve such issues faced not only in cocoa production, but in other industries as well. Broadly speaking, the fair trade movement advocates for sustainable agricultural systems, fair trading terms, and favorable policies and support systems for small-scale farmers and agricultural workers. That is to say, fair trade seeks to shift the balance of power in trade relationships and empower the traditionally marginalized worker. However, there are a multitude of fair trade labels from various organizations, not all of which operate under the same standards. Therefore, consumers, retailers, and other institutions should approach items labeled as fair trade with caution, and conduct research into products labeled as fair trade for themselves.

For more information about cocoa production in West Africa, read: Wessel, Marius, and P. M. Foluke Quist-Wessel. 2015. “Cocoa production in West Africa, a review and analysis of recent developments.” NJAS -Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences 74-75: 1-7.

For more information about the fair trade movement, visit the Fair World Project website.

Tamales and their Historical Importance on Mexican Culture

by Siara Rogers

What makes food important? What promotes this item as being the “face of our country? For many of us, we all have a favorite food that we often spend a lot of time consuming. Many times, these foods have been exposed to us for years, if not throughout our entire lives. But do we stop to think about how this food became so popular, so favored? People become so accustomed to eating foods that are unique to their culture, but do individuals think beyond the normality? Popularity becomes a characteristic of food and with that in mind, I want to take the historical approach when discovering the truth about these food dishes. In this case, I want to find out why and how tamales became so popular among the Mexican people.

For Further Reading: Pilcher, Jeffrey M. 1996. "Tamales or Timbales: Cuisine and the Formation of Mexican National Identity, 1821-1911." The Americas 53, no. 2: 193-216. doi:10.2307/1007616.

Foodways and Identity: Narratives of Life History Told Through Family Recipes

by Tina Grace

Our foodways are an important marker of our identity, they are as much a marker of our identity, as is language and culture. Food signifies one’s beliefs, values, heritage, and traditions. From everyday meals to celebration feasts to holiday fare, food is celebrated, often shared, and used as a tool in communication. Because our culinary knowledge is learned early in life through the teaching process within family foodways, more than just recipes are shared in this transmission of knowledge.

Narratives of life histories are also transferred, informing meaning in family relationships. It is precisely this process that cements food as an integral part of identity development. Focusing on the personal histories of the women in my own immediate and extended family, this study is contextualized through reproducing two of my family’s traditional recipes: Spaghetti and Meatballs and Pizza. Examining my own family history and foodways through an anthropological lens show the collective process and conviviality of producing and consuming food through traditional family foodways has a greater impact in meaning making and identity formation

For Further Reading: Abarca, Meredith E., and Joshua R. Colby. 2016. “Food Memories Seasoning the Narratives of Our Lives.”Food and Foodways24 (1–2): 1–8.

Japanese Gastro Tourism and the Promotion of Local Food Ways

by Veronica Newland

Japan is often thought of as culturally and genetically homogenous. Yet, someareas of the countryhave had more contact with the outside world, while other areas remain nearly unchanged in comparison. The same goes for Japanese food. Even prior to the twenty century, Japan has adopted a variety of western food into its own culinary repertoireand before that, a number of Chinese and Korean dishes reached japan.Awide variety of foods and food practices fall under the umbrella of Japanese cuisine. In addition, each region and prefecture of Japan seem to have their own local specialties and varieties ofpopular dishes. This is not a unique phenomenon. Similar to how the U.S. state of Idaho is known for potato productionand Vermont for maple syrup, Japan’s Aomori prefecture is known for apples. Food products that originate or boast flavors from specific areas of Japan are generally valued by consumers.

For Further Reading: Kimura, Aya Hirata, and Mima Nishiyama. 2008. “The Chisan-Chisho Movement: Japanese Local Food Movement and Its Challenges.” Agriculture and Human Values25 (1): 49–64.

The Influence of Government Policies in Connection with World Hunger

by Tehya Henry

Throughout time, hunger has been an issue spanning across countless places. However, most people believe that this is due to a lack of food production. But, when 70% of food produced is being thrown away or expiring because it has gone bad, how is it that not enough food is being made? Government policy has affected food distribution and production since becoming involved in the early 1940's. The idea of increasing production and distribution through the creation of public goods has been the primary goal of government with trade, however, that idealistic goal has disappeared gradually overtime due to different policymakers and "bigwigs" making decisions based on personal goals and beliefs. My project focuses on going behind the scene in government policy and how these rules affect food distribution locally, regionally, and globally.

For more information on food law and policy, read: Ziegler, Jean. 2013. Betting on Famine: Why the World Still Goes Hungry. New York: The New York Press.

Global Diets' Effects on the Environment

by Juan Duran

Research suggests that changes in human diets have multiple impacts.

Global food production has become a threat to the environment, as the human population continues to grow so does the demand for food. Human diets contribute to environmental impacts and global warming since they create a demand for agricultural products, creating pollution and soil depletion and toxicity of growing foods industrially. In addition, the rise in incomes and urbanization are driving a global dietary transition in which traditional diets are being replaced by diets with over consumption of protein which occurs in all the world’s regions. A dietary change is suggested to be necessary to reduce the environmental impact of the food system. If new alternative diets were adopted, they would offer substantial health benefits that could reduce not only our global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce land clearing and species extinctions, and help prevent diet-related diseases. A shift to alternative diets is a solution to the negative effects of human health, environmental impacts,and global warming.

For Further Reading: Joyce, Andrew, Sarah Dixon, Jude Comfort, and Jonathan Hallett. 2012. "Reducing the environmental impact of dietary choice: perspectives from a behavioural and social change approach." Journal of Environmental and Public Health, vol. 2012, Article ID 978672.

Gender in The Kitchen: A Closer Look at American Food Consumption Processes

by Anna Darr

Anthropologists are interested in the fascinating concept of making the familiar seem strange and the strange seem familiar. Culture is one of the many ways in which this process is completed. Therefore, it is important to examine the norms, customs,and traditions of one’s own culture. American culture is in and of itself an incomprehensibly broad term. However, a more transparent concept for most people living within American culture is gender roles in relation to the kitchen. Gender is a social concept that acts as a guideline for the lives individuals will lead. Within the United States, and throughout the world, gender has been the basis of a complex system of power known as the patriarchy. Broadly speaking, there are current gender roles taking place in many American kitchens due to a ripple effect from a distant, and not so distant, history in which women’s lives were dictated by the patriarchy. One of the primary components of being a women was, and is, her relationship with the process of food consumption as a whole. This relationship includes purchasing, preparing, serving, and cleaning as well as the mental load that goes into feeding oneself and others.

For Further Reading: Beagan, Brenda, Gwen E. Chapman, Andrea D'Sylva and B. Raewyn Bassett. 2008. “'It's Just Easier for Me to Do It': Rationalizing the Family Division of Foodwork.” Sociology 42 (no. 4), 653–671.

New Agricultural Methods

by Treyvez Russell

Throughout the industrialization era, methods of agriculture have changed drastically. The ancient methods were neither cost-effective nor healthy for the environment. They were labor intensive and required a major time investment. Continuous use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides had caused a great deal of damage to the environment. Soil erosion, water scarcity,and poor weather conditions were all common problems faced by ancient farmers. However, with the developed technology methods, agriculture too has taken the next step. Human beings are now more cost-effective, helping the economy grow, and providing the most efficiency using scarce vital resources. It has taken the economy to a higher level, saving up costs and generating high revenues from exporting crops. My project reviews the advantages and disadvantages of contemporary agricultural methods like aquaponics, genetic modificaiton, and smart farming.

For Further Reading: Altieri, Miguel A. 2009. "The ecological impacts of large-scale agrofuel monoculture production systems in the Americas." Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 29 (no. 3), 236-244.

Fast Food Culture in China

by Rene Kane

In the past few decades, transitional countries like China have experienced a rapid cultural change due to globalization and accelerated economic development. People’s lifestyles continuously transform to reflect the shifting demands of the growing industrialized society, including faster pace of work and reduced time for leisure. The dramatic increase in Chinese households’income, as well as access to a variety of food choices has prompted the shift in traditional culinary culture towards a more westernized approach with its high-fat, high-energy foods and a less conscious consumption. The fast food sector in China is growing at unprecedented rates, expanding mainly in urban areas and replacing the traditional full-service restaurants.

Additionally, there is a significant variation in fast food offerings compared to both their original Western influences and their Chinese competitors. With such abundance of convenient food choices, even traditionalist countries like China where food consumption is tightly intertwined with cultural symbolism and historical meaning succumb to adapting and transforming their traditions. Recently, substantial public concern emerged regarding the impact of the expanding fast food sector on the country, specifically its correlation with the increased prevalence of public health issues and the growing disregard for China’s traditional culinary heritage. While the health concerns are supported by a vast body of research, the cultural impact is less evident. Moreover, some of the effects of the fast food sector development on the modern Chinese society are not only positive, but necessary for its ongoing global advancement.

For Further Reading: Yan, Yunxiang. 2013. "Of Hamburger and Social Space: Consuming Mcdonald's in Beijing". In Food and Culture: A Reader, 3rd ed., edited by Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, 80-103. New York: Routledge.

All Units: Health is Advised,Proceed with Caution

by Evan Drinkall

Public Health in the work place has been a hot topic in recent news, and law enforcement agencies are no exception. My research looks at reasons why police officers may not be as healthy as they should and what external or internal factors contribute. I conducted first-hand participant-observation with a small local police department, gathering information about habitual behavior and daily routines in the lives of graveyard shift law enforcers. My work examines through primary and secondary research the relationship between stress, overeating, and poor eating on the job.

For Further Reading: Wanjek, Christopher. 2005. Food at Work: Workplace solutions for malnutrition, obesity and chronic diseases. Geneva, Switzerland: International Labour Organization.

Refugee Camps: Food, Nutrition, and Deservingness

by Sarah Whisman

Today, there are extensive critiques of refugee camps, the people that reside in them, and the involvement of NGOs (non-governmental organization) and governmental bodies in this sector of humanitarianism. Separately, there has also been research on the food and nutrition available in refugee camps and other forced migrants. However, there is limited research on how the two interact with each other. Thus,this research paper looks at the problems that reside within refugee camps to see how they contribute, effect, and control food the necessary food that the refugees need.

For Further Reading: Yarris, Kristen, and Heide Castañeda. 2015. “Special Issue: Discourses of Displacement and Deservingness: Interrogating Distinctions between ‘Economic’ and ‘Forced’ Migration.” International Migration 3 (no.64).

Thank you for engaging with our scholarship!

And "Well done!" to all members of the course!

Please contact the IUSB Department of Sociology & Anthropology if you would like to learn more about opportunities for study and research on food and culture.

Created By
Madeline Chera


Created with images by Roderico Y. Díaz - "Corn seeds" • Madeline Chera - "IUSB and Food & Culture" • DEZALB - "ecuador guyayaquil pods chocolate culture cocoa ecuador" • skeeze - "tamales food mexican" • Tina Grace - "Spaghetti and Meatballs" • Tina Grace - "Pizza" • Agathe Marty - "Takoyaki in Osaka, Japan" • Atlantios - "homeless beggar poverty" • Richard Gatley - "untitled image" • Alyson McPhee - "Cilantro" • sasint - "conservatory agriculture aquaculture" • ulleo - "wheat wheat field cereals" • perusona1004 - "paprika harvest smart farm" • ål nik - "Burger time" • Wow_Pho - "food japanese asian" • Jordan - "Making Rounds" • Isaiah Rustad - "untitled image"

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a copyright violation, please follow the DMCA section in the Terms of Use.