Food and Culture ANTH-A460 | Fall 2018 | MW 10-11:15AM | DW 1180

Do you like to eat? To cook? To talk about food?

Is food important to your family? To your local community? To your personal identity?

Do you ever wonder about how sugar came to be such a common ingredient in the US food system? Or about how diet and human evolution have shaped each other?

Have you ever argued with a friend about the authenticity of nachos? Or about whether fusion foods like chicken tikka pizza are awesome...or abominations?

Have you ever thought, "Food anthropologist? I'd love to meet one. Maybe I'd like to be one! That sounds like a cool job."?

Then this course is for you!

See yourself here!

Join us for this upper-level seminar course, as we explore food as an object of anthropological study.

We will look at the history, key concepts, major figures, and future directions of the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition and of the wider field of Food Studies. We will put into practice the primary methods anthropologists use in food research, and we will further build skills in research design, clear communication, and analysis of texts, other media, and ethnographic data. Reflecting anthropology broadly, we will compare examples from different cultures and look closely at some of them, with a focus on food and heritage in a global context. The course will require you to utilize your expertise as an experienced eater---and passion for food, if you have it---to challenge and deepen your understanding of the relationships between food and culture.


Materials costs are low for this class, with two trade paperbacks as the required full texts. One is considered a foundational work in Food Anthropology: Sweetness and Power by Sidney Mintz. The other book came out last year and won numerous awards: The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty. We will read articles and excerpts from other classic and fresh research in the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition and in Food Studies, posted as PDFs and links on Canvas. Written texts will be supplemented with other resources that are not strictly scholarly, including video and audio from popular podcasts, as well as content for non-academic audiences.

Read important work in the interdisciplinary field of Food Studies.

Sensory experience is a part of researching food, and it is also a part of this course. There will be occasional tastings, and sharing snacks will definitely be encouraged! We will also pursue opportunities for connecting with local experts and resources, wherever possible.

Learning is a process, and, for this course, you will document that process and receive credit for it. You will prepare a portfolio of all the work you do, including reflections on readings, preparation for presentations, responses to class activities and the work of peers, and research for the final project.

You will develop a final project that contributes to your larger interests and career and personal goals, within guidelines provided by the instructor. This could take the shape of a critical literature analysis, an auto-ethnography, a research essay, or another creative work. You will be invited to make this work public through a course publication or blog, so that other people inside and outside the field can access and use the research you have done.


After completing this course, you will:

  • have developed a broad understanding of the range of research people are doing in the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition;
  • be knowledgeable about many of the most prominent issues in Food Studies scholarship and in wider discussions of food and culture today;
  • have at your disposal the vocabulary, theoretical concepts, and real-world examples to understand and interrogate claims about heritage, authenticity, value, identity, ethics, power, and meaning related to food that you encounter in your own life and in popular and academic media;
  • have further honed research and communication skills and in-depth knowledge about your project topic; and
  • have made a contribution to the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition that will be accessible to other scholars, experts, and interested parties.

The instructor is Madeline Chera, Future Faculty Teaching Fellow in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at IUSB. She researches the promotion of traditional foods and food culture change in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and also has fieldwork experience in Indiana and Belize. Chera was honored with a teaching award for a food-related course on agricultural biodiversity at IUB in 2014.

Get in touch to ask questions via mchera@iu.edu.

So, if you're thinking,

"Where do I sign up?"

contact your adviser, reach out to the instructor, or inquire with the Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology.

We look forward to seeing you in August!


Created with images by Monika Grabkowska - "Apricot in the dark style" • Lan Pham - "Night Shift at the Restaurant" • Jakub Kapusnak - "Fish at the Market" • eismannhans - "smarties confectionery sugar" • Natasha Bhogal - "Nachos Galore" • Roman Kraft - "Fresh Bread" • Paolo Nicolello - "Coffe addiction at Sisterfields cafe in Bali" • Detmold - "antiquariat old cookbook antiquarian cookbook" • Priscilla Du Preez - "untitled image" • Eiliv Aceron - "Take Away Pasta" • pixel2013 - "apple red apple red chief" • 41330 - "popcorn corn pop" • Engin_Akyurt - "coffee caffeine core" • other photos c/o Madeline Chera

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