Spring 2025 | Asia, Africa, and Europe Exploration

RRM 400 Food and Society

Overview of Course

Food, from its production to consumption, is a powerful symbol of social and cultural meaning. Through interdisciplinary readings, films, and discussions, and anchored in engaged and active learning tactics, this course will examine the relationship between food, identity, and culture within a U.S. context and in the ports we visit. We’ll investigate how the meaning of food is socio-culturally constructed and historically specific, and the way in which food practices establish, perpetuate, and negotiate concepts of otherness and belonging.

As an expression of identity and subjectivity, food marks borders between humans and non-humans, plants and animals, nature and culture, tradition and modernity, etc. The border, thus, serves as a metaphor for hierarchical stratification in terms of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality. Special attention will be given to how culinary culture is shaped by the dynamics of colonialism and global capitalism and how food is a mechanism by which dominant cultures other, abject, stereotype, and appropriate (ethnic) foods into commodified objects. Factors such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, religion, the media, ethics and corporate capitalism affect the foods we choose to eat (and those we choose to avoid) and the manner in which we consume them. Thus, we will pay particular attention to how people use food to develop a sense of themselves as beings, again, in the U.S. and in the ports we visit. How do people — through what, and how, we do and do not eat — construct relationships with our bodies, with other people, with our cultural histories, with animals, with the environment?