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You Are What You Eat: A Global History Food & Drink

Session B: July 20 - July 30, 2021
1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Philosophy and Society
Lacy Feigh

Pasta and pizza and Italy, injera and coffee in Ethiopia, dumplings and dandan noodles in China, and burgers and Coke in the United States: across the globe, food and drink function as important cultural and social markers. This course gives students a taste of global concepts like imperialism, revolution, and consumption in the modern world by asking students to think critically about how food has and continues to shape society. Students will read articles, watch films, and attend short lectures in order to participate in seminar discussions. The main assignment of the course is a final research paper on a topic of the student’s choosing, in order to develop and emphasize academic writing skills.

Goals for Students

  • To broadly understand some of the major historical forces of imperialism and capitalism which have shaped global food and drink consumption
  • To critically engage with the forces which inform their own consumption and to link these historical forces with their lives
  • To develop academic research and writing skills which emphasize evidence-based argumentation
  • To think broadly about other cultures and societies beyond the United States

Possible Assignments

Each day of class follows a similar format which begins with a short lecture to provide context for the day before moving into a class discussion on the readings or film viewing. The second part of class each day would be driven by a small group activity or a chance for guided individual research to introduce students to the process and methods of research. This course functions similarly virtually and in-person—discussion could be held in class or via Zoom, and break-out rooms can be used for small group discussion.

Small Working Groups: students would choose a geographic area of interest which they would like to specialize in during the course. These small groups would come together for discussions and would serve as the “experts” for their region. Each group would be responsible for a small group presentation at the beginning of the discussion on the day their area is discussed.

Research Paper: individually students are responsible for one 5-page research paper on the topic of their choosing related to the course. Students will have time in class to come up with ideas, explore different sources, and meet with the instructor for guidance.

Draft Syllabus with Possible Readings/Viewings/Listening

Day 1: Introduction: Food Production and Access
Polly Russell, “Archives, Academy, and Access: Food Producer Life Stories” Gastronomica (Fall 2015)

Day 2: Slavery to Soul Food
Excerpt from Michael Twitty, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South (2018)
Jennifer Jansen Wallach “Hungering for Heritage: Nostalgia and the Rise of Critical Southern Food Studies” Gastronomica (Summer 2016)
Watch Soul Food Junkies: A Film About Family, Food & Tradition

Day 3: The Queen’s Tea?: Consumption and Empire
Maria Godoy, “Tea Tuesdays: How Tea + Sugar Reshaped the British Empire” The Salt: What’s on Your Plate, NPR 7 April 2015.
Sections from Erika Rappaport A Thirst For Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World (2017)

Day 4: MSG and Orientalism
Chau Tu, “Is MSG Bad For Your Health?” Science Friday 2 October 2014
Excerpts from Fuchsia Dunlop Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper (2009)
Excerpt from Edward Q. Wang, Chopsticks: A Cultural and Culinary History (2015)

Day 5: Race and Revolution in Cuba’s Cookbooks
Christine Folch, “Fine Dining: Race in Prerevolution Cuban Cookbooks” Latin American Research Review (2008)

Day 6: The Great Hummus Wars: Food and Occupation
The Kitchen Sisters, “Give Chickpeas A Chance: Why Hummus Unites, And Divides, The Mideast” Morning Edition 18 July 2016
Nir Avieli “The Hummus Wars Revisited: Israeli-Arab Food Politics and Gastromediation” Gastronomica (Fall 2016)

Day 7: Eating and the Environment
Watch Kino Lorber, Sushi: The Global Catch (2011)
Selections from Amalia Leguizamón Seeds of Power: Environmental Injustice and Genetically Modified Soybeans in Argentina (2020)

Day 8: Food as Nationalism
Part 2 “Stirring the National Stew: Food and National Identity in Ethiopia” from James C. McCann Stirring the Pot: A History of African Cuisine (2009)

Day 9: Bon Appétit
Anthony Bourdain “Don’t Eat Before Reading This” The New Yorker 12 April 1999
Student paper presentations