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FOOD & SOCIETY: WHY WE EAT WHAT WE DO AND WHY IT MATTERS

Marygold Walsh-Dilley, PhD, marygoldwd@unm.edu 

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION
What did you eat for breakfast this morning? Better yet, why did you eat it? Of course, we eat to satisfy biological needs, but, as the late Sidney Mintz (1996) tells us, “eating is never a ‘purely biological’ activity”. Food isundeniably substantive, but it is also symbolic and social, and producing, preparing, and consuming food reflects who we are and how we fit into the world. In this course, we will investigate some of the social, political, and historical factors that shape what we eat, and why. This course emphasizes that food is never simply natural or personal, but is rather influenced by social institutions (from colonialism to class) as well as people’s resistance to these forces. We will first look at how food both shapes and is shaped by culture and identity. We will then turn to the politics behind the distribution of food, examining both hunger and obesity. Finally, we’ll turn to agriculture and food production to link production and consumption. We will consider our current agricultural system, examine its benefits and costs and how they are distributed, and what we can do to improve it. After taking this class, you’ll never look at your breakfast the same again.

 

READINGS AND TEXTS
Jeffrey M. Pilcher. 1998. Que vivan los tamales! Food and the Making of Mexican Identity. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press

Suzanne Friedberg. 2009. Fresh: A Perishable History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

These readings will be supplemented by a course reader.

 

FILMS AND OTHER COURSE MATERIALS
Fed Up (movie); podcasts; cookbooks; and Google maps! We will also cook and eat in this class.

 

STUDENT REQUIREMENTS
3 short analytical essays

3 presentations

2 experiential projects

1 research project to build a Google map

 

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR
Marygold Walsh-Dilley is Assistant Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the Honors College. She received her PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University. She conducts research on food systems, agricultural transitions, and rural development with a geographical focus on Andean South America. She thinks food is great to think with -- it connects politics, history, and geography with biology, agronomy, and nutritional sciences (among other fields). It also tastes good.