Semester Project Assignment      Food, Culture & History   Spring 2003     Wilk




The bottom line for this project is that I want to see a substantial independent piece of research on some aspect of food. This can be ethnographic or historical. It can deal with your own food history and traditions, with those of the Bloomington community, or those of another culture or time period. The one absolute requirement is that your project must include at least one recipe that you are willing to practice, and then cook for our final dinner.


Choosing a good topic is a key part of the assignment, and this is something you should start on right away.  I am going to ask you to submit your project ideas in the form of proposals, just the way I have to do when I want to do my own research. I will outline the proposal format below. The deadline for project proposals is Thursday February 13. You will get the proposals back (as I do) with one of three results- approved, rejected, or revise-and-resubmit.  If it is not approved, I will make suggestions about what needs to be changed, and you will get a deadline for your new proposal.





There are a hundred kinds of food writing. You can take a single kind of food, like a tomato or a peach, and trace it from the grocery shelf back to the farm it came from (much the way Schlosser does for the French fry in Fast Food Nation). You can pick a place, like southern Slovakia, and trace the history of conquest and immigration that brought different kinds of cuisines and cooking the area. You could write about colonialism in Benin and the ways French cooking affected coastal Ewe food habits. Or look at food metaphors and sex in fraternities on the IU campus.


These are all pretty academic. There is also a wide range of useful things you can do that would involve you in the local community. Food is a problem and an issue for many people in Monroe County, and I would be happy to help you if you would like to volunteer with Meals-on-Wheels, Community Kitchen, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard or other groups, as a basis for an ethnographic project on food and community service. Or you could think about ethnographic work with local vegans, green activists, hunters and fisherfolk who have to deal with a pollution issues, diabetics, or others concerned with nutrition and health.


Finally, you could help me with my own research on the diets and binges of men engaged in 18th and 19th century extractive industry. This means a lot of library sleuth work, looking for first-hand accounts by pirates, sailors, cowboys, gauchos, miners, whalers and fishermen, describing their daily life, and their wild behavior. If you are interested, talk to me after class.


Project Format


The paper should be turned in on paper. I will not accept an emailed file at the last minute. It should be printed in a clear and simple 12 point font, with one inch margins, double spaced. I love to see graphics, photos, charts, tables, and quotes from original sources.


Use the style guide at tell you how to do in-text references and a bibliography at the end, or just look at any on-line article from any anthropology or social science journal. It is pretty standardized.


The length should be 12-15 pages for undergrads, more if you need it. Grads should go 20-30 pages.

Proposal Format


The proposal has the following sections, and should not be longer than two double-spaced pages.


1. Title

2.  Short, concise statement of the goals of the project

*      What do you want to know?

*      What are the limits of your study in time and space?

*      How does the project involve food, culture and/or history?

3.                 3. Short statement of your proposed methods

*      What sources of information do you expect to use?

*      How do you expect to organize your information?

*      How will you organize your time so you will finish by the deadline?

4. What recipe do you expect to find and where?


Major Alerts


PAPERS ARE ALL DUE ON MAY 5, the MONDAY of EXAM WEEK. I do not like to give incompletes. Ask for one well in advance (two weeks minimum), only if you have a medical reason, or some very serious crisis that cannot be solved any other way. I always take points off for late work – my going rate is five points a day.


As you all should know, plagiarism is the act of turning in someone else’s work as your own, without acknowledgement. It is not only dishonest, it can get you thrown out of the university, so don’t do it.