E400/600 Food, Culture & History

Dr. Richard Wilk

2003 Spring      T-TH  2:30-3:45   SB138     Section 0375/0367

Professor's Office: 130A Student Building, phone 855-1041, email: WILKR

Office Hours: T, 10-12 AM, or by appointment

Class Webpage: http://www.indiana.edu/~wanthro/foody.htm




Course Description                    CLICK HERE FOR CLASS SCHEDULE

ACTIVE READING ASSIGNMENT                                                        CLICK HERE FOR THE RESEARCH ASSIGNMENT


I love food! I love cooking, eating, and shopping for food. Most of my early memories are about food – and a major part of my travels around the world have been marked by memorable meals and food experiences. I usually travel these days with an extra suitcase so I can grocery shop wherever I go. And there are several languages where the only words I know involve ordering a meal and asking for the check afterwards. In all my ethnographic work I have found that everyone becomes friendly when you eat and appreciate people’s food, and they are always willing to talk about it. And over the last ten years, a good deal of my research has approached topics like globalization, gender, culture change, development, and the history of colonialism through the topic of food.


And in all these years, this is the first time I have ever had the opportunity to teach a class about food! So you are going to have to be flexible this semester, since I have years and years of ideas to try to cram into a single semester. I want to try out a number of different things. Where are we to start?



My major objective for the semester is to share my interest and enthusiasm for understanding culture and history through food. I will try to do this in four ways.


  1. Discuss my own research and experience. My long standing research interest in food is the way foods are creolized, the way they change, adapt, and blend in particular times and places. I have been studying food in Belize for the last ten years, and I am in the midst of a book project right now, dealing with food and masculinity in colonial history. I have been working with a lot of fascinating material that I will discuss in class. And if anyone is interested in helping with my research, you could do your semester research project on a related topic.


  1. Read, read, and read some more. We are going to be reading a lot in this class. There are now some really great books on food and culture, particularly in Eastern Asia. I have also found an excellent new reader of articles on the anthropology of food. After the first three weeks of the class we will be discussing these readings in each class meeting. You will be responsible for short write-ups on each reading, and you will be called upon several times to lead class discussion on a particular reading.


  1. Guest lectures by people who know. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a community that has a vibrant and varied food community, and more fine restaurants than any other city of our size in the country (outside of California at least). The owners, managers, and chefs in these restaurants know a tremendous amount about food and culture, and I will be inviting as many of them as I can to come and talk to the class. The main questions we will ask each visitor will revolve around creolization and adaptation – what is the indigenous food culture of Southern Indiana, and how have ‘foreign’ non-local cuisines adapted to it?


  1. Individual Research Project. Each of you will engage in some independent research this semester. I am hoping that as many of you as possible will become involved in research in the local community. Early in the semester I will pass out a list of suggestions, and we will discuss some options in class. By February 4 you will have to give me a one-page description of your project and how you are going to go about it. As part of your project you will develop a recipe for the final banquet exam.




Course Structure


I am dividing up the semester into four sections.


Creolization in the Caribbean

Food in History

The Politics of Slow and Fast Foods

Globalization, Continuity, and Change in East Asia


You will get a separate class reading schedule which will give precise dates for all assignments.

Class Requirements


One thing you can expect from this course is a LOT of reading. Class lectures and discussions have the goal of helping you digest and assimilate those readings. There is simply no other way to get into the richness of the topic of food. You have to keep up with the reading to make this class work. You will also have to participate in the classes when we summarize and critique the readings. You must demonstrate that you are keeping up with the reading. Don't be intimidated by other students!


If you have questions about an assignment or the schedule, you can call me, talk to me after class, or send me email.


You might think about forming a reading group to meet informally out of class time each week.



The grading scale is simple. One third of your grade will be based on the written summaries of readings. One third will be based on your class presentations and the quality of your participation in class discussions. And one third of your grade will be from your individual research project.


I will make every effort to give easier reading assignments to undergraduates, and I will expect less depth and complexity in undergraduate written assignments. I may excuse undergrads from some of the readings as well. But in most respects you will find that I treat grads and undergrads in the same way.




TEXTS - all are required and available in the IU bookstore


The first is our general reader for the semester:


Counihan, C. Food and Culture. Routledge, 1997.


The others (in the order we will read them)


Clarke, Austin  Pig Tails’n Breadfruit: The Rituals of Slave Food. Random, 1999.

Pilcher, J., Que Vivan Los Tamales!  New Mexico, 1998.

Davidson, James  Courtesans and Fishcakes. Harper, 1999.

Schlosser, Eric  Fast Food Nation. Harper, 2002.

Petrini, Carlo and Benjamin Watson  Slow Food. Chelsea, 2001.

Jing, Jun  Feeding China’s Little Emperors. Stanford, 2000.

Farquhar, Judith  Appetites: Food and Sex in Post-Socialist China. Duke, 2002.

Wu, David and Sidney Cheung  The Globalization of Chinese Food. Hawaii, 2002.

Disclaimers, stylistic guidelines, legal advisories, etc:


You are responsible for keeping up with the readings and for attending class regularly. Late assignments will be accepted, but grades will be reduced. Incompletes are only given with good reason, and if I am notified two weeks before the final exam date.


You are not allowed to copyright any of my class handouts or other materials, nor can you publish them or use them in public presentations without my permission.


You are encouraged to discuss with classmates and colleagues, and to collaborate in studying, reading, digesting, and synthesizing class materials. I encourage you to form study groups and/or reading discussion circles. BUT, all written work you turn in must be your own individual work, unless you make arrangements with me in advance for a co-authorship. Co-authored work gets one grade which is shared by all authors.


Plagiarism is a serious breach of academic ethics. Use full footnotes and references for all quoted or attributed materials. Since we will be publishing class work on the web, we need to pay careful attention to copyright restrictions on fair use. We also need to use a uniform style for text and references:


American Anthropologist reference and bibliography style is required for all class materials. This means in-line citations. Check out a recent issue.

All printed materials should be in Times New Roman font, 12 point type with 1-inch margins all around.


I am always available for consultation and discussion in my office. Please don't wait until the last minute to discuss problems, readings, or issues with me! I am always very busy, but I will always make time to talk about something important, except during the last three weeks of the semester when I have very little time available.


Email is often the best way to ask me brief questions, to check on assignments, or make short comments. If you miss class, contact me by email to find out if you have been assigned some discussion for the next week. But don’t expect me to write you an essay in response to a complex emailed question!


I will make up a class mailing list early in the semester and will use it constantly to send you messages about current events, bibliographies, assignments, and course readings. I will be happy to forward messages from class members to the entire group; let’s use this resource as much as possible.






*      The Global Gourmet

*      The Museum of Burnt Food

*    Family Indigestion (food from the 50s)

*    The Gallery of Regrettable Food (my favorite place on the web)

*    Let’s Go Grind! Hawaiian Food

*    New York Food Museum

*    The Nation’s Diet (Food Studies in England)

*    The Food Institute (Food Industry Central for USA)

*      The World Food Habits Bibliography (Best Anthropology food resource on the web!)

*      Fresh Wasabi! Everything you ever wanted to know about the green stuff.

*      The Museum of Beverage Containers

*      Sustainable Seafood (How not to eat endangered wildlife)