Week 1. Eating Together: Introduction to the Anthropology of Food
Wednesday March 1
Eating is a profoundly social experience, cementing or marking social intimacies, hierarchies and roles. In this lecture we will talk about the idea of 'commensality', the practice of eating together. We will explore the kinds of relationships and boundaries between people created through various meals: a Javanese feast called a 'slametan'; an everyday Chinese lunch in a Hong Kong eatery; an anthropologist's attempt to share a festive Christmas meal in the Kalahari desert. At this introductory lecture, the structure of the unit, its key themes, and the assessment items will be explained.
- Clifford Geertz, The Slametan: Communal Feast as Core Ritual, In The Religion of Java, New York: The Free Press, 1960, 11-15.
- Richard Lee, Eating Christmas in the Kalahari.
- Maurice Bloch, Commensality and Poisoning, Social Research, vol. 66, no. 1, 1999, 133-149.
- Eugene Cooper, Chinese Table Manners: You Are How You Eat, 1986.
There are no tutorials this week. You should read the course outline thoroughly and familiarise yourself with the course assignments. If you have any questions please bring them to next week’s tutorial.
Week 2. Taste and Taboo
Wednesday March 8
Ever eaten spiders? Perhaps. Seaweed? No doubt. Raw meat? Guinea pig? Pigs trotters? Kangaroo?
Why do some cultures regard certain foodstuffs as disgusting, while others regard these same items as highly desirable delicacies or as everyday foods? How do we learn about these categories? What explains the different cultural categorisations of the same edible items? We will read two authors, Mary Douglas and Marvin Harris, who disagree with each other in their attempts to answer these questions, which are fundamental to the anthropology of food.
- Mary Douglas, The Abominations of Leviticus, In Purity and Danger, England: Penguin Books, 1970, 54-72.
- Marvin Harris, The Abominable Pig, In Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture. London: Allen & Unwin, 1985, 67-87.
- Marshall Sahlins, Food Preference and Tabu in American Domestic Animals, In Culture and Practical Reason, University of Chicago Press, 1976, 170-179.
- Marianne Elisabeth Lien, Dogs, Whales and Kangaroos: Transnational Activism and Food Taboos. In Marianne Lien and Brigitte Nerlich (eds), The Politics of Food. Oxford: Berg, 2004, 179-197.
Week 3. The Man-Eating Myth and Mortuary Cannibalism in the Amazon
Wednesday March 15
Was anthropophagy -the consumption of human flesh- a sanctioned practice in certain societies, partaken of for specific cultural reasons? What might it mean to lovingly ingest part of the body of a deceased family member? Or is cannibalism a myth, generated so that one culture can differentiate itself from others it sees as inferior? What role does colonialism and contemporary expressions of racism have to play in all of this?
- Beth A. Conklin, Thus Are Our Bodies, Thus Was Our Custom: Mortuary Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society, American Ethnologist, vol. 22, no. 1, 1995, 75-101.
- Shirley Lindenbaum, Cannibalism, Kuru and Anthropology, Folia Neuropathol, vol. 47, no. 2, 2009, 138-144 .
Film: Kuru: The science and the sorcery (2009) Rob Bygott
- William Arens, excerpt from The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy, New York: Oxford University Press, 1979, 10-40.
- Don Gardner, Anthropophagy, Myth and the Subtle Ways of Ethnocentrism, in Laurence Goldman (ed), The Anthropology of Cannibalism, Westport, USA: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999, 27-49.
Week 4. Gendered Symbols, Gendered Roles.
Wednesday March 22
Studying food inevitably involves studying gender relations. We will talk, first, about the symbolic associations that certain foods themselves have – foods and also drinks come to symbolise the qualities which a particular culture associates with masculinity, and the qualities a particular culture associates with femininity. These symbolic associations vary across cultures. Second, we will talk about gender and the allocation of certain roles surrounding food production, cooking, shopping and serving.
- Anne Allison, Japanese Mothers and Obentos: The Lunch Box as Ideological State Apparatus, In Carole Counihan and Penny van Esterik (eds), Food and Culture: A Reader, Routledge: New York and London, 1997, 296-314.
- Anna Meigs, Food Rules and the Traditional Sexual Ideology, In Food, Sex, and Pollution, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 31-44.
- Jeffrey Sobal, Men, Meat, and Marriage: Models of Masculinity, Food and Foodways, 13:1-2, 135-158.
- Alex McIntosh and Mary Zey, ‘Women as Gate Keepers’, In Food and Gender: Identity and Power’, edited bv Carole Counihan. Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998, 125-144.
Week 5. Entangled commodities: sugar and coffee
Wednesday March 29
How did sugar come to be so ubiquitous, and why do we continue to eat it even while knowing it is bad for us? This week we will discuss the way a single commodity such as sugar or coffee might be used to reveal complex entanglements. The history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the use of indentured South Sea islander labour in the Queensland sugar fields; the spread of sugar into a nutritionally deficient English working diet; the use of sweetness to mark the new rhythms of industrial capitalism and the boundary between work and rest; the current status of sugar in Western diets are all intertwined in our exploration of the sweet stuff. In the second half of the lecture we will turn our attention to the rise of cafe culture and the way food preferences express and reflect social class; the nature of the relationship between rural coffee growers and urban consumers; globalisation, commodity chains and debates about economic regulation of global markets.
- Sidney Mintz, excerpts from Sweetness and Power. The Place of Sugar in Modern History, New York. Penguin, 1988.
- William Roseberry, The Rise of Yuppie Coffees and the Reimagination of Class in the United States, in J. L. Watson and M. L. Caldwell (eds) The Cultural Politics of Food and Eating, USA, UK, Australia: Blackwell Publishing, 2007, 122-143.
- Pierre Bourdieu, excerpts from The Habitus and the Space of Life-Styles, In Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984, 183-186; 193-20.
- Alison James, The Good, the Bad and the Delicious: the Role of Confectionery in British Society, Sociological Review, vol. 38, 1990, 666-688.
- Paige West, Making the Market: Specialty Coffee, Generational Pitches, and Papua New Guinea. Antipode, 2010, Vol.42, no. 3, 690-718.
- James Carrier, Protecting the Environment the Natural Way: Ethical Consumption and Commodity Fetishism, Antipode, 2010, vol. 42, no. 3, 672–689.
- Film: Black Gold: Wake up and smell the coffee (2007) Marc and Nick Francis.
Week 6. High Food, Low Food, Fast Food, Slow Food
Wednesday April 5
This week will move forward in time from the early emergence of industrial capitalism to the rise of the industrialised global food system in the post WW2 period. We will cover the centrality of corn in the American food chain, the rise of fast food, and industrialised methods of animal slaughter. We will also talk about the labour practices associated with industrialised food production, focussing on Australia's Seasonal Workers Program. In the second half of the lecture, we shift our attention to various food movements that have emerged as a response to this system. What is the relationship between pleasure, eating and time, according to the Slow Food movement? And why does Julie Guthman, a critic of both the industrialised food system and the organic movement, describe the alternative food movement as 'unbearably white'?
- Timothy Pachirat, excerpts from Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 140-161
- Michael Pollan, The Meal, In The Omnivore’s Dilemma. England: Penguin Books, 2007,109-119.
- Julie Guthman, Can't Stomach It: How Michael Pollan et al. Made Me Want to Eat Cheetos. Gastronomica vol. 7, 2007, 75-79.
- Donald Stull and Michael Broadway, Chicken Little, Chicken Big: The Poultry Industry, In Slaughterhouse Blues: The Meat and Poultry Industry in North America, Wadsworth, Belmont, CA, 2013, 42-61.
- Dylan Clark, The Raw and the Rotten: Punk Cuisine, Ethnology, vol. 43, no. 1, 2004, 19-31
- Alison Leitch, Slow Food and the Politics of 'Virtuous Globalization', In David Inglis and Debra Gimlin (eds) The Globalization of Food. Oxford: Berg, 2009, 45-64.
- Julie Guthman, Bringing good food to others: investigating the subjects of alternative food practice. Cultural Geographies, vol. 15, 2008, 431-447.
Week 7. Obesity: public health problem, source of 'fat pride', cause of 'slow death'?
Wednesday April 12
Since the 1990s, the Australian media has talked of an obesity crisis. We will discuss various lenses through which to view these bigger bodies and (through which people with bigger bodies view themselves). Curves, fat, cellulite - all are attributed different status across cultures and within cultures. Honing in on Australia, we will canvass a public health perspective; the issue of socio-economic disadvantage, urban lives and the unequal distribution of obesity related illness across geographic spaces; the rise of a 'fat pride' movement, which challenges fat shaming and reclaims a range of body sizes as a source of beauty and pleasure; and cultural theorist Lauren Berlant's notion of 'slow death'.
- Murray, Samantha. The 'Normal' and the 'Pathological': 'Obesity' and the Dis-eased 'Fat' Body, in The Fat Female Body. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, 44-68.
- Yates-Doerr, Emily. The Weight of the Self: Care and Compassion in Guatemalan Dietary Choices, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Vol.26(1), 2012, 136-158.
- Lauren Berlant, Slow Death (Sovereignty, Obesity, Lateral Agency), Critical Inquiry, vol. 33, no. 4, 2007, 754-780.
- Megan Warin et al. Short horizons and obesity futures: Disjunctures between public health interventions and everyday temporalities, Social Science & Medicine, Vol.128, 2015, .309-315.
April 11-28: Mid-semester recess, no lectures or tutorials
Week 8. Eating the Other? Food, Ethnicity and Australian Identity
Wednesday May 3
Another year, another lamb ad. This year, however, Meat and Livestock Australia depicted Aboriginal people hosting a beach BBQ for successive waves of 'boat people', drawing criticism from both Indigenous figures and those who interpreted the ad's inclusive representation as a threat to white Australian identity. Why is meat so central to constructions of Australian national identity? This week we will challenge and enrich a popular account of Australian food culture, which leaves little room for Indigenous food practices and which assumes that a monocultural Anglo diet changed only in the post WW2 period. We will think critically about the understanding of Indigenous people as 'hunters and gatherers' and about the terms of cosmopolitan multicultural food consumption.
- Ghassan Hage, At Home in the Entrails of the West: Multiculturalism, Ethnic Food and Migrant Home-Building, In H. Grace, G. Hage, L. Johnson, J. Langsworth and M. Symonds (eds), Home/world: Space, Community and Marginality in Sydney’s West, Pluto Press: Annandale, 1997, 99-153.
- Elizabeth Povinelli, 'Today We Struggle': Contemporary Hunting, Fishing, and Collecting and the Market, In Labor’s Lot: The Power, History, and Culture of Aboriginal Action. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1994, 168-202.
- James, Roberta, The reliable beauty of aroma: staples of food and cultural production among Italian-Australians, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. 15, no. 1, 2004, 23-39.
- Mandy Thomas, Transitions in Taste in Vietnam and the Diaspora, The Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. 15, no. 1, 2004, 54-67.
- Michael Symons, excerpts from One Continuous Picnic, Melbourne: Penguin Books, 1982, pp. 28-41.
- Charlotte Craw, Gustatory Redemption? Colonial Appetites, Historical Tales and the Contemporary Consumption of Australian Native Foods, International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, vo. 5, no, 2, 2012, 13-24.
- Catie Gressier, Going Feral: Wild Meat consumption and the uncanny in Melbourne, Australia. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. 27, 2006, 49-65.
- Jean Duruz, Eating at the Borders: Culinary Journeys, In Amanda Wise and Selvaraj Velayutham (eds), Everyday Multiculturalism, Basingtstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, 105-121.
Week 9. The Andean diet and ethnomedical concepts of health and disease
Wednesday May 10
Guest lecturer: Freya Saich. Freya completed a Master of Research (Anthropology) at Macquarie and will share with us her experience of conducting research into malnutrition in an Andean community in Peru.
- M. J. Weismantel, Tasty meals and bitter gifts: Consumption and production in the Ecuadorian Andes, Food and Foodways, vol. 5, no. 1, 1991, 79-94.
- R. Corr, Reciprocity, Communion, And Sacrifice: Food in Andean Ritual and Social Life, Food and Foodways, vol. 10, no. 1, 2002, 1-25.
Week 10: No lecture or tutorials. Eating Experience Research report due Wednesday May 17.
Week 11. Hunger
Wednesday May 24
According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates, about 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, 'were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2016'. Global hunger is a serious issue, however it is not our exclusive focus this week. We will explore a broad range of settings and scenarios in which people go hungry. Anthropologist Megan Warin conducted ethnographic research with anorectics undergoing treatment, in order to understand the meanings they attributed to their own bodies. We will also read about a series of Turkish political prisoners' hunger strikes and learn more in the lecture about the history of the hungry body as a political weapon. We are not seeking to compare these experiences of hunger but to learn more about why hunger forms part of the human experience even in societies where access to food is not considered a problem.
- Megan Warin, ‘Me and My Disgusting Body’ in Abject Relations: Everyday Worlds of Anorexia. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010.
- Banu Bargu, ‘Prisoners in Revolt’ in Starve and Immolate, Columbia University Press, 2016.
- Susan Bordo, Anorexia Nervosa: Pyschopathology as the Crystallization of Culture, In Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.
- Fiona Wright, ‘On Increments’ in Small Acts of Disappearance, Artamon, NSW: Giramondo, 2015.
Week 12. Kitchens, cooking and the senses.
Wednesday May 31
Guest lecturer: Dr Lindy McDougall
Bring food and/or recipe books to your tutorial to share with your classmates. Do you have a story about that food? Does it evoke a particular personal memory? Does it link you more generally to a place or collective experience? How did you learn to cook it?
Week 13: Course Overview
This week looks back over the course, drawing together key themes of disgust and desire; boundary making; interconnectedness and entanglements; food and gender, class and ethnic identities; the social relations that surround food; hunger, protest and exploitation.
This week's tutorials will assist you in the writing of your take home exam.