Instructor: Shirin Nadira
Food plays a central role in ordering the rhythms of individual, familial, and communal life — think comfort food, soul food, the Proustian madeleine. Consequently, how we think and talk about food is intimately related to how we construct ideal and abject bodies at the level of both the individual and the body politic, from the myth of the savage cannibal to the concept of the “melting pot.” Metaphors of eating and cooking have long served as key cultural tropes for conceptualizing the management of social difference, the boundaries between inside/outside and self/other, and processes of reading and thinking. Course Objectives Through close readings of literary and critical texts, we will broaden our understanding of foodways, the various intersections between food and culture. We will analyze the material histories of food objects, which reveal how contemporary culinary cultures have been shaped by the dynamics of colonialism, immigration, urbanization, and global capitalism. We will also unpack how metaphors of taste, hunger, and consumption illuminate contemporary issues including: the power dynamics of race, class, gender, and sexuality; the unequal distribution of lack and plenty; the environmental consequences of our dietary habits; cultural homogenization and hybridity; and the political unconscious of food porn and culinary tourism. On the Menu: textual selections from the Bible and Qur’an, Bourdieu, Brillat-Savarin, Mary Douglas, Derrida, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Montaigne, Plato, and Sidney Mintz; fiction by Paolo Bacigalupi, Jhumpa Lahiri, Toni Morrison, Mo Yan, and Ruth Ozeki; films including Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Babette’s Feast and The Lunchbox; the Netflix series adaptation of Samurai Gourmet; and art by Andy Warhol and Kara Walker.