Beyond Vassar


Sociology 216: Food, Culture, and Globalization  (Spring 2009)

Taught By: Seungsook Moon (B.A., Yonsei University; Ph.D., Brandeis University)

From the Course Description: “Approaching food as material culture that reveals complex social relations of power, this course begins with the examination of the larger historical processes of conquests and other uneven cross-cultural encounters that shaped the making and remaking of ethnic and regional identities of food. Then it investigates the political economy of transnational production, circulation, and consumption of food in various areas of the world. It also explores the cultural politics of how tastes of food are invested with corporate interests, and images and meanings of status distinction and inequalities. Finally, it examines the role of food in shaping ethnic/racial, national, and gender identities in the midst of globalization. To complement analytical approaches in the classroom, this course incorporates experiential learning components, including a collaborative cooking exercise.”

Required Texts Include: Lizzie Collingham, Curry: a Tale of Cooks and Conquerors; Melanie DuPuis, Nature’s Perfect Food: How Milk became America’s Drink; Carlo Petrini, Slow Food: the Case for Taste; Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto; and James L. Watson, ed., Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia, 2nd ed.

Required Films Include: Black Gold: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, Deconstructing Supper, and Eat Drink Man Woman.

Recommended Films Include: Babette’s Feast, Chocolat, Fast Food Nation, The Future of Food, Like Water for Chocolate, and Supersize Me.

Semester Course Was First Offered: Spring 2007

Who Enrolls: “Because this course has been very popular, I give priority to sociology majors,” Professor Moon says. “When I checked the preregistration list, there are several disciplines represented including philosophy and neuroscience.”

Why Professor Moon Created the Class: “Food is a very fundamental thing in human life, but its production and consumption have been always mired by various political and economic interests. This political and economic entanglement of food has become quite alarming in the past four decades with the excessive commercialization of food production globally. In particular, despite the abundance of food in American society, the quality of food and eating here has been seriously deteriorated. Educated citizens now must know this complex politics of food production and consumption in the U.S. and in the world.”

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