Chicago Area Food Studies (CAFS)

Molly Doane, Anthropology
Susan Levine, History and Institute for the Humanities


Food Syllabi:

Food, Hunger and Power in 19th and 20th Century Europe

The Culture and Politics of Food

Feast or Famine: The Ecology and Politics of World Hunger

Food, Culture and Identity

Food History Syllabus

A Gendered History of Food

The Global Politics of Eating

Food Systems in World History

Psychology of Food

Sociology of Food

The History of the American Meal or Why Americans eat how Americans eat 

Our theme for the 2014-15 season will be “Urban Gardening:  Food, Community, and Social Movements.” Working closely with the UIC Heritage Garden, the Food Studies Working Group will focus on the links between cultural heritage, the relationship people have to their gardens, and the foods they produce.  UIC – one of the most diverse campuses in the U.S. – is an ideal location in which to reflect on the relation between cultural and ecological diversity and to explore family and community narratives.

Fall speakers will include our Food Studies post-doctoral fellow, Priscilla McCutcheon, and food writer and activist, Raj Patel.

“Growing Black Food on Sacred Land”
Priscilla McCutcheon, Geography and Africana Studies

Date(s): Thursday, 10/9 4:00 PM to Thursday, 10/9 5:00 PM

This talk focuses on one Black Nationalist religion’s farming practices in the rural South.  Specifically, I will explore how spirituality and black liberation informs this group’s understanding of sustainable agriculture.  I argue that through their farming practices, they are creating a geography of hope for black people.

McCutcheon’s post-doctoral project is “Food, Race and Space in an African American Land Ethic.”

During this fellowship year I will continue to develop the concept of an African American Land Ethic (AALE), specifically exploring the connection between urban and rural spaces, how hunger and emergency food fit into an AALE, and the connection between spirituality and the land,” said McCutcheon. “I argue that an AALE has meanings that are shaped both by historical and present-day experiences of African Americans with racialized physical and social landscapes. The lack of recognition of an AALE results, in part, from broader misinterpretations of the relationship between African American people and the environment.

The components of an AALE are not just separate principles that individual black farmers and food cultivators practice on a daily basis. Instead, they are tied to larger racial projects that are both a reflection of, and a response to, racial supremacy. I will continue my work with black religious food programs, with a range of racial and religious ideologies, all of which profess a spiritual and, I would argue, racialized commitment to feeding black people safe and healthy food. The commonalities and differences in these food programs reflect the complexity of an AALE. I will extend my research beyond the southern portion of the United States to black religious food programs in Chicago, many of which have an intimate spatial connection with the South.

Priscilla McCutcheon is an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut with joint appointments in the Department of Geography and the Institute for African American Studies. Her primary research focus is on the intersection of agriculture/food, racial identity formation, and religion. In her dissertation, “‘Heaven on Earth’: Race, Food and Space in Black Religious Food Programs,” McCutcheon examines racial identity formation and place-making through the lens of three black religious food programs that range from a black Protestant church’s emergency food program to a black nationalist Christian organization that is farming over 4,000 acres of land. During her graduate studies, her passion for food and agriculture never waned and she worked with community food groups throughout the South and The Virgin Islands on best practices in their food programs. During her free time, McCutcheon enjoys everything about food including growing her own food, cooking, watching cooking shows, and trying new restaurants. She earned her PhD from the University of Georgia in Geography and a master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Georgia.

“Digging In: Past, Place, and Other Notions”

Virginia D. Nazarea
Professor,  Department of Anthropology Director,  Ethnoecology/
Biodiversity Laboratory Baldwin Hall, University of Georgia

Date(s): Thursday, 10/30 3:30 PM to Thursday, 10/30 5:30 PM

Why do seedsaving and heirloom gardening persist in modernity, and why do they seem to be spreading? Drawing on research on ole’ timey and immigrant gardeners in the American South as well as on indigenous farmers recuperating and reintegrating native potatoes in the Peruvian Andes, this presentation will explore biodiversity conservation as a social movement of a different sort.

“Cook, Eat, Man, Woman – Competing Ideas to Feed the World in the 21st Century”

Raj Patel, writer, academic, activist
–  Research Professor, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin
–  Visiting Professor, Unit of the Humanities at Rhodes University, South Africa
–  Writer/Co-Producer, “Generation Food:  Breaking Rules to Feed the 21st Century”
–  Fellow, Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First

Thursday, 11/13 4:00 PM to Thursday, 11/13 6:00 PM

Abstract:  In response to the ongoing food crises, the Group of 8 Countries launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. While the New Alliance appears to be little more than a project to privatize agriculture in the Global South, it is in fact part of a developmental project decades in the making, one that abandons the goal of basic poverty reduction, and settles for poverty with added vitamins. It is not, however, the only option on the table. The Soils Food and Healthy Communities Initiative in Malawi is one of many initiatives that takes food sovereignty and agroecology seriously, and demonstrates profound systemic alternatives to the way the G8 would feed the world.

Spring 2014 programs
We are excited to present three foreign language feature films that each take food as a central theme.  The film screenings will be moderated by faculty in food studies, languages, and cultural studies.  We will focus on the use of food as cultural representation, personal identity, and historical subject.  Screenings will take place in the Institute for the Humanities, 701 South Morgan, Lower Level Stevenson hall at 3pm.  Each screening will be followed by a reception featuring film inspired cuisine. The receptions will be free but please register so we know how many people to expect.

Tuesday, January 29, 2014

“Tampopo” (1985, Japanese) at 3pm

          Cancelled. To be rescheduled.

“Zemlya” (“Earth”, 1930, Soviet)

          Tuesday, March 11, 2014

“Babette’s Feast” (1985, Danish) at 3pm

Fall 2013 programs

The UIC Institute for the Humanities is proud to host a special series, “New Research in Food Studies.”  Food Studies is rapidly becoming an important field of research in the humanities. Inherently interdisciplinary, food studies addresses a range of issues including the history, culture, politics, of food as well as questions of environment, agriculture, globalization and social justice.

This fall the Institute for the Humanities will bring three young scholars to campus to highlight new and creative work being done in the field of food studies.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

             Tore Olsson, Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee

“Food, Farms, and Global Poverty:  Rethinking the History of the Great Revolution”

          Thursday, October 31, 2013

             Amanda Logan, Assistant Professor, Northwestern University

“Challenging the Scarcity Slot:  Building Alternate Archives of Food Security in West Africa”

          Monday, November 18, 2013

             Angela Jill Cooley, Assistant Professor, Minnesota State University, Mankato

“Let Them Eat Politics:  Food, Power, and Poverty in the Civil Rights Era”

Chicago Area Food Studies Working Group

Brown Bag lunches take place the first Thursday of every month (*except as noted below) from 12:00-1:30 p.m. in the Institute for the Humanities, lower level Stevenson Hall, 701 South Morgan. The brief, informal presentations will be followed by discussion.

Thursday, March 14, 2013, 12:00 PM
 Molly Doane, UIC Anthropology

Organized Responsibility and the Fascism of the Family Farm: When the Neighbors Poison the Well

This paper explores the rapid growth of concentrated agricultural feeding operations (CAFOs) in Wisconsin. Recent policy changes there have been favorable to the development of industrial dairy operations at the expense of the small (<100 cattle) farms that have characterized the dairy sector in the past.  The growth of CAFOs has contributed to the decline of small dairy operations and to their surrounding communities.  They raise serious ecological concerns, such as water pollution.  In addition, there are associated health concerns when neighboring farms and residences are affected by high levels of nitrates in well water, or nearby vegetable farms are contaminated by bacteria-laden runoff.  This paper explores the development of CAFO operations on family farms, and the discursive and political difficulties of challenging “family” farms.  Using Hannah Arendt’s concept of organized responsibility, I show how activist farmers in the area challenge the idea of the “family” as the basis for an ideal rural sociality, and link the individualism of family values to an increasingly authoritarian, corporate state.

Thursday, February 21, 2013, 12:00 PM
 Victor Margolin, Professor Emeritus of Design History, Department of Art History, University of Illinois, Chicago

“Food Studies and Design Studies”

Design studies and food studies have both developed independently as research fields. However, there is considerable overlap between the two. The lecture will discuss the nature of the two fields and explore themes they have in common, as well as considering how each field can benefit from a greater knowledge of the other.

Thursday, November 8, 2012, 12:00 PM
 Crystal Patil, UIC Anthropology

“Unpacking dietary acculturation among recently arrived refugees in urban USA”

Crude acculturation measures are consistently associated with weight changes and health outcomes in immigrant populations. I contribute to this literature by presenting the results of mix-methods research conducted with recently resettled Asian and sub-Saharan African refugees. The data complement these epidemiological studies by capturing and documenting individual, community, and structural forces that directly and indirectly affect food and dietary choices. The results underscore how daily life complexities are at work in the social production of refugee health after relocation to the United States.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012, 12:00 PM
Kelly Moore, Sociology, Loyola University Chicago 

Beyond the Market: Food Cultures Among the Poor

What Americans should eat, and why they eat the way that they do, has remained a perennially important topic in political and public health debates in the U.S. since the beginning of the twentieth century. Contemporary social science research on the food habits of low-income people frequently concludes that the food habits of the poor are homogeneous, driven by biological appetite, and unhealthful.  The purported causes are understood to be a lack of grocery stores with healthful food in the immediate area (“food deserts”), and a lack of scientific information about what to eat. Using interviews with low-income women in Chicago, Illinois, we demonstrate that these descriptions of the food habits of the poor, and their causes, are suspect. We offer a more complex understanding of where people get their food and why, what they value about food, what they eat, and how they eat.  This evidence is used to reframe the “food desert” thesis. We refer, instead, to “money deserts” and “transportation deserts” and demonstrate that the eating habits and values of the poor are much more varied, and in some cases, much more healthful, than what other researchers have found, and that social solidarity plays a key role in shaping food habits among the poor. Finally, we demonstrate the robustness of our claims by comparing it with similar research carried out in Oakland, California, and in Australia.

This is a joint session with the Chicago Area Food Studies Working Group

Thursday, September 27, 2012, 12:00 PM
Angela Odoms-Young, UIC Kinesiology and Nutrition, College of Applied Health Sciences 

Achieving Food Justice in African American Communities: The Role of Community-based Participatory Research

Although scientists have traditionally focused on interventions to improve nutrition and/or food security at the individual or household level, recent evidence suggests a need for models to address social, economic, and environmental disparities and improve food equity. This presentation will focus on how researchers can use community-based participatory research approaches to help establish a theoretical foundation to inform policy and programmatic solutions to nutrition and health outcomes. *

*Food Justice* is defined the as the *right of communities everywhere* to produce, distribute, access, and eat good food regardless of race, class, gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, religion, or community. Studies show that *African American communities are disproportionately at risk for low food access, as well as poor nutrition outcomes as compared to whites.

Phyllis Bowen, Nutrition
Molly Doane, Anthropology
Susan Levine, History and Institute for the Humanities
Gayatri Reddy, Anthropology and Gender and Women’s Studies
Alice Weinreb, History, Northwestern
Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska, History

Food Economies Brown Bag Lunches
Brown Bag lunches take place the first Tuesday of every month from 12:00-1:30 p.m. in the Institute for the Humanities, lower level Stevenson Hall, 701 South Morgan. The brief, informal presentations will be followed by discussion.

September 1, 2011:  Issues in Food Production
Molly Doane, UIC Anthropology
“Peasant Farmers and Petty Commodity Production”
October 6,2011: Issues in Food Distribution 
Paul-Brian-McInerney, UIC Sociology
“Farmers; Markets in Chicago”

Lisa Lee, UIC Hull-House
“The Hull-House Heirloom Seed Library:  Cultivating Change”
November 3,2011:  Issues in Food Consumption 
Anna Roosevelt. UIC Anthropology
“Evolutionary and Historical Issues in Food Production”
December 1,2011:  Teaching Food Issues
Alice Weinreb, Northwestern University

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 
Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska, UIC History
“Managing the Body: Historical Perspectives on Vegetarianism and Alternative Diets”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Lori Baptista, African American Cultural Center
“Urban Ag Movements in Chicago’s Roseland Community”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Phyllis Bowen, UIC Nutrition
“The Hunger Projects Epicenter Strategy: Uganda:  Experience from the Field”

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Film: “Cooking History”  


NEW:  Syllabi Circulated at “Teaching Food Issues” Presentation December 1, 2011

These events are free and open to the public. Beverages will be provided. Parking stickers available for UIC West campus and non-UIC participants.

Preregistration is encouraged, either online, by email, or phone 312-996-6354.

The CAFS group brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines and institutions to
discuss issues in the politics, culture and history of food.

Watch for: April 2013 conference “Hunger, Famine and Abundance:  Global Perspectives on Food since 1945”

For additional information contact Linda Vavra at or 312-996-6354.