ANTH 479 D: Advanced Topics in Medical Anthropology

Meeting Time: 
MW 3:30pm - 5:20pm
DEN 113
Ann S. Anagnost

Syllabus Description:

Rhubarb Cake Recipe can be found here.

The Role of Documentary Film in Food Politics

Instructor: Professor Ann Anagnost 


Instructor Office Hours: M 2:30-3:20 or by appt. 

Class Time and Place: MW, 3:30-5:20, Denny 113

Course Objectives:

This course combines critical analysis of the role of contemporary documentary film in food politics with hands-on learning in making a short cell phone movie that delivers a message about our contemporary food system. We will focus specifically on the rhetorical power of film to mobilize support for food change. What makes an effective film in terms of its ability to convey its message responsibly and engage viewers? Learning goals encompass both learning about the industrial food system and food change movements as well as how to convey our knowledge and passion for these issues to others through the medium of film. 

Book on Order (University Bookstore):

  • Louise Spence and Vinicius Navarro, Crafting Truth: Documentary Form and Meaning. Rutgers U. Press, 2011.

Shorter Readings:

  • W.J.T. Mitchell, "Representation." In Critical Terms for Literary Study, Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin,eds. U. Chicago Press, 1990,
  • James H. Kavanaugh, "Ideology." In Critical Terms for Literary Study, Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin,eds. U. Chicago Press, 1990, pp. 306-320.
  • Laura Lindenfeld, "Digging Down to the Roots: On the Radical Potential of Documentary Food Films." Radical History Review 110 (Spring 2011): 155-160.
  • Brian Ott, “The Visceral Politics of V for Vendetta: On Political Affect in Cinema.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 27 (2010), 1: 39-54.
  • Jennifer M. Barker, "Chew on This: Disgust, Delay, and the Documentary Image in Food, Inc." Film Philosophy 15,2 (2011): 70-89.
  • Ryanne Pilgeram and Russell Meeuf, "Good Food, Good Intentions: Where Pro-Sustainability Arguments Get Stale in US Food Documentaries." Environmental Communication 9,1(2015): 100-117.

Course Requirements:

  • Essay Assignment (five pages): 20 points
  • Five Film Discussions (1 page): 20 points (4 points each). Film Discussions are due the class after we finish viewing the film (as appears in the schedule below).
  • Project Proposal (Due May 6): Define topic and production plan.
  • Progress Report (Due May 20): Visit project site, identify and contact possible interviewees, sketch thematic/narrative/interview questions, determine format (film/slides/powerpoint), map out division of labor and your contribution to the group.
  • Film Project and 5 page Written Commentary (25 points each, for a total of 50 points)
  • Participation (10 points): It is important for this class to be present in class for group meetings and also to be an active player in the production teams. Attendance will be taken.


Tentative Class Schedule

Week One

4/1:     Introduction

Film Viewing:

  • Eat the Lawn
  • Food, Inc. (first half)

Project Development:

  • Skills survey

4/3:     Critical Terms: Representation and Ideology


  • T. Mitchell, “Representation.”
  • James H. Kavanaugh, “Ideology.”

Film Viewing:

  • Ram Truck Ad
  • The Meatrix
  • Food, Inc. (second half)

Week Two

4/8:     The Affective Power of Film


  • Lindenfield

Film Viewing:

  • Fresh

4/10:   Critical Tools for Viewing and Making Documentary Film


  • Spence and Navarro, Crafting Truth (pp. 1-112)

Project Development:

  • Brainstorming topics
  • Skills survey
  • Forming project teams

Week Three

4/15:   Showing without Telling


  • Spence and Navarro (pp. 113-160)

Film Viewing

  • Our Daily Bread (92 minutes)

First Paper Due (by midnight Friday, April 19 in Canvas dropbox)

4/17:   Project Development


  • Spence and Navaro (pp. 161-212)

Project Development

  • Developing topics
  • Formulating next steps
  • Researching and setting up contacts with individuals or organizations
  • Role allocation for project team members

Discussion Brief for Our Daily Bread due (before the class)

Week Four

4/22:   Hybrid Genre: Fast Food Nation


  • Spence and Navarro (pp. 213-264)

Film Viewing:

  • Fast Food Nation (116 minutes)

4/24: The Affective Power of Film


  • Ott

Project Development:

  • Visualizing your project: Storyboarding
  • What kind of footage do you need
  • Sound check with lapel microphones

Discussion Brief for Fast Food Nation Due (before the class)

Week Five

4/29:   The Power of Community


  • Pilgeram and Meeuf

Film Viewing:

  • The Garden

5/1:     Discussion of The Garden

Project Development

  • Team Meetings

Discussion Brief for The Garden Due (before the class)

Week Six

5/6:    Food Revolutions

Film Viewing:

  • A Farm for the Future

Project Development:

  • Team Meetings

Film Proposals Due (by midnight)

5/8:    Project Time (no class)

Week Seven

5/13: Hungry Nation

Film Viewing:

  • A Place at the Table (84 minutes)

5/15: Discussion of A Place at the Table

Project Development:

  • Team Meetings

Discussion Brief for A Place at the Table Due (before class)

Week Eight

5/20:   Food Revolutions II

Film Viewing: 

  • Food Beware

Progress Report Due (by midnight)

5/22:   Film Discussion of Food Beware

Project Development:

  • Team Meetings

Discussion Brief for Food Beware Due (before class)

Week Nine

5/27:   Memorial Day (No Class)

5/29:   Rough Cut Workshop

Week Ten

6/3:     Production Team Meetings

6/5:     Student Film Showcase


6/13:   Films and Final Project Statement Due (by midnight)

Catalog Description: 
Explores theoretical and ethnographic advanced topics in medical anthropology.
Department Requirements: 
Medical Anthropology & Global Health Option
Last updated: 
April 14, 2020 - 9:10pm