ANTH 361 A: Anthropology of Food

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
SMI 309
Ann S. Anagnost

Syllabus Description:

Instructor: Ann Anagnost (

Place and Time: T, Th, 2:30-3:20 pm, Online

Office Hours: Send your queries by email. We can also set up an individual meeting on Zoom or FaceTime.

Useful Links:

Short Reading Assignments 


Panopto Recordings

Cooking Activities

The special theme for this course is “Nurturing Life in a Time of Pandemic.” We are all facing significant challenges this quarter. I am retooling this course to address our readings and discussions to our present concerns. Many of the readings will remain the same from earlier quarters, with a few additions, but the new focus will be to draw what lessons we can to help us in our present circumstances. The tricky balance I am trying to strike here is how to face the challenges of a society rapidly being overwhelmed by the scope and scale of the pandemic, without being overwhelmed ourselves. I don’t want to make the course too heavy, but rather to open up some hopeful spaces for thinking how things could be otherwise and hopefully to imagine a practical politics to achieve it.

In light of this, we will begin by looking at two current theoretical trends in the humanities: (a) the politics of care and (2) broken worlds thinking. Never has a crisis more clearly revealed the dangers of a lack of universal healthcare for the public health. The virus transcends all boundaries: race, class, nation, age, while also revealing the fragile infrastructure of our health care systems and a failure of an organized governmental response at the federal level that affects poor people more dramatically. What should be our desired model for care in this instance? And how do we endeavor in ways large and small to advocate for it? Our first reading “Radical Care for Uncertain Times” will address these questions. Our second reading will introduce us to “broken worlds thinking,” a critical querying of the importance of maintenance and repair in a neoliberal culture focused, perhaps too insistently, on innovation and capital accumulation, at the expense of sustainability and resilience. The third reading on food and the good life will then lead us into the central focus of the course on food as an embodied aspect of culture and as a resource to nurture our own lives and those of everyone around us in a time of pandemic.

The Logistics of Remote Learning.

  • Each lecture will be presented as a set of Panopto files (Powerpoint plus voiceover) for you to access as asynchronous (unscheduled) class activity.
  • Each Panopto will be broken down into 10-minute chunks to facilitate downloading or streaming.
  • The class discussions will be live on Zoom during the regular classroom hours if we can make it work efficiently. If the audio does not work well, we will resort to using the chat platform as an alternative. I urge you all to have listened to the Panopto lectures for that day and to have done the readings.
  • Students have the option of having their cameras off or on during discussion.
  • To keep talking over each other to a minimum, I suggest you use the raised hand signal to indicate you wish to contribute and it will signal to me to call on you.
  • No recording is allowed without my permission to protect student privacy according to FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). Please do not share the access url and password for the Zoom sessions with those not enrolled for the class.
  • Please observe the standard for constructive and respectful engagement in online discussions at all times.

Course Requirements.

Each set of readings will require a short reading response, about one paragraph, that will be posted on a discussion board on Canvas to generate class discussion on Zoom. A prompt will be provided, although you need not necessarily be limited by this if you feel a strong connection to the reading in a way that is not captured by the prompt. These responses can be highly personal, but please be aware that you are publishing them to the class. These are low stakes assignments and are ungraded but they count for points indicating completion of the assignment. There are altogether 16 reading sets for this course and each student is responsible for writing briefs for 10 of them, so you have some flexibility in choosing which readings to respond to. However, all students are expected to complete the readings for all the sessions and be ready to discuss them in class.

A selection of these posts will be redeveloped as a set of three mini-essays (about three pages in length) for a blog or portfolio that you will develop as part of your final project. I will be assigning examples of creative food writing to inspire you to do your best writing. These mini essays will be graded on how well the writing responds to the prompt and demonstrates thoughtful processing in terms of making connections with the readings and other course materials.

The mini-essays will take the form of a writing genre called the “familiar essay.” These essays are highly personal in connecting to your own experience but they must open up to larger questions that we are developing in this class. This means that they should demonstrate active engagement with the readings and other materials. In other words, the mode of writing is a hybrid between personal and more formal academic writing. We will have 3 class sessions devoted to mini-essay workshops. Each student will sign up for one of those three sessions to do a reading of the mini-essay of their choice and get peer feedback for their writing. Those presenting will post their first draft in the discussion board for that day so that the class will have a chance to read it prior to class to help them prepare feedback.

Originally this class included four hands-on activities with food in the Husky Den Kitchen. These activities were closely tied to the course readings and discussions for the class. Obviously, this will not be possible this spring because of the need for remote teaching. The $30 course fee has been eliminated and I urge you to spend these funds for improving your Internet access for the quarter if you can (see below for some solutions). I was really disappointed that we will not be doing these cooking activities together, but I will be uploading the worksheets for those activities on the Canvas website and encourage you to do them at home if at all possible. Moreover, I am very open to your including commentaries on your cooking activities as a form of self-care during the lockdown as added material to your responses to the discussion prompts and mini-essays.

Point Breakdown

Discussion Briefs (10 out of 16 reading sets)             10 points each (ungraded)

Workshop Presentation                                              15 points (ungraded)

Mini-Essays                                                                 25 points each (graded)

Total: 100 points

Grades will be calculated as follows: total number of points multiplied by 4 and divided by 100 to convert to the 4.0 scale. If there is a decimal, it will be rounded up if .5 or higher.

Accessing Course Activities Online

The City of Seattle has programs for low-cost, high-speed internet that cost around $10 a month, and also offers free and discounted computers and smartphones:

Course Materials:
Most of the shorter readings are available here, with the exception of a few that are hyperlinked in the syllabus to online resources. The assigned books are all available as e-books (with unlimited user licenses) through the UW Library Portal. The pandemic has presented us with an economic shock as well as a public health challenge, so I have endeavored to make costs for this course as minimal as possible. The only exception to this are two videos that must be accessed through Netflix. However, Netflix has a 30-day free trial that you can use to view these materials.


David Sutton, Remembrance of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory.

Carol Counihan, Around the Tuscan Table: Food, Family, and Gender in Twentieth-Century Florence.

Judith Farquhar, Appetites: Food and Sex in Post-Socialist China.

Judith Farquhar and Qicheng Zhang, Ten Thousand Things: Nurturing Life in Contemporary Beijing.



Class Schedule


Tuesday, 3/31



Thursday, 4/2

The Politics of Care

Hobart and Kneese

José Andrés

Chronicle of Higher Education

Tuesday, 4/7

Broken World Thinking


Gibson-Graham (optional)

Thursday, 4/9

Food and the Ethical Self

Farquhar, “Food, Eating, and the Good Life.”

Tuesday, 4/14

An Anthropology of the Senses

David Sutton (Preface and Introduction)

Slater (excerpts)

Thursday, 4/16

The Art of Food Writing and the Familiar Essay

MFK Fisher




Tuesday, 4/21

Food and Social Connection


Thursday, 4/23

Food and Memory

Film: Ratatouille (short clip)



Tuesday, 4/28

The Displacing Foods of Modern Commerce



Thursday, 4/30

Food and Identity

Film: Soul Food Junkies

Optional Kitchen Activity (Collard Greens and Hoppin’ John)

Rouse and Hoskins


Tuesday, 5/5

Mini-Essay Reading


Thursday, 5/7

La Cucina Povera (The Cuisine of Poverty)

Counihan (Chapters 1-3)

Tuesday, 5/12

Slow Food

Film: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (first episode on Netflix)

Optional Kitchen Activity (Tuscan Bean Stew and Polenta)


Thursday, 5/14

Terroir and Constructions of Place

The Mediterranean Diet

Film: Soup over Bethlehem


Iglesias López

NYT article: The Island Where People Forget to Die

Tuesday, 5/19

Mini-Essay Reading


Thursday, 5/21

A Proustian Anthropology

Sutton (pp. 19-71)

Tuesday, 5/26

Learning Cooking

(Lentil Soup and Sourdough Bread)

Sutton (pp 125-158)

Thursday, 5/28

A Politics of the Senses


Farquhar, Appetites (pp. 37-46, 121-166)

Tuesday, 6/2

To Live

Film: Flavors of Youth (first 17 minutes on Netflix)

Optional Kitchen Activity: Chinese Dumplings

Farquhar and Zhang, Ten Thousand Things (pp. 125-167)

Thursday, 6/4

Mini-Essay Reading



Catalog Description: 
Explores how foods reproduce social relations, the meanings food acquires within culture, how food systems are intertwined with structures of power and economic inequality, national cuisines and restaurant cultures, the global marketing of foods, controversies surrounding GMO foods, and alternative food communities. Prerequisite: one 200-level ANTH course.
Department Requirements: 
Anthropology of Globalization Option
Medical Anthropology & Global Health Option
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
March 28, 2020 - 9:20pm