ANTH 361 A: Anthropology of Food

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
MEB 242
Ann S. Anagnost

Syllabus Description:

Instructor: Ann Anagnost (

Place and Time: MEB 242, T, Th, 2:30-4:20 pm

Office Hours: After class T and Th. We can also set up an individual meeting on Zoom or FaceTime. 



At the beginning of remote learning last year, I added a new unit to this class called “Nurturing Life in a Time of Pandemic.” Even as we transition back to on-campus learning, we continue to face significant challenges in our food systems due to the pandemic. In the "after times" of COVID, much of the infrastructure of our every day lives has dramatically changed, in some instances these changes may be long lasting. I have therefore decided to retain this special focus on the lessons we can learn 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 discussions in the humanities: (a) the politics of care and (b) broken worlds thinking.

Politics of Care: Never has a crisis more clearly revealed the dangers of a lack of universal healthcare for the public health. The COVID 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.

Broken Worlds Thinking: Our second reading will introduce us to 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 pandemic has revealed the hidden truths of how the industrial food system relies on unsustainable structures of production and distribution, that also lead to inequities to food access. What work-arounds and new directions emerge from the moment of crisis? 

Main Course: 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. We will be exploring the intersection of anthropological writings about food culture and the senses, and other topics such as food and identity, food and memory, the power of food to make community, and food as a means to construct ethical selfhood. But throughout, we will also continue to focus on how our explorations might be  a resource to nurture ourselves and others in need in a time of pandemic. What lessons can we learn to help us in our current situation?

Course Requirements.

Each set of readings will have its corresponding discussion board on Canvas where students can post a short reading response , about one paragraph, that will be submitted prior to class to generate class discussion. A prompt will be provided, although you need not necessarily be limited by the prompt question. These responses can be highly personal, but please be aware that you are publishing them to the class. The reading responses are low stakes assignments and are ungraded but they count for points indicating completion of the assignment. To be given full credit for this assignment, you must address some aspect of the reading by identifying a passage from the reading as the jumping off point for your comment. This is good practice for how to engage with the readings in the short essay assignments that are the graded portion of the course. 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 sessions and be ready to discuss them in class.

The graded assignments will take the form of mini-essays (three pages in length, 750-800 words) written in response to a prompt. 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 can be 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 the use of the personal pronoun) and more formal academic writing with in-text citation of the readings. I will be assigning examples of creative food writing to inspire you to do your best writing. 

W Credit Option:

For students wishing to receive optional Writing Credit for this course, you should revise two of the three papers in response to feedback from  the Writing Center at Odegaard (Links to an external site.), or from a peer review partner. Please contact me if you would like help in finding a partner.

Students should submit both the original and revised version by the paper due date. The second document may be uploaded as an attachment to the first document. Please identify "first draft" and "second draft" as part of the document name. You will need to prompt me at the end of the quarter that you are requesting the W credit option. I will be sending out an email to remind you near the end of quarter. 

Hands-on Activities with Food

Originally this class included four group cooking activities in the Husky Den Kitchen. These activities were closely tied to the course readings and discussions for the class. We cooked a meal together that reflected the "food views" of four of the cultures we read about. Much to my regret, this will not be possible this quarter due to restrictions imposed by university COVID policies. But the menu plans are integrated into the course schedule in hopes that some of you would be interested in trying them out at home.  I welcome your including commentaries on your cooking activities as supplementary material to your responses to the discussion prompts and mini-essays. Recipes and photos are also welcome as add-on elements to your written work.

Point Breakdown

Discussion Briefs (10 out of 16  10 points (1 point each, ungraded, partial credit for late work)
Peer-Review Activity  15 points (5 points each, ungraded)
Mini-Essays 75 points (25 points each, graded)

Total: 100 points

Grades will NOT be calculated according to the Canvas Grade Sheet, but 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 remainder of .5 or higher, it will be rounded up.

Course Materials:
All of the shorter readings are available as hyperlinks on the class schedule below. You will also find a link to the discussion board for that day on the schedule. The Powerpoints will added as we go. I usually post them in late morning before class in case you wish to use them as a platform for notetaking. 

The assigned books are all available as e-books) through the UW Library Portal and a link is provided for each. We will be readings significant portions of the four books listed below and the library has a license for unlimited users, so online access should not be a problem. 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. 


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.

ANTH 489 Service Learning Opportunity:

If you are interested in getting out of the classroom and getting your hands dirty you are welcome to sign up for 2 additional credit hours of service learning in Anth 489: Anthropology Practicum.  I am a gardener at the Picardo Farm Community Garden (located on 25th Ave NE about two miles north of campus near to Dahl Playing Field and on the 372 bus route) and I have arranged with Alexandria Soleil, our volunteer coordinator, to set up opportunities for student volunteering. Most of the activities for fall will be harvesting, gleaning, making compost, and preparing the gardens for winter. You can help with the Giving Garden (growing food for local food banks), tending the common areas of the garden (including the communal orchard and herb garden), aiding elderly gardeners who may need a little help . There is also a children's garden where volunteer hours are always needed.

If the Picardo location is not convenient, you can also volunteer at the UW Student Farm (volunteer information).

Practicing the COVID guidelines is obligatory (social distancing, masking, hand washing, remaining out of doors, sitting out if you have been exposed to someone with COVID or are feeling symptoms).

Students would need to commit to 20 hours of volunteer work for 2 credits and turn in a short essay (3-5 pages) documenting their learning at the end of the quarter. I will be posting updates to the student volunteers about work parties at Picardo. I live close by and can also help direct student volunteers according to a schedule that works for everyone. So if you are not available during the work parties, I may be able to fill the gap. 

Masking Requirement

Campus COVID policies for Autumn 2021 require students, faculty, and staff  to wear masks at all times when indoors on campus until further notice. I will be wearing a mask while I lecture in class but will use a voice projection microphone if and when this is needed by students to hear me clearly.



Class Schedule


Thursday, 9/30




Tuesday, 10/5

The Politics of Care

Discussion Board (due before class)


Reading Assignment:

Hobart and Kneese

José Andrés

Seattle Kitchen Collective


Video: Tarik Abdullah of Feed The People 

News Article: Silvia Federici and Reclaiming the Commons 

Thursday, 10/7

Broken World Thinking

Discussion Board (due before class)



Reading Assignment:


Chronicle of Higher Education


McKibben "The Cuba Diet"

Solnit  "Detroit Arcadia"

Research report: Food Sovereignty in a Time of Pandemic

News Article: How COVID may change our food system.


Tuesday, 10/12

Food and the Ethical Self

Discussion Board (due before class)


Reading Assignment:

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

Thursday, 10/14

An Anthropology of the Senses

Discussion Board (due before class)


Reading Assignment:

David Sutton (Introduction: A Proustian Anthropology) (pp. 1-18)

Slater (excerpts)

Tuesday, 10/19

The Art of Food Writing and the Familiar Essay

Discussion Board (due before class)


Reading Assignment:

MFK Fisher




Thursday, 10/21

Food and Social Connection

Discussion Board (due before class)



Reading Assignment:


Tuesday, 10/26

Food and Memory

Discussion Board (due before class)



Reading Assignment:



Viewing Assignment:

Film: Ratatouille (short clip)

Thursday, 10/28

"The Displacing Foods of Modern Commerce"

Discussion Board (due before class)



Reading Assignment:



Tuesday, 11/2

Food and Identity

Discussion Board (due before class)




Optional Kitchen Activity: Soul Food Dinner

Reading Assignment:

Rouse and Hoskins


Viewing Assignment:

Film: Soul Food Junkies 

Film Transcript


Heirloom Collard Project

Michael Twitty's Southern Discomfort Tours

Thursday, 11/4

La Cucina Povera (The Cuisine of Poverty)

Discussion Board (due before class)


Reading Assignment:

Counihan (Chapters 1-3)

Tuesday, 11/9

First Essay Peer-Review Activity. Assignment Check-in.

First Essay Draft Due at Midnight Thursday, May 6, Submit here.

Peer Review Due at Midnight Saturday, May 8.

Final Draft due Midnight Sunday, May 9. Submit here.




Veteran's Day Holiday (No Class)


Tuesday, 11/16

Slow Food

Discussion Board (due before class)



Optional Kitchen Activity: Tuscan Bean Stew and Polenta

Reading Assignment:


Viewing Assignment:

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

Thursday, 11/18

Terroir, Constructions of Place, and the Mediterranean Diet

Discussion Board (due before class)



Reading Assignment:


Iglesias López

NYT article: The Island Where People Forget to Die

Viewing Assignment:

Film: Soup over Bethlehem

Tuesday, 11/23

A Proustian Anthropology

Discussion Board (due before class)



Reading Assignment:

Sutton, "The Ritual and the Everyday" and "Remembered Gifts, Forgotten Commodities" (pp. 19-71)

Thursday, 11/25

Thanksgiving Day Holiday (No Class)


Tuesday, 11/30

Second Essay Peer-Review Activity. Assignment Check-in.

First Draft Due at Midnight, Thursday May 20. Submit here.

Peer Review Due at Midnight Saturday, May 22.

Final Draft due Midnight Sunday, May 23. Submit here.


Thursday, 12/2

Learning Cooking

Discussion Board (due before class)



Optional Kitchen Activity: Lentil Soup and Sourdough Bread

Reading Assignment:

Sutton, "Doing/Reading Cooking" (pp 125-158)


Tuesday, 12/7

A Politics of the Senses

Discussion Board (due before class)



Reading Assignment:

Farquhar, Appetites (Lei Feng, Tireless Servant of the People pp. 37-46) and (Excess and Deficiency pp. 121-166)

Thursday, 12/9

To Live

Discussion Board  (due before class)




Optional Kitchen Activity: Chinese Dumplings

Reading Assignment:

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

Viewing Assignment:

Film: Sunrise Over Tiananmen SHquare



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: 
September 16, 2021 - 5:51pm