Teaching Food Anthropology

Food Anthropology, A Tribute to Sidney W. Mintz

Update July 2016: After being included in Give Chickpeas A Chance: Why Hummus Unites, And Divides, The Mideast, a food anthropology article by Dafna Hirsch is getting lots of downloads: “Hummus is best when it is fresh and made by Arabs”: The gourmetization of hummus in Israel and the return of the repressed Arab. The article is now free for download until 18 August 2016.


Update June 2016: The June 2016 Open Anthropology issue on “Food Anthropology” is now open for access. Articles will be available until December 2016.


What are the essential articles for teaching a Food Anthropology course? What most distinguishes Food Anthropology from other ways of studying food? What are the most important insights from Food Anthropology that need to be shared?

With the March 2016 issue of Open Anthropology, Cultural Heritage, open until September 2016, it is time to roll out the June 2016 issue on Food Anthropology. This issue will also be a tribute to the passing of Sidney W. Mintz, known as the “father of food anthropology.”

Our approach for Open Anthropology has always been to consider the selections as a course packet. We want the articles to be useful for teachers and students through December 2016. There is currently abundant interest in Food Anthropology and related issues. While the forthcoming Handbook of Food and Anthropology looks very strong, it also looks expensive.

I found particularly helpful the recent review of Teaching Food and Culture on the Food Anthropology blog. Many of the authors in this volume (and the Handbook) are represented in the Food Anthropology bibliography below. The Food Anthropology blog also has a wealth of useful material, including regular updates on “What Food Anthropology is Reading Now.”

Also from the anthropology blogs, an article by David Meek on Advancing Critical Food Systems Education through Service Learning and a Guest Podcast on Food Futures: Playing our Way to Conservation? Experimental Economics in the Andean Countryside at This Anthropological Life.

I began my quest for Food Anthropology by reading four articles in the Annual Review of Anthropology:

I was struck by the somewhat repetitive formula: Food and XYZ. In each review, a mention that once there was not much food anthropology, but now there is an abundance. And so the combination: Food and XYZ, from which something unexpected can emerge. And in each case, a call for more or different food anthropology.

Each review also cited many sources outside of food anthropology–there is a vast literature in history, sociology, and food journalism. And each time it made me wonder: what makes food anthropology different from others who study food?

My hunch, a hopeful hunch, is that what makes a food anthropology distinctive is

  1. The potential four-field approach of anthropology, unifying the archaeological, biological, cultural, and linguistic aspects of food. (See Andrea Wiley, The Breakdown of Holism: And the Curious Fate of Food Studies in Anthropology)
  2. Anthropology’s disciplinary dedication to study with those outside of the main currents of capitalist agriculture or omitted from elite gastronomica.
  3. Anthropology’s ability to not just document the world but to work on the possibility of changing it, together with those who have been left outside of power. (See Ellen Messer’s review of Food & Freedom)

But at the same time, I wonder if food anthropology has met the call of Mintz and Du Bois in 2002:

Much remains to be done in exploring foodways in other areas of the world. In this setting, anthropologists are in a good position to make useful contributions to the development of policy in regard to health and nutrition, food inspection, the relation of food to specific cultures, world hunger, and other subjects. By and large, though, they have not taken full advantage of this opportunity. (111)

Food Anthropology, AAA Bibliography

Below is the bibliography, keeping in mind the Open Anthropology limitation that we can use articles from American Anthropological Association publications. From the articles below, what are the essential choices for teaching a Food Anthropology course? What would most distinguish Food Anthropology from other ways of studying food? What are the most important insights from Food Anthropology that need to be shared? What articles and resources are still missing?

Abranches, Maria. Remitting wealth, reciprocating health? The “travel” of the land from Guinea-Bissau to Portugal, American Ethnologist (2014).

Appadurai, Arjun. gastro-politics in Hindu South Asia, American Ethnologist (1981).

Barlett, Peggy F. Campus Sustainable Food Projects: Critique and Engagement, American Anthropologist (2011).

Belasco, Warren. Why Food Matters, Culture & Agriculture (1999).

Benson, Peter. Review of From the Farm to the Table: What All Americans Need to Know About Agriculture by Gary Holthaus. Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (2011).

Bestor, Theodore C. Supply-Side Sushi: Commodity, Market, and the Global City, American Anthropologist (2001).

Bonanno, Alessandro and Douglas H. Constance. Globalization, Fordism, and Post-Fordism in Agriculture and Food: A Critical Review of the Literature, Culture & Agriculture (2001).

Brenton, Barrett P. Pellagra, Sex and Gender: Biocultural Perspectives on Differential Diets and Health, Nutritional Anthropology (2000).

Brewis, Alexandra A. and Amber Wutich. A World of Suffering? Biocultural Approaches to Fat Stigma in the Global Contexts of the Obesity Epidemic, Annals of Anthropological Practice (2014).

Carney, Megan A. Eating and Feeding at the Margins of the State: Barriers to Health Care for Undocumented Migrant Women and the “Clinical” Aspects of Food Assistance, Medical Anthropology Quarterly (2015).

Cavanaugh, Jillian R., Kathleen C. Riley, Alexandra Jaffe, Christine Jourdan, Martha Karrebaek and Amy Paugh. What Words Bring to the Table: The Linguistic Anthropological Toolkit as Applied to the Study of Food, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology (2014).

Classen, Constance. Review of The Taste of Ethnographic Things: The Senses in Anthropology by Paul Stoller, American Ethnologist (1990).

Cohen, Jeffrey H. and Susan M. Klemmeti. The Social and Economic Production of Greed, Cooperation, and Taste in an Ohio Food Auction, Economic Anthropology (2014).

Constance, Douglas H. and Reny Tuinstra. Corporate Chickens and Community Conflict in East Texas: Growers’ and Neighbors’ Views on the Impacts of the Industrial Broiler Production, Culture & Agriculture (2005).

Croegaert, Ana. Who Has Time for Ćejf? Postsocialist Migration and Slow Coffee in Neoliberal Chicago, American Anthropologist (2011).

Crooks, Deborah L. Trading Nutrition for Education: Nutritional Status and the Sale of Snack Foods in an Eastern Kentucky School, Medical Anthropology Quarterly (2003).

Davidson, Joanna. Basket Cases and Breadbaskets: Sacred Rice and Agricultural Development in Postcolonial Africa, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (2012).

Dettwyler, Katherine A. More Than Nutrition: Breastfeeding in Urban Mali, Medical Anthropology Quarterly (1988).

DeWalt, Kathleen M. Review of The Anthropology of Food in Rural Igboland, Nigeria by L. C. Okete, American Anthropologist (1984).

Dufour, Darna. Review of Insects as Food: Aboriginal Entomophagy in the Great Basin by Mark Q. Sutton., American Anthropologist (1990).

Dunn, Elizabeth Cullen. Postsocialist spores: Disease, bodies, and the state in the Republic of Georgia, American Ethnologist (2008).

Errington, Frederick, Tatsuro Fujikura and Deborah Gewertz. Instant Noodles as an Antifriction Device: Making the BOP with PPP in PNG, American Anthropologist (2012).

Fazzino, David V. and Philip A. Loring. From Crisis to Cumulative Effects: Food Security Challenges in Alaska, NAPA Bulletin (2009).

Foster, Robert J. Nurture and Force-Feeding: Mortuary Feasting and the Construction of Collective Individuals in a New Ireland Society American Ethnologist (1990).

Fouts, Hillary N., Barry S. Hewlett and Michael E. Lamb. A Biocultural Approach to Breastfeeding Interactions in Central Africa, American Anthropologist (2012).

Gagné, Nana Okura. Eating local in a U.S. city: Reconstructing “community”–a third place–in a global neoliberal economy, American Ethnologist (2011).

García, María Elena. The Taste of Conquest: Colonialism, Cosmopolitics, and the Dark Side of Peru’s Gastronomic Boom, The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology (2013).

Garth, Hanna. Things Became Scarce: Food Availability and Accessibility in Santiago de Cuba Then and Now, NAPA Bulletin (2009).

Gewertz, Deborah and Frederick Errington. The Alimentary Forms of the Global Life: The Pacific Island Trade in Lamb and Mutton Flaps, American Anthropologist (2007).

Giampiccoli, Andrea and Janet Hayward Kalis. Tourism, Food, and Culture: Community-Based Tourism, Local Food, and Community Development in Mpondoland, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (2012).

Githinji, Valerie. Food Insecurity in Buhaya: The Cycle of Women’s Marginalization and the Spread of Poverty, Hunger, and Disease, NAPA Bulletin (2009).

Goody, Cynthia M. Rural Guatemalan Women’s Description of the Meaning of Food: Eating to Live and Living to Eat, Nutritional Anthropology (2002).

Govindrajan, Radhika. “The goat that died for family”: Animal sacrifice and interspecies kinship in India’s Central Himalayas, American Ethnologist (2015).

Gray, Benjamin J. and Jane W. Gibson. Actor-Networks, Farmer Decisions, and Identity, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (2013).

Guell, Cornelia. Self-care at the margins: meals and meters in migrants’ diabetes tactics, Medical Anthropology Quarterly (2012).

Hadley, Craig, Tefera Belachew, David Lindstrom and Fasil Tessema. The Forgotten Population? Youth, Food in Security, and Rising Prices: Implications for the Global Food Crisis, NAPA Bulletin (2009).

Heath, Deborah and Anne Meneley. Techne, Technoscience, and the Circulation of Comestible Commodities: An Introduction, American Anthropologist (2007).

Himmelgreen, David A. “You Are What You Eat And You Eat What You Are.” The Role Of Nutritional Anthropology In Public Health Nutrition And Nutrition Education, Nutritional Anthropology (2002).

Himmelgreen, David A. and Nancy Romero-Daza. Anthropological Approaches to the Global Food Crisis: Understanding and Addressing the “Silent Tsunami”, NAPA Bulletin (2009).

Himmelgreen, David A., Nancy Romero-Daza, Edgar Amador and Cynthia Pace. Tourism, Economic Insecurity, and Nutritional Health in Rural Costa Rica: Using Syndemics Theory to Understand the Impact of the Globalizing Economy at the Local Level, Annals of Anthropological Practice (2012).

Hirsch, Dafna. “Hummus is best when it is fresh and made by Arabs”: The gourmetization of hummus in Israel and the return of the repressed Arab, American Ethnologist (2011).

Hirschkind, Lynn. Sal/Manteca/Panela: Ethnoveterinary Practice in Highland Ecuador, American Anthropologist (2000).

Hitchcock, Robert K. and Wayne A. Babchuk. Food, Health, Development, and HIV/AIDS in a Remote Area of Southern Africa, Annals of Anthropological Practice (2011).

Holtzman, Jon D. The Food of Elders, the “Ration” of Women: Brewing, Gender, and Domestic Processes among the Samburu of Northern Kenya, American Anthropologist (2001).

Holtzman, Jon D. In a cup of tea: Commodities and history among Samburu pastoralists in northern Kenya, American Ethnologist (2003).

Janssen, Brandi. Local Food, Local Engagement: Community-Supported Agriculture in Eastern Iowa, Culture & Agriculture (2010).

Janssen, Brandi. Herd Management: Labor Strategies in Local Food Production, Anthropology of Work Review (2013).

Jasarevic, Larisa. The Thing in a Jar: Mushrooms and Ontological Speculations in Post-Yugoslavia, Cultural Anthropology (2015).

Joyce, Rosemary A. and John S. Henderson. From Feasting to Cuisine: Implications of Archaeological Research in an Early Honduran Village, American Anthropologist (2007).

Jung, Yuson. Re-creating economic and cultural values in Bulgaria’s wine industry: From an economy of quantity to an economy of quality?, Economic Anthropology (2016).

Kardel, Abigail. We Are Still Here: Tracing U.S. Agricultural Change through the Kardel Multigenerational Farm, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (2014).

Karrebaek, Martha Sif. “What’s in Your Lunch Box Today?”: Health, Respectability, and Ethnicity in the Primary Classroom, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology (2012).

Knight, Daniel M. Wit and Greece’s economic crisis: Ironic slogans, food, and antiausterity sentiments, American Ethnologist (2015).

Lambert-Pennington, Katherine and Kathryn Hicks. Class Conscious, Color-Blind: Examining the Dynamics of Food Access and the Justice Potential of Farmers Markets, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (2016).

Lang, K. Brandon. The Changing Face of Community-Supported Agriculture, Culture & Agriculture (2010).

LeCount, Lisa J. Like Water for Chocolate: Feasting and Political Ritual among the Late Classic Maya at Xunantunich, Belize, American Anthropologist (2001).

Lee, Sandra Soo-Jin. Dys-appearing Tongues and Bodily Memories: The Aging of First-Generation Resident Koreans in Japan, Ethos (2000).

Liechty, Mark. Carnal Economies: The Commodification of Food and Sex in Kathmandu, Cultural Anthropology (2005).

Logan, Amanda L. An Archaeology of Food Security in Banda, Ghana, Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association (2016).

MacCarthy, Michelle. Playing Politics with Yams: Food Security in the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (2012).

Mallery, Garrick. Manners and Meals, American Anthropologist (1888).

Masquelier, Adeline. Consumption, prostitution and reproduction: The poetics of sweetness in Bori, American Ethnologist (1995).

Mazzeo, John. Lavichè: Haiti’s Vulnerability to the Global Food Crisis, NAPA Bulletin (2009).

McLennan, Amy K. Joint review of Human Diet and Nutrition in Biocultural Perspective. Past Meets Present edited by Tina Moffat and Tracy Prowse. Obesity. Cultural and Biocultural Perspectives by Alexandra A. Brewis, Medical Anthropology Quarterly (2013).

Meneley, Anne. Like an Extra Virgin, American Anthropologist (2007).

Messer, Ellen. Rising Food Prices, Social Mobilizations, and Violence: Conceptual Issues in Understanding and Responding to the Connections Linking Hunger and Conflict, NAPA Bulletin (2009).

Messer, Ellen. Unwrapping Hunger in the Classroom: Teaching the Anthropology of Food and Food Policy, Anthropology News (2008).

Milton, Katharine. Distribution Patterns of Tropical Plant Foods as an Evolutionary Stimulus to Primate Mental Development, American Anthropologist (1981).

Mintz, Sidney W. Food for Thought: An Interview with Sidney Mintz, Anthropology News (1996).

Mintz, Sidney W. Heroes Sung and Unsung, Nutritional Anthropology (2002).

Mintz, Sidney W. Review of Food, Gender and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Andes by Mary J. Weismantel., American Anthropologist (1990).

Mintz, Sidney W. L’ Appetit Vient en Mangeant (Book Review Essay), American Anthropologist (1998).

Mintz, Sidney W. Review of Remembrance of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory by David E. Sutton, American Ethnologist (2003).

Mintz, Sidney W. and Jonathan T. Thomas. And the Rest Is History: A Conversation with Sidney Mintz, American Anthropologist (2014).

Morell-Hart, Shanti. Foodways and Resilience under Apocalyptic Conditions, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (2012).

Nonini, Donald M. The local-food movement and the anthropology of global systems, American Ethnologist (2013).

Ohna, Ingrid, Randi Kaarhus and Joyce Kinabo. No Meal without Ugali? Social Significance of Food and Consumption in a Tanzanian Village, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (2012).

Orlove, Benjamin S. Meat and Strength: The Moral Economy of a Chilean Food Riot, Cultural Anthropology (1997).

Paolisso, Michael. Taste the Traditions: Crabs, Crab Cakes, and the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Fishery, American Anthropologist (2007).

Paulson, Susan. Body, nation, and consubstantiation in Bolivian ritual meals, American Ethnologist (2006).

Paxson, Heather. Locating Value in Artisan Cheese: Reverse Engineering Terroir for New-World Landscapes, American Anthropologist (2010).

Pérez, Ramona Lee. Las fronteras del sabor: Taste as Consciousness, Kinship, and Space in the Mexico-U.S. Borderlands, The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology (2014).

Pyles, Jennifer and Jennifer Lobick. Examination of The National School Lunch Program, Nutritional Anthropology (2001).

Renne, Elisha P. Mass Producing Food Traditions for West Africans Abroad, American Anthropologist (2007).

Robert, Sarah A. and Heather Killelea McEntarfer. Teachers’ Work, Food Policies, and Gender in Argentina, Anthropology & Education Quarterly (2014).

Rödlach, Alexander. “AIDS is in the Food”: Zimbabweans’ Association between Nutrition and HIV/AIDS and Their Potential for Addressing Food Insecurity and HIV/AIDS, Annals of Anthropological Practice (2011).

Rodman, Sarah O., Anne M. Palmer, Drew A. Zachary, Laura C. Hopkins and Pamela J. Surkan. “They Just Say Organic Food Is Healthier”: Perceptions of Healthy Food among Supermarket Shoppers in Southwest Baltimore, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (2014).

Roosth, Sophia. Of Foams and Formalisms: Scientific Expertise and Craft Practice in Molecular Gastronomy, American Anthropologist (2013).

Roseberry, William. Review of Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom: Excursions into Eating, Culture, and the Past by Sidney W. Mintz, American Anthropologist (1997).

Roseberry, William. The Rise of Yuppie Coffees and the Reimagination of Class in the United States, American Anthropologist (1996).

Rosing, Howard. Economic Restructuring and Urban Food Access in the Dominican Republic, NAPA Bulletin (2009).

Rouse, Carolyn and Janet Hoskins. Purity, Soul Food, and Sunni Islam: Explorations at the Intersection of Consumption and Resistance, Cultural Anthropology (2004).

Sellen, Daniel W. and Craig Hadley. Food Insecurity and Maternal-to-Child Transmission of HIV and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, Annals of Anthropological Practice (2011).

Smith, Monica L. The Archaeology of Food Preference, American Anthropologist (2006).

Snell, Darryn. Graziers, Butchers, Boners, and the Internationalization of Australian Beef Production, Culture & Agriculture (1996).

Sobo, Elisa J. and Cheryl L. Rock. “You Ate All That!?”: Caretaker-Child Interaction during Children’s Assisted Dietary Recall Interviews, Medical Anthropology Quarterly (2001).

Solomon, Harris. “The Taste No Chef Can Give”: Processing Street Food in Mumbai, Cultural Anthropology (2015).

Spielmann, Katherine A. Feasting, Craft Specialization, and the Ritual Mode of Production in Small-Scale Societies, American Anthropologist (2002).

Sutton, David E. Whole Foods: Revitalization through Everyday Synesthetic Experience, Anthropology and Humanism (2000).

Szurek, Sarah M. Social Identity and Food Choice in the Southeastern United States, Nutritional Anthropology (2005).

Tapper, Richard and Nancy Tapper. “Eat this, it’ll do you a power of good”: food and commensality among Durrani Pashtuns, American Ethnologist (1986).

Tracy, Megan. Pasteurizing China’s Grasslands and Sealing inTerroir, American Anthropologist (2013).

Trapp, Micah. What’s on the Table: Nutrition Programming for Refugees in the United States, NAPA Bulletin (2010).

Watson, James L. Review of Rice as Self: Japanese Identities through Time by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, American Ethnologist (1998).

Weaver, Lesley Jo, David Meek and Craig Hadley. Exploring the Role of Culture in the Link between Mental Health and Food Insecurity: A Case Study from Brazil, Annals of Anthropological Practice (2014).

Weiss, Brad. Configuring the authentic value of real food: Farm-to-fork, snout-to-tail, and local food movements, American Ethnologist (2012).

Weiss, Brad. Making Pigs Local: Discerning the Sensory Character of Place, Cultural Anthropology (2011).

Wiedman, Dennis. Native American embodiment of the chronicities of modernity: reservation food, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome among the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache, Medical Anthropology Quarterly (2012).

Wiley, Andrea S. The Breakdown of Holism: And the Curious Fate of Food Studies in Anthropology, Anthropology News (2006).

Wiley, Andrea S. “Drink Milk for Fitness”: The Cultural Politics of Human Biological Variation and Milk Consumption in the United States, American Anthropologist (2004).

Wiley, Andrea S. Transforming Milk in a Global Economy, American Anthropologist (2007).

Wilk, Richard R. “Real Belizean Food”: Building Local Identity in the Transnational Caribbean, American Anthropologist (1999).

Wilson, Thomas M. Review of Around the Tuscan Table: Food, Family, and Gender in Twentieth-Century Florence by Carole M. Counihan, Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe (2010).

Woodson, Drexel G. Lamanjay, Food Security, Sécurité Alintentaire: A Lesson in Communication from BARA’s Mixed-Methods Approach to Baseline Research in Haiti, 1994-1996, Culture & Agriculture (1997).

Yates-Doerr, Emily. Does meat come from animals? A multispecies approach to classification and belonging in highland Guatemala, American Ethnologist (2015).

Zarger, Rebecca K. Mosaics of Maya Livelihoods: Readjusting to Global and Local Food Crises, NAPA Bulletin (2009).

Ziker, John. Raw and Cooked in Arctic Siberia: Diet and Consumption Strategies in Socio-ecological Perspective, Nutritional Anthropology (2002).

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