This course draws upon a variety of perspectives to examine the social processes that influence how food is produced, distributed, prepared, and consumed in the Global North. Our focus will be on the production and consumption sides of the food system. We will cover the political economy of the food system, the sociology of nutrition, labor in the food system, gender relations in foodwork, and race and ethnicity in food culture and foodways.

The readings cover many subfields of the social sciences, including history, environmental sociology, American studies, sociology of science, gender, intersectionality theory, and cultural studies. Within each of these perspectives, food is used as a lens to examine the complex social and economic relations that shape food systems and foodways. Our objective in this course is to consider how the cultural valuation of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food, dietary advice, the gendered division of foodwork, labor injustices, and unequal access to healthy food are socially produced, and reflect a tension between individual agency and social structure.

 Norah MacKendrick is Assistant Professor of Sociology. She teaches courses on food, gender and environmental health. Her most recent project, soon to be a book with University of California Press, examines why consumers turn to organic foods and non-toxic products to protect themselves from chemical exposures.