Regularly Scheduled Courses

This course explores the complex relationships between food, food production, technology, and society. In some ways, our goal is to explain how and why supermarkets have come to look like they do. Taking chronological and thematic approaches simultaneously, we’ll look at the impact of science and technology on food processing and distribution (such as canning, refrigeration, GMOs, food stabilizers and preservatives). We’ll also put these developments in larger social, cultural, and demographic contexts, including the growing divide between food producers and consumers, governmental regulation, the rise of global food conglomerates, urbanization, and sustainability. Even more broadly, we identify connections between agribusiness, ecology, consumerism, media, politics, and the history of science and medicine.

With ubiquitous digital maps at our finger tips, it’s easy to move through space without giving it much thought. At the same time, we recognize that physical space connects us to our past and charts a course for the future. This multidisciplinary course draws from history, geography, archeology, anthropology, literature, cultural studies and architecture to explore the how we attach meanings to space and how both space and place influence our identities, communities, regions, and nations. Coursework contributes to ongoing projects at the National Park Service on the National Historic Trails (particularly writing about historic sites on the Santa Fe Trail and contributing to this website), emphasizing qualitative research and historical writing for a broad audience with digital publication technologies.

This course introduces some of the most influential approaches that historians (from antiquity through the present) have taken in thinking and writing about the past. It also addresses various meta-questions about history: What is history? What is it for? Who is it for? It addresses various philosophies of history (the underlying assumptions of how we can access and understand the past), as well as various historical interpretive frameworks that have shaped the professional practice of history. Coursework consists of numerous short essays that compare and contrast different processes, modes of thought, and modes of expression from different historical time periods and in different geographic areas.

This course investigates the changing meanings of food and foodways throughout US history, including what people eaten, how they have attached cultural values to certain foods yet rejected others, and how immigration, and regionalization have shaped notions of American cuisine. When you think of Mexican food, or Italian, or Chinese, a range of dishes and ingredients immediately spring to mind. But what about American food? Is there such a thing? How much does the history of American Food tell a very different story of US History than we typically hear? How are ideas of nationalism reflected in our foodways? What constitutes a “national” cuisine? Does this concept even make sense anymore?

This course examines how technology shapes our access to and interpretations of the past. How does the digitization of cultural artifacts change the ways historians ask and answer questions about the past? What kinds of new research methods do historians need to analyze and interpret the exponentially growing digital archive? How has digital publishing and platforms like Wikipedia challenged traditional historical expertise and authority? Our collaborative coursework will focus on using new media technologies to communicate about the value and significance of history.

The questions of what constitute healthy foods and bodies have been in flux since people had a choice about what to eat. And even today, medical understandings of nutrition, diet, and health seems to change almost daily. This course explores how various cultural, scientific, and medical values have continually shaped our relationship to food, health, and diet since the Renaissance. How have medical authorities continually redefined what it means to be healthy and to eat a healthy diet? How much do food industries and lobbyists affect our understanding of healthy eating? How can the history of nutrition help us understand our own cultural constructions of natural and healthy diets?

We are in the midst of a major paradigm shift in human consciousness and society caused by our ubiquitous connectedness via the internet, smartphones, and digital maps. These globalizing forces have telescoped space and time to an unprecedented degree, while paradoxically heightening the importance of local places. The course explores the technologies, tools, and workflows that can help collect, connect, and present online interpretations of the spaces around us.