If someone tells you how to eat or what you should or shouldn’t eat, do you believe them? Why or why not? Is any dietary advice ever truly “right”? What makes some more convincing than others? This course uses the long history of diet and health to investigate the relationship between medical expertise and popular understandings of health.
Some guiding questions: Why have medical authorities continually redefined what it means to be healthy and to eat a healthy diet? How do dietary experts establish their expertise? Why have so many fad diets come into and gone out of fashion? What can historical perspectives on topics like GMOs, vitamins, and obesity offer contemporary debates on these issues?
This class is NOT concerned primarily with learning the history of diet and health, but using examples from it to learn about medical expertise generally (with a particular focus on dietary expertise).
This class is probably unlike most history classes you’ve taken, not least because history of medicine and history of food are somewhat specialized topics. But I want to be VERY CLEAR: Even if you have never thought about the history of medicine or diet, or have never taken a history course, or even a humanities course, YOU ARE WELCOME HERE! I will do everything I can do help you learn as much as you’re motivated to learn, and to help you get whatever grade you’re aiming for. As much as possible I’ve tried to make the course about everyone thinking together rather than just you memorizing something I say or you read so that you can regurgitate it later. If you feel the course structure isn’t facilitating your own success, let’s talk (virtually, of course).
This page, and the schedule page, have all the instructions and assignments you need for the course. Make sure you are VERY FAMILIAR with these two pages. We use UNM Learn to manage quizzes, assignment submissions, and the discussion board, but all basic course information is on these two (separate) webpages.
We also use Slack so you can ask general questions about a reading or the history of diet/health/expertise generally that you might have raised in a class discussion. For especially interesting questions I will record a 2-3 minute video answer that might help the course seem a bit less mechanical.
I think of our Slack Workspace as facilitating the kind of informal conversations we might have if in a classroom together. Just as in a physical classroom, speaking up is always your choice and using Slack is simply a tool to make it easier for us to communicate, but it’s totally optional.
Not having actual class meetings (as the course normally does) deprives us of some collegial conversation, but it presents new freedoms as well. There isn’t much to do most days except do the reading, reflect on it, write a brief response, and occasionally respond to your colleagues.
I hold you accountable for keeping up with the readings by asking you to respond to them twice per week (Mondays and Wednesday), plus a weekly learning reflection (due most Fridays) that will address a few questions that I think will help tie together the readings for the week. In place of some weekly learning reflections there are a few slightly longer assignments that give you the chance to apply the readings more directly.
The upshot is that your work for the course is very evenly distributed across the semester. There are no big essays or exams or final. As long as you’re keeping up with the readings (and I’ve tried to be quite modest in the amount), the course shouldn’t ever become a burden on your workload or schedule.
There are no required books or readers for the course; everything is accessible online. However, you will need to accept an invitation to join the course Zotero library to access many of the assigned articles and book chapters. See the Tech Tools section above for instructions and links.
TO BE CLEAR: LITERALLY EVERYTHING you need for the course is either already freely available online, or is a PDF in our Zotero library. If you ever think you need to track something down on your own, you are not connected to Zotero properly.
Assignments are worth either 2 points (weekly discussion posts), 10 points (weekly learning reflections), or 20 points (larger assignments and the final learning reflection)
The little equations after the assignment type indicates
number of assignments x
points for each x
Depending on how the course unfolds, the final number of points may change slightly. But the percent grading scale will remain basically the same, unless it becomes easier to get a higher grade.
View the schedule page for all reading assignments, reading reflection prompts (all submitted via UNM Learn), and due dates (usually Friday).