Prof. Fred Gibbs (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mesa Vista Hall, 1077
Office Hours: M 12-2; T 10-12; by appointment
What constitutes healthy food? A healthy diet? A healthy body? Dietary regimens to maintain health—as well as what it means to be healthy—have remained preeminent medical questions ever since people had a choice about what to eat. Yet even today, medical understandings of diet and official dietary advice 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 1700s.
Some guiding questions: How have medical authorities continually redefined what it means to be healthy and to eat a healthy diet? How and why have the perceived medical virtues of various foods changed over time? How much do food industries and lobbyists affect our understanding of healthy eating? How can the history of diet and health help us understand contemporary dietary advice?
Understand the changing notion of diet and the constantly shifting relationship between diet and health in Western medicine.
Appreciate how attitudes about diet are not based on “objective” medical knowledge, but grow out of complex constellation of social, political, and cultural values.
Develop sensitivity to how different social and cultural populations approach food and health in vastly different terms, and how this might inform food, diet, and health policy decisions.
Sharpen critical thinking skills by evaluating online dietary advice while exposing its assumptions and putting it in historical perspective.
You will write four 800-word essays on various topics–one is an analysis of establishing dietary expertise, one is a primary source analysis, one is an analysis of food packaging/labeling, and one is an analysis of some online “publication” (of your choice) pertaining to food, health, and diet. These assignments will show that you’re able to apply the course discussion and activities in the real world (so to speak). If you are not pleased with your grade, you can revise and resubmit them within 1 week. You can read more about these on the critique writing guide. (50% total)
There are no required books for the course. However, you will need to subscribe to the course Zotero library to access assigned articles. This will be discussed on the first day of class (and later, too). For reference, please see the instructions at fredgibbs.net/courses/etc/zotero.html. The URL for the group library is https://www.zotero.org/groups/642043/items, but you must have clicked on the link in your invitation to access the library!
View the Schedule of Readings