Fall 2017 • HIST 300-018
info | readings


This syllabus is still under construction and changes frequently. You can, however, consider this a generally accurate guide to the topics the course will cover and the kinds of activities we’ll be doing.


  • TH 12:30 - 1:45 @ 136 DSH
  • Fred Gibbs (fwgibbs@unm.edu) @ 1077 Mesa Vista Hall
  • Office Hours: T 2-3; Th 10-11

Course Description

This course explores how 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 production, processing, and distribution (such as canning, refrigeration, GMOs, techno-foods). We’ll also put these developments in larger social, cultural, and demographic contexts, including the growing divide between food producers and consumers, urbanization, and food deserts, the rise of food corporations and global conglomerates, governmental regulation, organics, and sustainability. In tackling these topics, we’ll touch on issues related to food justice, environmental history, workers’ rights, nutrition, marketing, regulation and so on. Even more broadly, we try to identify connections between agriculture, ecology, consumerism, capitalism, media, politics, history of science and medicine, as related to food choice.

Our reading list takes a smorgasbord approach–there’s a little of everything. Some of the readings go together well, others seem a bit more isolated. Some of them reinforce each other, others contradict each other. There isn’t any clear narrative or story that this course tries to tell; we sample widely from the buffet. The hope is to provide a stronger sense of where and how food is produced and the many and mostly hidden consequences of the many complicated global systems that facilitate our incredible choice of food. It does not try to tell you how to eat, but hopefully how to think more critically about the implications of our food production and consumption choices.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Think critically about how food is produced, disseminated, and consumed.
  • Learn the history of various facets of our food system

Work Requirements and Grading

  • Thorough preparedness and engaged participation in every class meeting. This is a class that’s focused on discussing and making things, not just memorizing and regurgitating information. (50%)

  • Serious effort and on-time completion of the many class assignments. Some of these are critical website or project reviews, others are slightly more technical challenges (no prior experience required), others are design challenges. We also do considerable peer review in the class, and you are graded on those efforts as well. (50%)

While I try to provide feedback throughout the semester, particularly on the various assignments, you are heartily encourage to speak with me at any time to learn what I think of your performance in the class and how it can be improved (if at all).

Required Readings

There are no required books for the course. All readings that aren’t already online (and some that are) will be available through the class Zotero library. This will be discussed in class, but for reference, please see the instructions for connecting. The URL for the group library will be posted shortly.