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Food Studies

Mar. 4, 2008

When people call us here at Slow Food USA asking about undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Studies/Gastronomy, we’ve in the past only had a few directions in which to steer them.

First, there’s the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG), Slow Food’s University with campuses in Pollenzo and Colorno. One can go there for the undergraduate degree, or the one-year English language Masters degree.

There are also programs at NYU (School of Food Studies), Tufts (Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy) and University of New Hampshire (where there’s a Food and Society initiative).

Now there’s a new school to add into the mix! Slow Food Bloomington co-leader Christine Barbour is an affiliated faculty member with Indiana University in Bloomington, where there is a brand new Food Studies PhD. It’s always interesting to see under whose auspices these programs lie, and at Bloomington, it’s the Anthropology department.

Professor Barbour was kind enough to answer some questions for us about her involvement in Slow Food and how it affects her work in the classroom, as well as to share two wonderful articles with us–one from Indiana’s Research and Creative Activity publication, and one from the Indiana University Alumni Mag, which explains how she got interested in Slow Food and began the local chapter.

Q: What is the relationship of the Bloomington convivium to the University? Have there been opportunities for connection in the past?

CB: No formal relationship, though as I am a professor at IU as well as Slow Food co-director, there are informal connections. For instance, my “Food and Politics” class is very much Slow Food-oriented.

Q: What do you teach?

CB: The new program is a graduate program and I teach undergraduates (though graduate students can audit my class.) I am talking to the incoming Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education about putting together a food studies minor for undergrads.

Q: Have you found that the students have heard of Slow Food?

CB: Not so much, really, even among the students working on our sustainability task force. Out of 25 students in each of my “Food And Politics” classes, typically 4-5 have heard of it, and that is among a group self-selected for its interest in food.

Q: There aren’t many food studies programs in the country right now. How did this one come to be at Bloomington?

CB: The Anthropology Dept. looked at its faculty research interests and realized that many of them had food-related interests. Since many faculty outside their dept. also focus on food issues, they decided to bring them together in a food studies program for grad students (mainly because there is far less paperwork involved than beginning a new undergrad program.)

Q: Why do you think there is a demand now for coursework like this?

CB: Food is trendy, the “eat local” movement is gaining traction in popular culture and becoming more mainstream, books like Fast Food Nation and Omnivore’s Dilemma as well as films like “Supersize Me” and "King Corn" are making people think about the implications of where their food comes from.

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