Anthropology of Food

Discipline: Anthropology
Instructor: Trevathan
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 10:50
End: 12:05
Field Work: Day 4 - Accra - Friday, 18 October | Ghana
Prerequisites: An introductory course in anthropology would be helpful but not necessary Download Syllabus

In this course we will explore the numerous factors that influence what and how we eat.  Topics to be discussed include human food needs in evolutionary perspective, hypothesized ancestral diets, population differences in food needs and utilization, and food in cultural and social contexts.  We will examine changing nutritional needs in the life cycle and how cultures vary in their attitudes toward such things as infant feeding, foods to be consumed or avoided during pregnancy, and foods as they relate to gender.  An evolutionary perspective will enhance understanding of how our nutritional requirements evolved and how they vary from population to population.  One goal is to recognize that an individual’s socioeconomic, cultural, and ethnic affiliations are often more important in determining food choices than are biological needs. Readingsand projects will focus on cultures we will encounter on the voyage.  Students will be required to visit a traditional market in every port and write a description following a suggested outline based on ethnographic inquiry.  There may be no better way to investigate everyday life in another culture than to visit the markets.  Students learn about the basic economic systems, family organization, the roles of women, and aspects of health, in addition to developing an understanding of traditional diets and cuisines.

Field Work

Country: Ghana
Day: 4 - Accra - Friday, 18 October

The Field Lab for this class will take place in Tema, Ghana, on the final day of our visit to that country, October 18.  We will visit a traditional food market and small farm and will sample traditional Ghanaian food in a local restaurant.  Our host will be Ms. Francisca Aba Ansah, a local agricultural research scientist who was a 2011 AWARD Fellow (African Women in Agricultural Research and Development) sponsored by USAID and the Gates Foundation.  Ms Ansah will be accompanied by students from the University of Ghana who will serve as our guides that day.  We will record our observations based on a set of questions that will serve as a focus for our excursion. This field trip will provide us an opportunity to experience food marketing, consumption and production in a West African nation. Academic Objectives: 1.  To observe the daily workings of a traditional African food market and the human interactions that occur within that context. 2.  To have an opportunity to taste local foods and see how they are prepared in a traditional Ghanaian restaurant. 3.  To understand the challenges faced by small farmers and the production techniques they use to grow crops for local consumption.