College Year in Athens anthropology professor Aimee Placas (left), with Bryn Mawr professors Camilla MacKay and Sharon Ullman and students.
How does food reflect and shape experiences of and beliefs about ethnic, racial, class, gender, sexual, and national difference? How have histories of migration impacted what and how people eat? And how can scholars uncover and understand everyday food practices? These are some of the major questions students explored in the spring 360° course cluster, “Foodways and Migration.”
The 360° brought together three courses—“The Politics of Food,” taught by Professor of History Sharon Ullman; “Food and Archeology in Greece, Past and Present,” taught by Camilla MacKay, director of Research and Instructional Services at Carpenter Library; and “Food and the Transnational City,” taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Museum Studies Stephen Vider.
Students examined food from a variety of disciplinary angles—historical, archaeological, and literary—to consider the many political and social meanings of food consumption and labor. Readings ranged widely in topic, time, and place, including on feasting in the archaeological record; the Great Famine in 19th-century Ireland; and the rise of food trucks in contemporary Los Angeles. Assignments included creating a class cookbook that analyzed favorite recipes from a transnational perspective and creating digital maps of spaces of food commerce in different neighborhoods of Philadelphia.
The core of the cluster was a 10-day trip over spring break to Greece, where students examined foodways as a lens on Greece’s past and present—thinking in particular about Greece as a place of migration, immigration, and transnational culture. In Athens, the class reflected particularly on how some foods have come to be recognized as “traditionally” or “authentically” Greek—and how that shapes who is recognized as authentically Greek. Students visited a market selling specialty products from across the country, the central market in Athens, and the Agora excavations, including a behind-the-scenes visit to the offices and storerooms. Throughout the trip, students also met with faculty in cultural anthropology and archaeology from College Year in Athens, an organization which facilitates student learning opportunities and study abroad in Greece.
The class also spent time thinking and learning about experiences of current refugees in Greece and met with activists and community organizers. Before the trip, they raised money that enabled them to work with local activists to bring food to a shelter for Iraqi and Syrian refugees in central Athens. Students also met and ate with the owners of "A Little Taste of Home," a restaurant owned by a Syrian immigrant and his Greek wife. The restaurant’s menu aims to capture the dishes and flavors of many cultures, to provide all diners a chance to reconnect with their places of origin.
Beyond Athens, they experienced some of the varied landscape of Greece in a visit to the mountain town of Arachova for a hands-on lesson in how its traditional goat cheese is made, followed by a tour of the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. Students also traveled to Thessaloniki, where they learned about the city’s Byzantine past and its more recent intersecting Muslim, Jewish, and Christian histories.
Fall 2018 360° clusters include "Pathways to Policy" and "Empires." 360° is an interdisciplinary experience that creates an opportunity to participate in a cluster of multiple courses connecting students and faculty in a single semester (or in some cases across contiguous semesters) to focus on common problems, themes, and experiences for the purposes of research and scholarship.