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‘Culinary Cultures’: Theorising Postcolonial Food Cultures

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Part of the Teaching the New English book series (TENEEN)

Abstract

This chapter reflects on the theory and practice of using interdisciplinary food studies to teach across global spaces on a research-led undergraduate module, as part of a larger programme of decolonising the curriculum. The module, ‘Research Now: Culinary Cultures’, introduces students to multiple theoretical approaches to food narratives and encourages them to make real-life connections to wider key global concerns such as migration, interculturation, transnationalism, globalisation and decoloniality. Inspired by Mexican food studies scholar Meredith E. Abarca’s view that ‘food can function as a medium of understanding existing theories and creating new ones’ (by providing more concrete ways to engage with difficult and sometimes abstract ideas) and animated by her concept of an ‘engaged pedagogy’ based on the ‘critical analysis of food activities [in] food narratives’, it shows how this can be undertaken within a Literature Studies context. This chapter suggests some specific texts, theories and teaching strategies which can be used as part of an ‘engaged pedagogy’ which acts to decolonise the Literature Studies curriculum.

Keywords

  • Food studies
  • Globalism
  • Diversification
  • Decolonisation
  • ‘Engaged pedagogy’

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Notes

  1. 1.

    One example is sugar, the commodity which shaped the modern Caribbean.

  2. 2.

    Meredith. E. Abarca, “Food Consciousness: Teaching Critical Theory Through Food Narratives.” In Food Pedagogies, ed. by Rick Flower and Elaine Swan (London: Routledge, 2015), 215.

  3. 3.

    Heldke, “Foodmaking as a Thoughtful Practice”, “Foodmaking as a Thoughtful Practice.” In Cooking, Eating, Thinking: Transformative Philosophies of Food, eds. Deane W. Curtin, Lisa M. Heldke, Indiana U.P., 1992. 214.

  4. 4.

    bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge, 1994.

  5. 5.

    Abarca, “Food Consciousness,” 216.

  6. 6.

    This section is based on a blog post for the YSJU Literature blog and was jointly authored by Dr Anne-Marie Evans and myself. https://blog.yorksj.ac.uk/englishlit/whats-going-on-demystifying-decolonising-the-curriculum/ My thanks to Dr Evans for allowing me to reproduce extracts here in an edited format.

  7. 7.

    Kathy Luckett, Advance HE webinar on Decolonizing the Curriculum, March 2020.

  8. 8.

    Margaret Atwood, Conversations (London: Virago, 1992) 187.

  9. 9.

    Susan Bordo and Leslie Heywood, Unbearable Weight: feminism, Western culture, and the body (Berkeley and London: University of California Press), 102.

  10. 10.

    Caitlin Moran, How to Be A Woman (London: Random House, 2011), 110.

  11. 11.

    Abstract for Sarah Garland, “‘A Cookbook to be read. What about it?’: Alice Toklas, Gertrude Stein and the Language of the Kitchen”, Comparative American Studies 7 (2009): 34–56.

  12. 12.

    School of Oriental and African Studies.

  13. 13.

    Decolonising SOAS np https://www.soas.ac.uk/blogs/study/decolonising-curriculum-whats-the-fuss/#:~:text=First%2C%20’decolonising%20the%20curriculum’,about%20how%20the%20world%20is.&text=Second%2C%20’decolonising%20the%20curriculum’,how%20they%20write%20about%20it

  14. 14.

    Decolonising SOAS n.p.

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  • Unit 1: Archer et al. eds (2014), Ashley et al. (2004), Belasco (2008), Lee Brien and Piatti-Farnell eds (2018), Counihan et al. eds (2018), Rowe (2015), Shahani (2018), Watson and. Caldwell eds (2005).

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Lawson Welsh, S. (2022). ‘Culinary Cultures’: Theorising Postcolonial Food Cultures. In: Beyer, C. (eds) Decolonising the Literature Curriculum. Teaching the New English. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-91289-5_8

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