HC 431H: The Taste of Power: Food and Colonialism in World History

Professor: Hannah Cutting-Jones

4.00 credits

• CRN 18227: Wednesday, 1415-1700 @ This course will be held remotely

In this class we will explore the relationship between food and colonialism from South Asia to the Americas. Rather than focusing on European empires, we will primarily examine the people and places affected by food colonialism, which impacted local foodways on myriad levels. The importation of new plants, animals, and, later, processed foods, for example, permanently disrupted subsistence agriculture and traditional food knowledge and practices. Military campaigns, Christian conversions, forced resettlements, enslavement, land appropriation – in these and other ways colonizers influenced how people gathered, prepared, and ate as well as what foods were available to them. As Dr. Lenore Newman, author of Speaking in Tongues: A Canadian Culinary Journey, writes, a more specific pattern played out within settler-colonialism. “If we look at the history of colonization, the first settlers really relied on Indigenous foods, and collaborating with Indigenous people to stay fed,” but later used food as a weapon. Salmon on the West Coast of North America and bison on the Great Plains provides powerful examples of the long-term damage of colonial expansion on local populations.    

In what ways did food offer the opportunity for colonial and postcolonial subjects to reclaim control over their identity, their stories, their bodies?  How did food reflect adaptation and cultural resilience? How did decolonization affect foodways, and what are some examples of post-colonial cuisine? What types of unique, blended foodways arose in the wake of colonialism? How do the legacies of colonialism intersect with culinary appropriation, food sovereignty, and food justice?  In the context of modern globalization as a new form of imperialism, how can we reframe the legacy of colonialism? My hope is that by pondering these questions we will better understand the historical context of many post-colonial problems we continue to wrestle with today.