Courses

Students enroll for 4 units: 3 integrated courses plus one unit of fieldwork at a Hudson Valley farm or other food-related site. In conjunction with courses, students participate in weekly four-hour lab/field trip. Because courses are cross-listed, they can contribute to major requirements in the cross-listed department or relevant multidisciplinary majors. Students should discuss these courses and their major plans with their advisors.  Participating faculty include: Candice Lowe-Swift, Anthropology, Mark Schlessman, Biology; Mary Ann Cunningham, Geography.

CLCS/ANTH 286. Food in its Cultural and Social Contexts. Food exists at the intersections of culture, power, and history. This course explores a variety of frameworks for understanding food choices and constraints. We consider industrialized systems of food production and their implications for social life, and how responses to these systems have shifted not only dietary patterns, but also social relations and ideas about what counts as “good” food. We also focus on how the ritualized or politicized consumption of particular foods can affirm connections between invisible worlds and peoples of the past on the one hand, and contemporary life, place, and status in the physical present, on the other.  Topics and issues to be addressed include food justice and problems of unequal access; “sustainable” farming and “local” foods; food practices in the construction of identity; and the links between slavery, colonialism, and the emergence of the industrial food system. For this course, each student conducts weekly fieldwork off campus, and uses the ethnographic method to develop a food-related research project. Ms. Lowe-Swift.

CLCS/BIOL 280. The Biology of Domestication and Food Production. For at least nine tenths of their existence, humans fed themselves by hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants. Then, about eight to ten thousand years ago, our ancestors from at least seven different regions of the world independently transformed certain wild animals and plants into livestock and crops. These transitions from foraging to farming were the greatest events in our cultural history. From a biological perspective, domestication is an evolutionary process, a long-term selection experiment, that has affected both domesticates and ourselves. In this course, you will learn the basic biology behind food production, starting with the original domestications of wild animals and plants and continuing through traditional breeding, hybrid crop production, and mechanized agriculture to the transgenic crops and livestock of today. We will also consider currently popular alternatives to agribusiness, such as organic farming, slow foods, seed saving, and heirloom breeds, from a biological perspective. Mr. Schlessman

CLCS/GEOG 284. Corn by the Gallon, Milk by the Pound. We examine two of the dominant conundrums and drivers in our agricultural production system, corn and milk. We build on core themes in physical geography (such as climate regions, soil-forming processes, and biogeographic regions), mapping of agricultural production and related statistics, and field observations that give context to these ideas and data. We use these approaches to explore the dynamics of modern agricultural production systems that drive many environmental (and social) processes in the United States—and increasingly in other parts of the world. We focus on these questions: Why do we produce corn and milk products where and how do we produce them? What factors in physical and economic geography underlie these systems? What is their impact on soil quality, erosion, and biodiversity? What is their impact on our national debates around health, environment, and climate? Finally, we examine debates about recent trends in these production systems and how they have been shaped by food subsidy policies. On at least two weekend field trips we will visit a Hudson Valley dairy producer and a conventional corn producer in central New York. Ms. Cunningham.

CLCS 290 Field Work or CLCS 298 Independent Research. One unit of fieldwork or independent research to pursue study in on a related topic.

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