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Histories of American Foodways CFP

2014 July 30
by Paul Mabrey
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Amerikastudien, Jahrestagung der
Historiker/innen; organisiert von Nina Mackert und Jürgen Martschukat
13.02.2015-15.02.2015, Erfurt, Augustinerkloster
Deadline: 31.08.2014

Eating right has become a tough challenge in modern America. Every day,
Americans face a vast number of food choices, from gene-modified corn
and processed lasagna to locally grown vegetables, organic meat and
homemade jam. These foodstuffs are produced, sold and consumed in a
myriad of places, from vast fields to factories in huge industrial
areas, from suburban superstores to the neighborhood’s farmers’ market,
from home dining tables to fancy rooftop restaurants. Yet, the American
foodscape is even richer than that: It is also a patchwork of
traditional and ethnic foodstyles in a society that is local and global
at the same time and looks back on a long history of migration,
encounter and exchange. Consumers’ choices depend on their cultural
traditions, their wealth, their gender, race, age and religion, the
status of their health and many other factors. Choosing “right” demands
knowledge about personal preferences, the tastes and origins of
food-stuffs, their nutritional value, the pleasures and the dangers they
provide for individual bodies and the nation.

“Food is good to think with,” French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss
pointed out half a century ago – and it is also good to study and write
history with. Food provides a variety of paths to the values, patterns,
practices, politics and power structures, conflicts and choices of a
society. Also, it is the ubiquity and everydayness of eating which make
understanding the histories of American foodways so important. Within
the recent two decades, food has become a booming topic of his-torical
inquiry on America. Food has been explored in its importance for the
colonization processes from the first encounters between Europeans and
Americans to the highly globalized world of the 21st century. Both
European and American diets looked different before Columbus sailed to
America. Historians have also studied food’s relationship to
industrialization, with the many changes in processes of food
production, allocation and marketing. They have looked at the related
transformations of the American diet, the emergence of home economics
and nutritional thinking and the changing fears and promises related to
various kinds of food, substances and bodies. The historical study of
American regional foods and of America’s ethnic foodways and how they
relate to the history of immigration and identity has also been an
important field of research lately. Furthermore, scholars have studied
the histories of various substances and foodstuffs, from vitamins to
meat and Iceberg lettuce, and how their production and consumption
changed neighborhoods, cities, regions or the whole nation, its taste,
technology, and transportation networks. Other research has addressed
the moral meanings of foodstuffs, the history of dieting and fasting and
the current “obesity crisis” and its meanings for America in the world.

The goals of the conference are manifold. Although focused on a
historical perspective on North America, the study of food is
interdisciplinary by definition, and we also aim to include both papers
from other disciplines and papers pointing to the global interdepencies
of American foodways. Invited keynote speakers will be internationally
renowned food studies scholars and historians Prof. Charlotte Biltekoff
(UC Davis) and Prof. Bryant Simon (Temple University).

Possible topics for papers include, but are not limited to the

Food and Identity in a highly dynamic migration society. Potential
topics are the histories of ethnic food in America, but also the
invention of traditional American food styles and their local and
regional differences, from the history and meanings of Southern soul
food to California cuisine.

Food production and the historical changes in its processes and
practices, from a largely agrarian society and culture to the food
industry, agribusiness and meat factories and to (post)modern urban
gardening and home cooking.

Food consumption in everyday life and also the meanings of special food
types for special occasions such as the family meal on Sunday, but also
the history of fast food, food deserts and pre-fab meals and how they
transformed American living patterns. We also invite presenters to think
about the history of slow food, foodie-ism and the shaping of a culture
that fetishizes food.

The costs of food, such as the labor conditions in the food industry or
health issues that have been related to food and eating practices from
“obesity” to allergies and food intolerances. Presenters are also
invited to analyze historical reactions to the costs of food and explore
for instance the histories of diet and fasting movements, vegetarianism
and others.

Food in a global world, delineating the history of global food chains
since the founding of the first colonies in America, or of food
production and its global diversification in an industrialized world.
Presenters are also invited to think about changes in food consumption
through globalization, for instance about travelling food concepts or
the history of an international cuisine. We also welcome papers on food
as an instrument of foreign policy.

Please send an abstract of no more than 500 words and a one-page CV to
both conveners by August 31, 2014: Nina Mackert
( and Jürgen Martschukat
( If accepted, the presentation is
limited to 25 minutes.

We also want to remind you of our “Young Academics Forum” which is open
to any topic in U.S.-history. Young scholars are invited to propose
their research projects for presentation and discussion in our
workshops. Please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words and a
brief CV of no more than one page to both conveners.

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