Final Paper

You are strongly encouraged to speak with the Professor and/or TA about your progress on the paper. Be sure, as well, to consult the Style Guide. 10–12 pages, double-spaced in a font sized similarly to 12pt Times, plus bibliography.

There are 3 options. You may pursue one of the following topics:

  1. DISSECT AND CRITICALLY EVALUATE A FOOD, a DISH, or a MEAL in political-economic, gastro-political, symbolic, nutritional, and/or ethical terms. This will entail library/online research as well as analysis informed by course readings and discussions. You must engage and cite at least 4 readings from the syllabus. Begin with a description of your food item or event and then organize your paper around 2 or 3 analytical themes that demonstrate the range of what you've learned in this class. Use subheadings to organize your analyses. Let me sketch out just one example:
  2. meal = peanut butter and jelly sandwich + carrot sticks + glass of milk

    Symbolic Analysis: This is nostalgia food, the kind of thing my mother would make me for lunch — or that I'd wished she'd made me for lunch when what she really did was let me fend for myself or give me $1.10 to eat a yucky hot lunch from the school cafeteria. Academic articles to engage in this discussion: Materials from week on food and memory, on authenticity, on gastropolitics, and Anne Alison's article on Japanese mothers and Obentos.

    Nutritional Analysis: Of one component, e.g. milk (or bread, or jelly, or peanut butter what's up with all these seemingly new food allergies?). We've been told over and over that milk is good for us (provide examples), but on what basis? Give some history of the rhetoric of milk and health, plus critiques (drawing from class readings, but beyond as well). What's really in this milk? Is it organic or not? Does it matter nutritionally? Read nutrition labels and do some digging online (see

    Political-Economic: Take one (industrial or artisanal) food item from the menu — sandwich bread, peanut butter, jam, machine-miniaturized carrot sticks, etc. — and do a political-economic analysis of it: Who makes it, how/where, what corporation owns that company and what else do they own, who works in the factories and fields if you can find out, etc. etc. See Chicken and Cheap Meat for examples of this strand of analysis, but do some library research on this as well. Do more digging online (see, NYTimes article with cool graphic on the corporate structure of major organics companies, for articles on the relationship b/w food and climate crisis, food prices and ethanol, etc., etc.).

    You could apply a different analysis to different ingredients/components, or different analyses to a single food item.

  3. This course has covered numerous ways in which people around the world think about and invest in food's goodness, but it has not been exhaustive. How else do people think about food as good — and/or bad? Explore a related thematic topic that this course has not covered, or delve more deeply into one it has. As we've done throughout the course, be sure to join political-economic and symbolic analyses. You must engage and cite at least 4 readings from the syllabus.
  4. You may write a well-research term paper forwarding an original argument on a topic of your choice (to be approved by the professor!). Again, you must engage and cite at least 4 readings from the syllabus.