Eating and Being in the 21st Century

Course content

‘Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are’ proclaimed Brillat-Savarin in 1825. Forty years later Feuerbach echoed Brillat-Savarin as he famously claimed: ‘you are what you eat’. Today these strong expressions of a correlation between eating and being seem more relevant than ever, particularly within public health contexts. Browsing Google reveals thousands of books, articles, and blogs using ‘you are what you eat’ as part of their title. Today food is never merely food. The food on your plate always contains more than your taste buds, sense of smell and touch, and vision reveals. It may consist of calories, fat, proteins, vitamins, and so on that can be measured to determine how healthy a meal is. Yet food is much more than its nutritive value. The food on your plate imports raises a multiplicity of questions ranging from concerns about identity to the relationship between lifestyle and illness. Patterns of food production and consumption are at the heart of some of the biggest global health challenges, including metabolic disorders and heart disease. Food is both material and symbolic, both nature and culture. In this course, we will explore the connections between eating and being today, via an interdisciplinary perspective combining insights from anthropology, cultural studies, literature, metabolic research, nutrition science, philosophy, and sociology.

 

The course will be structured around a mixture of theoretical and empirical readings paired with case studies and examples from the public sphere (e.g., news articles, online video talks, artworks, and museum exhibitions). The course will help students to use interdisciplinary literature to develop a reflective understanding of the contemporary relationship between eating and being. During the course, an online course site will be developed that brings the insights of the students to the public through short blog posts aimed at cultivating critical public engagement.

Education

MSc in Public Health Science - elective course

MSc in Global Health - elective course

MSc in Health Informatics - elective course

MSc in Health Science - elective course

MSc in Human Biology - elective course

Learning outcome

After the course, students should be able to:

Knowledge:

  • Describe the complexities of the contemporary food landscape
  • Describe some central research questions about the relationship between eating and being in the 21st Century
  • Describe some key theoretical concepts from the interdisciplinary literature on food and apply diverse theoretical perspectives in practical public health contexts

 

Skills:

  • Analyse real-world examples from public discourse on food and unravel the complexity of the contemporary food landscape using theoretical and empirical literature to guide analysis.
  • Critically analyse how food, health, and the self are represented in the public sphere

 

Competences:

  • Critically reflect on the literature and topics covered in the course
  • Participate in contemporary debates about food, health, and being in an informed manner
  • Apply the reflective skills gained during the course in future interactions with the media, whether giving interviews, writing popular articles, or working on health promotion campaigns

Lectures, group work, presentations, writing assignments in other forms than academic writing, short reflection papers (blog posts)

Literature will be uploaded to Absalon, along with reading guides. Examples of literature that will be used in the course:

  • Bennett, J. (2007), Edible Matter. New Left Review, 45, 133-145.
  • Christou, M. (2017), Eating Otherwise. The Philosophy of Food in Twentieth-Century Literature. Cambridge University Press.
  • Frye, J.J. and Bruner, M.S. (2012), The Rhetoric of Food. Discourse, Materiality, and Power. Routledge
  • Landecker, H. (2011), Food as Exposure: Nutritional epigenetics and the new metabolism. BioSocieties 6(2), 167-194.
  • Mayes, C. (2015), The Biopolitics of Lifestyle. Foucault, Ethics and Healthy Choices. Routledge.
  • Solomon, H. (2016), Metabolic Living: Food, Fat, and the Absorption of Illness in India. Duke University Press.
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester

Discussion and class activities will provide ongoing feedback about students understanding of the literature and analytical skills.

ECTS
5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Portfolio
The portfolio will combine course reflections with exam questions, and presentation of the students' public engagement task.
Aid
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

The evaluation of the portfolios will assess whether the learning goals listed above have been achieved. Students should use the exam to demonstrate that they can critically analyse the contemporary food landscape, combining their knowledge of public health and personal reflections with the interdisciplinary theoretical and empirical literature covered in the course.

To receive the grade 12, the student will be able to:

Knowledge:

  • Describe the complexities of the contemporary food landscape
  • Describe some central research questions about the relationship between eating and being in the 21st Century
  • Describe some key theoretical concepts from the interdisciplinary literature on food and apply diverse theoretical perspectives in practical public health contexts

 

Skills:

  • Analyse real-world examples from public discourse on food and unravel the complexity of the contemporary food landscape using theoretical and empirical literature to guide analysis.
  • Critically analyse how food, health, and the self are represented in the public sphere

 

Competences:

  • Critically reflect on the literature and topics covered in the course
  • Participate in contemporary debates about food, health, and being in an informed manner
  • Apply the reflective skills gained during the course in future interactions with the media, whether giving interviews, writing popular articles, or working on health promotion campaigns
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 20
  • Preparation
  • 80
  • Exam
  • 38
  • English
  • 138