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American Studies | Food, Media, and Culture Journal

Contact

For questions about Food, Media, and Culture, please contact:
Professor Katharina Vester
vester@american.edu

Issue 1: 2008 Fall

Katharina Vester,
Introduction: The Meanings of Food (pdf)
Food and its discourses were long neglected by the humanities, since food was considered something necessary, biological, non-negotiable. Moreover, food belonged to the domestic sphere—for decades a blind spot for scholarly interest—and was dismissed as a subject a bit too feminine, too mundane, and insufficiently political, a humdrum quotidian activity. But recent scholarship has cautiously—and lately more self-confidently—recognized the importance of food in making subjectivities and developing resistance to dominant discourses. In light of this new theoretical background, kitchens and dining tables need to be understood as prominent sites in the production of subjects through processes that are guided, reflected, and contested by a number of discourses ranging across cookbooks, literary and popular fiction, TV cooking shows, diet blogs, restaurant reviews, poetry, and still life paintings. Studying these genres reveals the centrality of food to the construction of identity....[More]

Jasmine Dawn Samuel,
New Ethnicities: Caribbean Cuisine and Identity (pdf) 
Abstract: Caribbean food in Washington, D.C. presents a diverse spectrum of flavors, ingredients and dishes that are combined in unique ways culturally specific to the different island nations. At the same time, this cuisine has been influenced by the local consumer and U.S. mainstream concepts of acceptable types of food as well as stereotypes of the tropics. This article analyzes the menu descriptions and other ways local Caribbean establishments work to create a sense of authenticity, and finds that it is up to the consumer to inscribe their roti, patty or red snapper with context and meaning—just as the Caribbean natives, colonizers, and other settlers mixed cultures to create a familiar but new culinary identity.

Andrew Corcoran,
Taking a Big Bite Out of the Food Network:
The Importance of Masculinity in Food Programming
 (pdf) 
Abstract: Male hosts have dominated television as news anchors and talk show hosts for decades, but what about a network devoted to the feminine domain of the kitchen? Perhaps surprisingly, men have come to dominate the Food Network as well, playing a highly visible role in a realm connoted as feminine, and in a medium that exaggerates gender differences. This article demonstrates how TV food programming carefully cultivates a culturally safe depiction of masculinity.

Gus Zimmerman,
The Queer Dish: Gay Cookbooks after Stonewall (pdf) 
Abstract: Like all cultures, gay and lesbian culture has been reaffirmed through its cookbooks. This article analyzes significant changes in queer cookbooks since the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969, as they have helped carve out a uniquely queer culinary space in opposition to the heteronormative views presented in mainstream cookbooks. The author identifies three key themes that recur in this genre: queer hospitality, queer dishes, and queer politics and activism. The article serves as an example of how minority communities can use the cookbook to transgress and redefine traditional boundaries.

Cassandra Passinault,
You Know You're a Redneck if ... Road Kill Is Not a Joke (pdf) 
Abstract: The practice of hitting and killing an animal with a vehicle has been around since the first wheels hit the first road, and U.S. drivers annually collide with an estimated 1.5 million deer alone. A select breed of diner, popularly stereotyped as the "redneck," has provided a niche market for an unusual genre, the road kill cookbook. This article examines how authors have used humor as a defense against the negative stereotyping of rural culture even as they claim pride in a renegade role that celebrates a cuisine that makes mainstream society recoil.


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Acknowledgments

This online journal has been made possible because many colleagues kindly contributed time and thoughtful consideration to overcome the obstacles in the way of any project.

We thank Professor Bill Leap and AU’s American Studies Program for financial and moral support; College of Arts and Sciences (CAS); Webmaster Thomas Meal for the technological realization of the journal; Jessica Tabak from the CAS Dean’s Office and Amelia Chandler-Lewy for the editing; and for friendly advice and generous support we are grateful to Janet Auten from the Writing Center.

The students who attended this seminar and decided which papers to include were Juliette Arnaud, David Braatz, Lizz Callaghan, Andrew Corcoran, Adrian Day, Katie Duris, Tracy Empson, Julie Finkel, Rita Gallina, Laura Gibson, Tracy Goldberg, Wendi Goldfarb, Emma Grace, Grant Helms, Rachel Hitow, Taryn Hyman, Sarah Morrison, Cassie Passinault, Matt Plaster, Mary Rucker, Jasmine Samuel, Anne Schroeder, Steven Sondheimer, Damon Taylor, Tory Wergelis-Isaacso, and Gus Zimmerman.