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Initiative puts spotlight on food studies

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Susan Levine

“From school lunches to agricultural systems, food issues are of great public concern,” says researcher Susan Levine.

How are public health and nutrition linked to the study of human history, culture and behavior?

What academic fields are joining forces to address food and hunger on local and global levels?

A new campus initiative focused on food studies will consider these questions as it features humanities scholarship at UIC.

“From school lunches to agricultural systems, food issues are of great public concern,” said Susan Levine, professor of history and director of Institute for the Humanities.

The Chancellor’s Initiative in the Humanities, “Food Studies at UIC: Local and Global Issues,” is a two-year program co-sponsored by the Institute for the Humanities and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“The program’s concentration on food studies is uniquely positioned to bring together UIC’s ‘East’ and ‘West’ campus researchers and highlight the role of the humanities in understanding cultures, shaping new knowledge and informing public policy,” said Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares.

Based in the Institute of the Humanities through the 2013-14 academic year, the initiative will feature:

• an international conference in April 2013, “Food Justice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives,” on historical issues of food justice and contemporary policy debates. The keynote speaker, Vandana Shiva, an award-winning physicist and philosopher, is known for her advocacy on environmental justice and food security.

• a post-doctoral fellowship with a food studies concentration, based in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. During the 2013-14 academic year, the fellow will teach two courses and do research in some aspect of food studies in the humanities.

• a talk by UIC alumna Ertharin Cousin (’79 criminal justice), executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, for the 2013-14 Chancellor’s Lecture in the Humanities.

The initiative is inspired, in part, by the Chicago Area Food Studies Working Group — scholars from UIC and other universities interested in the politics, culture and history of food.

The group will host a series of events leading up to the Food Justice conference in April.

“We aim to illuminate the importance of the humanities in addressing problems of food and hunger and to foster discussions across diverse and engaging perspectives,” Levine said.


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