top of page

Food and Power

This course looks at how transformations, past and present, in traditional foodways and food infrastructures shape modern food politics today. Food is a foundation of living. Providing food —growing it, processing and manufacturing it, distributing it, retailing it, buying it, cooking it, and eating it— structures not only our daily routines as individuals, but connects us to larger social institutions and the economies and politics of powerful vested interests. Food is thus linked to important structures of power, and for this reason, changes in food and agriculture are heatedly politicized topics. We explore a variety of hot topics and food trends in the news: genetically modified food debates, vegetarianism, locavorism and other food counter-cultures, globalization in its different forms (McDonaldization, “glocalization” and “ethnic” immigrant cuisines), food taboos, country of origin or geographical indications labeling, school lunch programs, the obesity epidemic and rising paradigms of healthism and nutritionism, and how we imagine foods of the future. This course seeks to look beneath the surface of these debates at the deeper social and cultural forces driving them, as well as the role of scientific and technological innovations in realigning stakeholder interests and engendering modern anxieties.


Technology and

This is a two-semester history of technology survey course for undergraduates which focuses on the role of technological change in global human history by examining the interactions of peoples, states, environments, and technologies. The first semester covers events from pre-history up to the eve of the Industrial Revolution. Among other subjects, we examine Neolithic societies, ancient river valley civilizations, ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, imperial China, the Pre-Columbian Americas and the Columbian Exchange, medieval Europe and Islam, pre-industrial trade routes, the scientific revolution, and the commercial revolution. The second semester covers the mid 18th century through the present. Subjects include the Industrial Revolution, the transformation of labor, imperialism and military technology, biotechnology (agriculture and medicine), urbanization, and communication and information technologies (radio, television, computer, internet), transportation (canals, railroads, automobiles, aviation), and business and leisure. This course aims to broaden students' understanding of the forces which shape global history. They will learn to think critically—and historically—about the place of technological change in the evolution of human societies.


Science, Technology and 'the Law' 

This course examines the intersections of two central social institutions, law and science, looking at the ways the two have evolved in modern history in the face of new sciences and new technologies that have transformed social relations. Both are authoritative institutions who draw prestige from expertise, esoteric knowledge, and specialized jargon; yet they also seek to be accountable to public matters of concern and to offer real-world relevance. Thus both pose challenges to democracies and public deliberation even as they play an important role in them. Throughout the course we will consider different models of how law and science work, what makes them distinctive social institutions, and how they have changed over time. Week to week we will look at: the practice of forensics as a special field of legal science in history and in fiction (e.g. “CSI”); how the law and science are used to settle disputes in everyday life on a variety of issues (guns rights, smoking, and liability for risk to environmental tort and drug regulation); and the ways regulatory and scientific institutions establish facts about responsibility and fault in accidents, construct value and ownership through intellectual property (IP) law, and attempt to rationalize work spaces, social behaviors, privacy, and cyber-identities. Along the way we consider: what is “the law,” what is “scientific truth,” what are they for, and what role do they play in everyday life?

bottom of page