Food studies in Beijing

Three months with no postings. What a terrible blogger I am.

Well in my defense, it’s been busy. I’ve just started a new position as a professor at Beijing Normal University. In addition to the fairly arduous process of getting my paperwork through, I am planning to teach two new courses next semester–both in Chinese.

One of these courses will be an lecture series on how Western scholarship views China. This is not a small topic, but luckily it is one on which I have over the years developed some fairly strong ideas. I’ll happily rant on at length in a later post. (The cardinal rule of blogging is never to use up all your rants in one spot)

The other course is a graduate seminar on food studies. Now that’s real news. Food studies is an extremely exciting field, especially in China, where there’s just so much going on. It’s not just the soybean farmers caught in the Trump trade war, or the new proliferation of generic mall franchise restaurants, or wrapping your head around why everyone suddenly wants to eat cheese, it’s seeing the ties that connect them, and ultimately understanding these myriad little clues as part of the same process of producing, selling and consuming food. And in China, that process has the potential to upend the world, not just because of the size of the Chinese market, but because things are happening here that are genuinely unique.

Now teaching this course in China offers some extremely interesting possibilities. We’ll be reading in both English and Chinese, everyone from Yan Yunxiang to Anthony Bourdain. There’s endless opportunity for getting students out of the classroom, and for carving out something genuinely new, something that few scholars ever get to dream of doing.

It’s going to be fun. I hope you’ll come along!


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