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Indiana University Bloomington

Fall 2014 Eat, Drink, Think: Food from Art to Science


Food surrounds us. In the well-off western world, we are never more than a few steps or minutes away from calories we can consume. The USA spends $1.24 trillion per year on food; we have so much that we waste 40% of what we produce, yet millions still suffer from hunger. Food fills our minds and culture as well as our bellies; real and virtual, it appears in all our media; it occupies our researchers in biology, chemistry, neuroscience, anthropology, and psychology; it is central to our political and economic debates. Concern with food lies at the heart of the traditional practices of many world religions, provides rich ground for the study of history and ethics, and is often reflected in art and music.

This Themester aims to provoke debate and discussion concerning the vast networks of peoples, technologies, and environmental systems that make even the simplest meal possible. Common issues that demand our attention in contemporary times include: What are the implications of state regulation of diet and nutrition for a society founded on a commitment to individual liberty? How much responsibility should the diner or chef bear for the way the food that they serve was harvested or processed? How can we feed 10 billion people without causing irreparable ecological damage, and should we care about how equitably that food is distributed? These and other questions explore the ways in which our representations and consumption of food connects us to our social, cultural, and biological worlds.