Syllabus for Roster(s):

  • 18Sp PAVS 4500-003 (CGAS)
In the UVaCollab course site:   PAV Food Ethics

Full Syllabus

Ethics of Food
Pavilion Seminar
Thursdays 3.30-6.00pm
Willis Jenkins (

This interdisciplinary seminar treats the ethics of food as a way into questions about social justice and humanity's changing role within ecological systems. It explores the practical controversies arising within some aspect of contemporary food systems, such as hunger and obligation, culinary racism, gendered foodwork, responses to obesity, genetic technologies, and relations with other animals. Over the semester we connect those controversies to one another through broader inquiries into the meanings of food, its political economies, and gastronomic visions of nature and humanity. The seminar thus begins to depict the "moral ecology" of food by following arguments over food into broader questions of social justice, ecological change, and human purposes with earth.

Topics include fair allocation amidst hunger and scarcity; the risks and promise of biotechnology and global commodity markets; labor and gender justice in foodwork; using and eating animals; health and food disorders; land stewardship and ecological conservation. Those topics compel inquiry into basic norms of justice, welfare, virtue, and sustainability. Alongside those inquiries we read anthropological, philosophical, and religious interpretations of the meaning of food in order to cultivate reflection on the deeper questions of human power and purpose that may be implicit in food practices.
  • to identify connections between food systems and normative systems 
  • to understand arguments about eating and agriculture in relation to moral, political, and social thought
  • develop arguments of one’s own regarding particular questions of contemporary food systems
Lead food reflection once
Sign up to bring light food to share with the table, along with a brief reflection (< 5 min), once during the semester. More details in the first week.
Reading responses
Submit reading responses each week on Collab. No more than 400 words, these should be engaged directly with reading and are due by noon the day of class. Do not attempt to summarize all the readings but instead develop a critical question or comment arising from some part of the reading. Look for the big picture in possible connections among readings and across weeks. At the end of the semester you will have 13 responses.
Thesis questions
Twice over the semester come with two questions for seminar discussion. For best results, write these after your reading response so that they give us something to think with.
Be Present
You may miss one class without excuse – no need to notify or send a reason. If you need to miss more than one class, please have a good reason and be prepared to make it up by writing a summary of each reading in the missed week.
Final class dinner
May 2 from 4-6pm, meeting at my house. Please reserve that time!
Cumulative reflection paper
On a topic of your choosing, write cumulative essay of about 2500 words (2100 minumum, 3000 max)
Reading Responses  35%
Participation (incl. food reflection and thesis questions) 30%
Reflection paper   35%
Texts for Purchase
Pollan The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Counihan & Esterik Food & Culture: A Reader (make sure to get 3rd edition; ok to rent)
Berry The Unsettling of America (any edition)
Twitty The Cooking Gene  (we read four chapters, so you might share)
Capon The Supper of the Lamb (any edition)
Jan 18 Introduction
Pollan The Omnivore’s Dilemma   
            no reading response for first class, but do come with something to say about Pollan
           and fill out this brief survey
Jan 25 Food and Ethics  
Thompson From Field to Fork, ch.s 1-4, 6-7  (UVa e-version)
              Alkon & Agyeman Cultivating Food Justice, Introduction (UVa e-version)
Feb 1 Food as Culture 
Twitty The Cooking Gene ch.s 1, 4, 8, 21
Laudan Cuisine & Empire, Ch. 3 (UVa e-version)
Scruton “Real Men Have Manners” in Philosophy of Food
Korsmeyer “Ethical Gourmandism” in Philosophy of Food
Guthman “Unbearable Whiteness of Alternative Food” [Collab]
Friedersdof  “Oberlin Food Fight
Optional: Heldke “Let’s Cook Thai” in F&C
Feb 8 Food as Ecology        
            Jones “The Stomach & the Soul”, Feast, 251-74 [Collab]
Foley et al. “Solutions for a Cultivated PlanetNature  [also on Collab]
              Tilman & Clark “Food, Agriculture, & the EnvironmentDaedalus    
              Jahn et al. “Food, Health & the EnvironmentDaedalus
              Clark & Tilman “Comparative Analysis of Environmental Impacts
Vermuel et al. “Climate Change & Food SystemsAnnual Review (just skim this one) [also on Collab]
 Barber The Third Plate  424-47 [Collab]
 Kimmerer Braiding Sweetgrass, 11-32  [UVa e-book]
Feb 15  Political Economy of Food
Laudan Cuisine & Empire, Ch. 8 (UVa e-version)
Mintz “Time, Sugar, and Sweetness” in F&C
Kaufman “Short History of Wheat Futures” [Collab]
Nestle Food Politics 10th ed., Prefaces & Introduction (p14-49 in UVa e-version)
            Clapp “The Political Economy of Food Aid,” in F&C
Iovino “Slow” [Collab]
Ludan “Plea for Culinary Modernism”  [collab]
            Optional: Twitty, Cooking Gene ch. 18
                          McMichael “A Food Regime Analysis of the ‘world food crisis’” [Collab]
Feb 22*  Agriculture as a Moral System
Wendell Berry Unsettling of America [skip or skim ch.s 5, 8, 9]
            Kennedy Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause, 5-16 [collab]
Mar 1  Hunger, Justice, & Biotechnology 
Singer “Famine, Affluence, & Morality” [collab]
Sen Poverty & Famines, ch. 1 [UVa e-version]
US Hunger Portrait
Poppondieck “Want Amid Plenty” F&C
Whyte “Food Justice & Collective Food Relations
Forum for Food Sovereignty   Declaration of Nyeleni
                  Optional: Flynn “Street Credit”  [collab]
Borlaug “Ending World Hunger” [collab]
Shiva Stolen Harvest, pp. 5-18 [collab]
Toft “GMOs and global justice” [collab]
Comstock “Ethics and GM Food” in Kaplan, ed.       
                          Optional: Pasternak “Born from Bears and Corn” [collab]
Mar 15  Foodwork and Justice
Thompson “Pleasure and the New Domesticity
Matchar "New Domesticity" [Collab]
Matchar “Is Pollan a Sexist Pig?”  [collab]
Holmes Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies, ch. 4   [UVa e-version]
Brandt “On the Move for Food” in F&C
Carrington “Feeding Lesbigay Families” in F&C
             Van Dyke “Manly Eating & Gendered Eating” in Philosophy Comes to Dinner (UVa)
             Levkoe “Learning Democracy Through Food Justice” in F&C          
                        Optional: “Farmworker Food Insecurity” in Cultivating Food Justice (UVa)
Mar 22              What is Disordered Eating? Health, Morality, and Power  
Miller “Gluttony” [Collab]
Mead, “Why Do We Overeat?” in F&C
Bordo “Not Just a White Girl’s Thing” in F&C
O’Connor “De-medicalizing Anorexia” in F&C
Guthman “The food police” [Collab]
            Guthman, “Whose Problem is Obesity?” [Collab]
Griffith “Erotics of Abstinence” [Collab]
Bynum “Fast, Feast, and Flesh” in F&C
Mar 29 Religion: Purity & Pollution, Rules & Rituals, Feasts & Fasts  
Gould At Home in Nature, ch. 3 [UVa e-version]
Douglas “The Abominations of Leviticus” [Collab]
Freidenreich Foreigners and their Food, ch1  [Collab]
McCutcheon “Community Food Security” in F&C
Ali “Muslims and Meat-Eating”  [Collab]
Grummet & Muers Theology on the Menu ch. 4 [Collab]
*Nhá̂t Hnh Savor: Mindful Eating ch.s 1, 5
                        optional: Carrasco “Cosmic Jaws”  [Collab]
Apr 5 [class cancelled]                    
[abstract for final essay due by April 7; post on Collab reading response forum]
Apr 12 Should We Eat Other Animals?       
Cuneo “Conscientious Omnivorism” in Philosophy Comes to Dinner (UVa)
Singer  “Animal Liberation” in Food for Thought [UVa e-version]
Scruton “The Conscientious Carnivore” in Food for Thought  [UVa e-version]
Francione, “Animal Welfare, Happy Meat, and Veganism” in Kaplan, ed.
Adams “The Sexual Politics of Meat” in Food for Thought
Optional: “In Vitro Meat” in Kaplan, ed.
Apr 19 Gastronomic Engagements with Death and Suffering
Lipscomb “Eat Responsibly” in Philosophy Comes to Dinner (UVa)
Hettinger “Bambi Lovers versus Tree Huggers” in FFT
Everett “Vegetarianism, Predation, and Respect for Nature” in FFT
Plumwood “Animals and Ecology” in Collab
Linzey “Animal Theology and Ecological Theology”[Collab]
McMahon “Moral Problem of Predation” in Philosophy Comes to Dinner (UVa)
Apr 26  Cosmology of the Table 
Capon, The Supper of the Lamb [ch.s TBA]
Haraway “Parting Bites Nourishing Indigestion” [Collab]
Final class dinner 4-6pm May 2
            Details TBA.