1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Lisa Shutt: Food and Meaning in Africa and the Diaspora

Summer Session 2013: Students Fill Up on Knowledge and African Food Traditions

People in the West African country of Mauritania view heavier women as presenting the ideal of beauty, while considering those with slender frames as bringing shame on their families. Mothers begin force-feeding their daughters as young as 10 years old with cow’s milk and fatty meats.

That seems especially odd in the U.S., where thinness is an important measure of beauty and some adolescent girls go so far as to make themselves sick with anorexia or bulimia to lose weight.

Many of us take for granted that we eat food to survive and perhaps to share with others, but there is much more to it. University of Virginia students taking the summer course, “Food and Meaning in Africa and the Diaspora,” have been learning how people express their cultures through the food they prepare and eat, who prepares it and for what purpose.

Lisa Toccafondi Shutt, a lecturer in the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, has taught a similar class for the College of Arts & Sciences’ anthropology department, where she earned her Ph.D. in 2010, as well as for the Women, Gender & Sexuality Program. She also directs the undergraduate programs in African-American and African studies.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013