Graduate Journal aspeers Calls for Papers on "American Food Cultures"

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aspeers: emerging voices in american studies
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A familiar proverb tells us that 'we are what we eat.' Indeed, food is not only a daily necessity to sustain the body. The need for food, its production, its preparation, and its consumption turn it into an important cultural site and a crucial analytical category. Studying 'food' accordingly brings together a number of academic fields ranging from biology and agriculture to sociology, political science, history, and literary and cultural studies, to name just a few. In their interdisciplinary openness and diverse cultural significance, food cultures are central to American studies.

For historians, food offers a particular 'lens' through which to view historical events. Using it to look at, for example, the Civil War would highlight the underlying agrarian crisis and the transformations in the 'domestic sphere' expressed in changing eating cultures. Similarly, the economies of food production and of food products, such as coffee and potatoes, have had profound cultural impact, often crossing national and cultural boundaries and thus blending and mixing different cultures. From the 16th-century journey of potatoes from the 'New' to the 'Old' World to the 20th-century fears of McDonaldization, food is a matter of history, economics, politics, and culture most generally.

While the cultural significance of food is unquestioned, food crises like BSE, bird flu, swine flu, or various hunger catastrophes fuel heated public discussions as to the proper production of food, of healthy diets, and of the distribution of food. Here, the question of 'eating right' becomes an arena for the social negotiation of ethics of consumption: Organic? Local? Vegan? Vegetarian? Discussions of these food choices, as much as of food-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and various eating disorders, give evidence of the complex relationships between food, the (gendered) human body, and social values.

In literary and cultural studies, then, food often serves as a site at which to explore complex cultural or (inter)personal dynamics. The gendered discourse of cooking, e.g., is traditionally connected to the domestic sphere and to sensuality but can simultaneously function as a source of identity, just as regional and ethnic foods do. In media, food is omnipresent: Food documentaries, culinary travel reports, cooking shows, and 'food porn' are only some examples of the importance of food in expressing cultural values.

aspeers, the first and currently only graduate-level peer-reviewed journal of European American studies, invites fellow graduate students to reflect on the diverse roles and meanings of food in American culture. Please note that the contributions we are looking for might address but are not limited to the topical parameters outlined above. We welcome term papers, excerpts from theses, or papers specifically written for the occasion by 30 October 2011. If you are seeking to publish work beyond this topic, please refer to our general Call for Papers.

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