Food Topic of Shasha Seminar
“Food: Power and Identity” is the topic of the Wesleyan’s 2008 Shasha
Seminar for Human Concerns. The event will take place April 4-6 on campus.
Endowed by James Shasha ’50, the annual Shasha Seminar supports lifelong
learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and
perspectives on significant issues. This year, seminar speakers will discuss
how food shapes our identity, public and private discourse, politics and
“Food: Power and Identity” will tackle issues on food production, such as
industrial agriculture, organic agriculture, genetic manipulation, local vs.
global, sustainability; food and politics, for example unequal distribution
of food, food policies such as farm subsidies and corporate lobbies, famine,
food security; food and science topics, such as nutrition, eating disorders,
food safety, genetic manipulation; food and culture, such as food rituals
and taboos, identity through food, food and art/film/writing, tourism; and
ways food is produced in the economy.
“Few topics call forth more interest, concern, passion, joy, and outrage
than the food we eat,” explains Shasha Seminar Coordinating Committee member
John Finn, professor of government and graduate of the French Culinary
Institute. “Food is an inspiration for artists, a delight for the
connoisseur, a weapon in war-torn areas, and an immense worldwide business.
The critical need for a safe food supply has spawned controversial science
and political furor. Above all, food reflects our deepest cultural and
Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of
Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, is the
keynote speaker. Her research focuses on the analysis of scientific, social,
cultural, and economic factors that influence dietary recommendations and
practices. She is the author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry
Influences Nutrition and Health (2002), Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology,
and Bioterrorism (2003), and What to Eat (2006). She will speak at 8 p.m.
April 4 in Memorial Chapel.
Additional speakers include:
- Eric Asimov ’79, chief wine critic of The New York Times and author of
and Under: A Guide to the Best Inexpensive Restaurants in New York.
- Ruth Reichl P’11, editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and former New York
Times restaurant critic.
- Faith Middleton, a radio, television, and print journalist and honorary
co-chair of Celebration of Connecticut Farms, which supports Connecticut
Farmland Trust, an organization dedicated to preserving Connecticut farms
and supporting farm families;
- Jimmy Daukas coordinator of policy research and design, alliance building,
legislation, and communications for American Farmland Trust’s campaign to
transform U.S. agriculture policy.
- Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Hon. ’07, chairwoman of the Agriculture-FDA
Appropriations Subcommittee, where she has worked to provide funding for a
safe food supply, for a healthy agricultural economy, and for the Food and
Drug Administration to regulate thousands of products used everyday.
- David Fischhoff P’08, vice president for technology strategy and
development, and chief of staff for the technology division at Monsanto
Company. He invented insect resistant transgenic crop plants that are among
the leading products of plant biotechnology.
- Darra Goldstein, the Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of
Russian at Williams College, founding editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of
Food and Culture, and International Association of Culinary board member.
- Barbara Haber P’85, culinary historian and former curator of books at the
Schlesinger Library at Harvard University, where she developed a major
collection of more than 16,000 volumes on cooking and food.
- Krishnendu Ray, assistant professor in the department of nutrition, food
studies, and public health at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education,
and Human Development, New York University.
- Karen Anderson, associate dean of continuing studies and director of the
Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Wesleyan, where she also has
taught courses on Hinduism, creation mythology, anthropology, and history of
- Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of anthropology and African American
studies, poet and performer.
A series of informational sessions will begin April 5. Individual sessions
are titled “Subversive Food,” “The Science of Seed and Crop Improvement for
Food Production,” “Home Cooking Far From Home: Food and Identity,” “The Food
Schmooze,” “Foodways: Cultural Histories and Anthropologies of Food and
Social Life,” and “The Politics of Food and Agriculture.”
The Shasha Seminar Coordinating Committee members are Finn, Karen Anderson,
associate dean of Continuing Studies and Director of the Graduate Liberal
Studies Program; Gail Briggs, associate director of alumni programs; William
Holder ’75, director of publications; Peter Patton, vice president and
secretary of the university, and Linda Secord, director of alumni programs
and university lectures. Finn will facilitate all sessions.
The Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns is open to the Wesleyan community and
the general public. The fee is $250 per person, which includes the keynote
speaker, a reception, a wine tasting, all meals and conference materials. To
register, go to
additional information call 860-685-2737.
For more information go to:
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection