Assignment 2: Food and American Culture

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STEP 1. For this activity you will observe (and/or participate in) a dining experience with others for the purposes of understanding how food and culture are interconnected. (You can participate in a meal or if you prefer you can view a meal on a television show or movie.)

STEP 2. Write notes on the types of communication you observe in the interactions during this meal (verbal, non-verbal, spatial, etc.) and record any messages about food, values, or culture that are visible.

Think about the type of language that individuals use, manners of speaking, tones of voice, loudness of voices, body language, gestures, and a variety of unspoken communication.

Are there cultural values being expressed regarding food and/or culture (Pay attention to what people say or express about the food they are eating- e.g., someone saying “I’m going to be BAD and eat ice cream tonight” or “We are being so good an healthy eating this salad”).

Does where and how the food is consumed convey any messages about culture? (e.g., eating from communal dishes vs. individual servings, or eating at formal table or in front of a TV).

Think critically about the messages being communicated through the meal. Reflect on what you observe. These notes are for you to use in your summary.

STEP 3. Summarize your observations and insights regarding the event you were observing and put it into context based on course material. Utilize the following questions to help construct your response. (Your write up should be 500-750 words. Include your word count in bold at the bottom.)

1. Describe the setting of your observation (when, where, what, who etc.).

2. How does the act of dining relate to culture?

3. What can be learned about American life and culture from observing dining?

4. How might dining illustrate microcultures within the larger “American” culture? (for example, there is a situation where only men eat together or there are restrictions about the types of food one can consume do to religious beliefs?)

5. What does the food itself reflect about this group of people?

6. Were there differences in communication styles or preparation and consumption of food based on gender, class, marital status, age, or race?

7. Were there messages about gender or status? Were their messages about age or family?

Reflect on any other significant elements of your observations. To receive full points it is important that you tie these observations into what you have learned about anthropology. Make direct references to course material.


Some Rubric

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