Sociology of Food and Agriculture
Instructor: Dr. Tracy Perkins
“The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and without becoming disillusioned.”
- Antonio Gramsci
The aims of this course are to:
• Develop your sociological imagination and apply it to what you eat as well as to
contemporary food politics.
• Become familiar with the development of the US food system.
• Analyze the outcomes of a wide array of efforts to improve the US food system through
the lenses of race, class and gender.
• Improve reading comprehension of scholarly and popular texts.
• Improve research skills
• Improve writing skills for a public audience.
• Improve media and information literacy
• Develop critical thinking
• Create a productive, respectful and creative learning environment and intellectual
community in class.
All required texts will be available on the course Blackboard site.
Our class time will take a variety of formats, including lecture, large group discussion, small
group discussion, film, class activities, and time for individual written reflection. I encourage
you to ask questions during lectures. A few guidelines:
• Come to class prepared by having done all the assigned reading and taking notes on it.
• Bring your readings (hard-copies are preferable) and notes to class every day, you will
sometimes need them for small-group work.
Names and Gender Pronouns in the Classroom
We will provide an opportunity in class for every student to share their preferred name and
gender pronoun (he, she, they, etc.). For example, I will ask you to call me Dr. Perkins, and to
reference my gender with the words “she” or “her.” Share whatever pronoun you feel most
comfortable with in a classroom setting. Please make every effort to call your peers by their
preferred gender pronouns for the duration of the semester.
Keep in mind the following campus statement on federal Title IX law:
“Howard University reaffirms its commitment to provide students with educational opportunities
free from sexual harassment and discrimination based upon gender, gender expression, gender
identity, sexual orientation, or marital status. In furtherance of this commitment, the University
strives to maintain an environment in which all members of the University Community are: (a)
judged and rewarded solely on the basis of ability, experience, effort, and performance; and (b)
provided conditions for educational pursuits that are free from gender-based coercion,
intimidation, or exploitation.”
Due date % of course grade
Discussion Facilitation and
We will sign up for dates in
Reading Responses Midnight of the day prior to
when the readings are due
Wikipedia article 40%
Reflection paper 15%
See class schedule below.
Assignments due before
class on the day listed.
Draft your article 9
Peer review process
Quality of Wikipedia
This class will be run as a seminar in which we take turns facilitating discussion. On your
your assigned days, you will facilitate discussion and other learning activities of your
choice to make sure students understand the reading. I encourage you to meet with me in
office hours ahead of time to review the main concepts and discuss your ideas for learning
activities. While you may choice to briefly summarize the key points of the reading, please
avoid lengthy lectures. See Blackboard for tips on how to facilitate effective discussions.
Annotated Readings Portfolio
You will maintain a portfolio of your readings over the course of the semester and bring it to
every class. The portfolio will consist of a heavy duty three-ring binder that will contain
annotated printouts of each reading. You may choose to keep your class notes and returned
response essays in the portfolio as well, but they will not constitute part of your portfolio grade.
The purpose of the portfolio is to ensure that you are printing out, reading and annotating the
readings each week and that you have them available for consultation in class. You will need to
bring the portfolio to every class. You will turn in your binder for review at random
throughout the semester.
How to Annotate a Reading
Annotation is more than highlighting and underlining. It means making written notes as you
read to identify key terms and concepts, to flag questions that you have, and to assist you in
following the arguments of the authors. This is usually done on the page of the text using
underlining and circling of text and making notes in the margins. One advantage of working with
printouts is that if you only print them on one side you can make more extensive notes on the
blank side. Annotation helps you focus on the reading, improves comprehension, and helps you
to better remember the content of the reading.
Annotation is kind of like having a conversation with a text while you read it. Some basic
annotation techniques are:
• Identifying and underling key terms, concepts and passages.
• Circling definitions.
• Writing definitions in the margins.
• Writing questions that you have in response to the text.
• Writing opinions you have about particular passages.
• Summarizing the main points of sections as you finish them.
An especially useful technique is to make an outline of the whole reading on back of the last
page, dividing it up into sections and sub-sections in order to see the overall structure of the
argument being made. Annotation is crucial to making a close reading of any difficult text.
Reading Portfolio Materials
In order to maintain the portfolio you will need to purchase or otherwise obtain:
• A heavy duty 1½” or 2” wide three-ring binder
• A reliable stapler
A reliable three-hole punch
You are responsible for writing one reading response for the readings covered for each class
session. The response should cover all of the readings assigned for that day. These will be
uploaded into the “Reading Responses” section of our class website Blackboard. Pleaes copy-
past your text into the box available rather than uploading a PDF or Word document. If you use
any of the author’s words in your response, be sure to use appropriate parenthetical/in-text
reference information (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/583/02/). Each reading
response should be 300-400 words long, and should include:
1) a brief description of the key points made in that day’s readings
2) your analysis of the readings
3) any questions you may have
Over the course of the semester you will write reading responses for every day of class except
the first day of class and the last day of class (between, and including, Aug. 23 and Nov. 27).
You may upload your responses until 11:59pm of the day prior to when the readings are due,
when Blackboard will close the assignment. Late responses will not be accepted. You may miss
three reading responses without penalty. These three "passes" are designed to accommodate
disruptions to your studies that are outside your control such as illness, deaths in the family, and
other emergencies. If you complete readings responses for all of the readings, you will receive 2
extra credit points towards your final grade.
Attendance and Late Assignments
• All students are expected to attend classes regularly and promptly. It is especially
important to attend the FIRST meeting of each class. It is there that you will receive
much of the information critical to your success in the class – syllabi, handouts, names of
textbooks, instructor contact information, class format, etc.
• Attendance will not be taken in this class. I expect you to attend class regularly, but do
not need to know your reasons for any missed days. If you are absent from classes, you
are still responsible for the work missed and the announcements made.
• Assignments worth 5% of hour total class grade or less may be turned in up to 48 hours
after the time they were due for half credit. Assignments turned in after this time period
do not get any credit.
• The less time I spend responding to individual e-mails, the more time I have to prepare
for leading a high-quality class. To that end, before you send me a question via e-mail,
first check my syllabus to see if the information you want is listed there. Also, I will not
respond to questions about the concepts covered in class via e-mail. These are best asked
in class or office hours.
• I will use Blackboard to send periodic class announcements via e-mail. You may set your
Blackboard account to whatever e-mail account you use most frequently. Plan on
checking this account daily.
• Any act of academic misconduct, such as cheating or plagiarizing on exams, is a serious
violation of the University’s norms of conduct. Students who plagiarize or cheat on
assignments or exams receive an F in the course and will be reported to the Dean of the
College of Arts and Science for further sanctions, including possible suspension from the
University. Read the Academic Code of Student Conduct for more information:
Howard University is committed to providing an educational environment that is accessible to all
students. In accordance with this policy, students who need accommodations because of a
disability should contact the Dean for Special Student Services (202-238-2420) as soon as
possible after admission to the University or at the beginning of each semester. Please document
and discuss your disability with me during the first week of classes. Find more information about
how to get academic accommodations here http://www.howard.edu/specialstudentservices/.
• Tutoring for General Education classes http://undergraduatestudies.howard.edu/cae/tutor-
• Writing tutoring for any class: http://www.coas.howard.edu/writingcenter/
• How to get tested for a learning disability:
• Howard University Counseling Service
• Academic counseling and choosing a major http://undergraduatestudies.howard.edu/cae/
• For your questions about using Blackboard
• For help finding information, ask a librarian!
• Tips on how to study effectively
• Mills, C. Wright. 2000. “The Promise.” Pg. 1-11 in The Sociological Imagination. New
York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.
Unit 1: Origins of the US Food System
• Siskind, J. 1992. “The Invention of Thanksgiving: A Ritual of American Nationality.”
Critique of Anthropology, 12(2), 167-191.
Aug. 25: Project Day
• Christensen, Tyler Booth. 2015. “Wikipedia as a Tool for 21st Century Teaching and
Learning.” International Journal for Digital Society, 6(3/4).
Due - Assignment 1: Get started on Wikipedia
• Carney, Judith. 2002. “Introduction.” Pp. 1-8 in Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice
Cultivation in the Americas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
• Risen, Clay. 2017. “When Jack Daniel’s Failed to Honor a Slave, an Author Rewrote
History.” Aug. 15. The New York Times. Retrieved August 14, 2017
Unit 3: Labor
• Alkon, Alison Hope and Christie Grace McCullen. 2011. “Whiteness and Farmers
Markets: Performances, Perpetuations … Contestations?” Antipode 43(4):937–959.
Sept. 1: Project Day
Due – Assignment 2: Evaluate Wikipedia
Sept 4: Labor Day, no class
• Thompson, Gabriel, ed. 2017. “Maricruz Ladino.” Pp. 27-48 in Chasing the Harvest:
Migrant Workers in California Agriculture. Brooklyn: NY: Verso.
o Rape in the Fields: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/rape-in-the-fields/
Sept. 8: Project Day
Due – Assignment 3: Add to an article
• Vaidhyanathan, Siva. “The Googlization of Memory: Information Overload, Filters, and
the Fracturing of Knowledge.” Pp. 174-198 in The Googlization of Everything (And Why
We Should Worry). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
• Ortiz, P. 2002. “From Slavery to Cesar Chavez and Beyond: Farmworker Organizing in
the United States.” Pp. 249-275 in The Human Cost of Food: Farmworkers’ Lives,
Labor, and Advocacy, edited by Charles D. Thompson, Jr., and Melinda F. Wiggins.
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
• Araiza, Lauren. “Complicating the Beloved Community: The Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee and the National Farm Workers Association.” Pp. 78-103 in The
Struggle in Black and Brown: African American and Mexican American Relations during
the Civil Rights, Era edited by Brian D. Behnken. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska
Sept. 15: Project Day
Due – Assignment 4: Choose your topic/find your sources
Screen: The Price of Sugar
• Jayaraman, Saru. “Women Waiting on Equality.” Pp. 130-156 in Behind the Kitchen
Door. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Unit 3: Industrialization
• Pollan, Michael. 2011. “Industrial Corn” Pp. 15-99 in The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A
Natural History of Four Meals. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.
Sept. 22: Class cancelled for Convocation
Due – Assignment 5: Revise your list of sources
• Deborah Barndt, “Across Space and Through Time: Tomatl Meets the Corporate
Tomato.” Pp. 8-62 in Tangled Routes: Women, Work and Globalization on the Tomato
Trail. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
• Perkins, Tracy, ed. 2015. In Her Own Words: Remembering Teresa De Anda, Pesticides
Activist. Retrieved on March 27 at www.rememberingteresa.org.
Unit 4: Land
Sept. 29: Project Day
Due - Assignment 6: Draft your article
• Norgaard, Kari Marie. 2011. “A Continuing Legacy: Institutional Racism, Hunger, and
Nutritional Justice on the Klamath.” Pp. 23-46 in Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class
and Sustainability, edited by Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman. Cambridge, MA:
The MIT Press.
• Daniel, Pete. 2007. “African American Farmers and Civil Rights.” The Journal of
Southern History 73(1):3-38.
o Significant Dates on Black Land Loss and Land Acquisition. Federation of
Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund. Accessed December 4, 2016
• Minkoff-Zern, Laura-Anne and Sea Sloat. 2017. “A New Era of Civil Rights? Latino
Immigrant Farmers and Exclusion at the United States Department of Agriculture.”
Agriculture and Human Values 34(3): 631–643.
Oct. 6: Project Day
Expand your draft
• Cadji, J. and Alkon, A. 2014. “One Day White People are Going to Want These Houses
Again: Understanding Gentrification through the North Oakland Farmers Market.” Pp.
154-175 in Incomplete Streets: Processes, Practices and Possibilities edited by Stephen
Zavestoski and Julian Agyemen. New York, NY: Routledge.
• Kerssen, Tanya M. and Zoe W. Brent. 2017. “Grounding the US Food Movement:
Bringing Land into Food Justice.” Pp. 284-315 in The New Food Activism: Opposition,
Cooperation and Collective Action, edited by Alison Hope Alkon and Julie Guthman.
Berkeley, CA: The University of California Press.
Unit 5: Consumption
Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day
• Giltner, Scott. 2006. “Slave Hunting and Fishing in the Antebellum South.” Pp. 21-36 in
“To Love the Wind and the Rain”: African Americans and Environmental History edited
by Dianne D. Glave and Mark Stoll. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Oct. 13: Project Day
Due – Assignment 7: Peer review and copy edit
• Patel, Raj. 2007. “Checking Out of Supermarkets.” Pp. 215-252 in Stuffed and Starved:
The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House
• Nestle, Marion. 2013. “Introduction: The Food Industry and “Eat More.” Pp. 1-28 in
Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. Berkeley, CA:
University of California Press.
Oct. 20: Project Day
Due – Assignment 8: Respond to your peer review
• Belasco, Warren J. 2007. Appetite for Change: How the Counterculture Took on the
Food Industry. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
o “An Edible Dynamic.” Pp. 15-28
o “Radical Consumerism.” Pp. 29-42
• Pollan, Michael. 2001. “Naturally.” May 12. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved
August 20, 2017 (http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/13/magazine/naturally.html)
• Gezt, Christy, Sandy Brown and Aimee Shreck. 2008. “Class Politics and Agricultural
Exceptionalism in California's Organic Agriculture Movement.” Politics and Society,
Oct. 27: Project Day
Due - Assignment 9: Request instructor review
• Hinrichs, C. Clare and Patricia Allen. 2008. “Selective Patronage and Social Justice:
Local Food Consumer Campaigns in Historical Context.” Journal of Agricultural and
Environmental Ethics. 21:329-352.
• Szasz, Andy. “Political Anasthesia.” Pp. 194-222 in Shopping Our Way to Safety: How
We Changed from Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves. Minneapolis,
MN: University of Minnesota Press.
• Van Sant, Levi. “Lowcountry Visions: Foodways and Race in Coastal South Carolina.”
Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies 15(4):18-26.
Unit 3: Hunger
Nov. 3: Project Day
Instructor gives back comments
• Heynen, N. 2009. “Bending the Bars of Empire from Every Ghetto for Survival: The
Black Panther Party’s Radical Antihunger Politics of Social Reproduction and Scale.”
Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99.2:406-422.
• White, Monica M. 2017. “A Pig and a Garden”: Fannie Lou Hamer and the Freedom
Farms Cooperative. Food and Foodways 25(1):20-39.
• Poppendieck, Janet. 1998. “Introduction.” Pgs. 1-19 in Sweet Charity: Emergency Food
and the End of Entitlement. New York: Penguin Books.
Nov. 10: Veteran’s Day, no classes
Due – Assignment 10: Move your work to Wikipedia (live)
• Alkon, Alison Hope Daniel Block, Kelly Moore, Catherine Gillis, Nicole DiNuccio, Noel
Chavez. 2013. “Foodways of the poor.” Geoforum 48:126–135
• Patel, Raj. 2007. “Better Living through Chemistry.” Pp. 119-163 in Stuffed and Starved:
The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House
Nov. 17: Project Day
• Hara, Noriko and Jylisa Doney. 2015. “The Social Construction of Knowledge in
Wikipedia.” First Monday. 20(6-1). Retrieved August 14, 2017
• Buttel, Frederick. 2000. “Ending Hunger in Developing Countries.” Contemporary
Nov. 22: Classes suspended at noon, no class
• Esquibel, Catriona Rueda and Luz Calvo. 2013. “Decolonize your Diet: A Manifesto.”
nineteen sixty nine: an ethnic studies journal 2(1).
o Tillery, Carolyn Quick. 2003. Celebrating Our Equality: A Cookbook with
Recipes and Remembrances from Howard University. New York, NY: Citadel
Nov. 24: Thanksgiving holiday
• Fairbairn, M. 2010. “Framing Resistance: International Food Regimes and the Roots of
Food Sovereignty.” Pp. 15-32 in Food Sovereignty: Reconnecting Food, Nature and
Community, edited by Hannah Wittman, Annette Aurelie Desmarais and Nettie Wiebe.
Oakland, CA: Food First Books.
Nov. 29: Presentations
Due: Assignment 11: In-class presentations
December 8, 4pm
Due – Assignment 12: Final Wikipedia article “due”
Due –Assignment 13: Reflection paper