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The Cultural Ecology of Italian Food

Instructor: Greg Smith [see profile]
Disciplines: Agricultural Sciences, Environmental Studies, Italian Studies, Anthropology

Sustainability is a critical concept in contemporary Italian political and cultural debate. The concept has implications for culture, society, economics, and the environment. Food practices provide the link between these different conceptual realms. Food systems are explored from multiple perspectives: ecology, agriculture, systems of distribution, trade regulations. Food consumption is the final link in this chain. Virtuous food practices are considered, as well as deviant practices with their devastating consequences for communities and the environment. Citizen empowerment is the critical factor in attaining a sustainable balance between the demands society and the potentialities of nature. Empowerment is expressed in everyday practices, as well in the capacity of ordinary citizens to support the physical territory which sustains them.

The course combines lectures with extensive on-site experiences often involving encounters with local activists to Naples, Castelfusano, a park outside the city, several neighborhoods in Rome, and the National Gallery of Modern Art to look at landscape painting. A critical part of the course is a survey of neighborhood systems of food distribution and consumption in Rome. (Alternate options include visits to fisheries and to the FAO.)


  • weekly journal
  • reading quizzes
  • oral presentation
  • final exam