Food is one of the most critical, yet understudied, aspects of human experience. Most of us like to eat, and food is a tangible way in which we articulate our religious, ethical and moral selves. Religious values shape how we feast and fast, and feed the deities and feed ourselves. This course will explore the relationship between food and religion by (1) investigating food in the context of specific religious traditions, e.g. Hinduism; and (2) examining food as a moral and ethical category in religious and secular contexts, e.g., organic and locavore. Topics include, but are not limited to, food and ritual; food and religious ethics; religion, food and sustainability.
This course fits under the rubric of the humanities because it focuses on how people of the world’s different religious traditions understand food in its multiple capacities. This course explores the food-related myths, rituals, texts, and practices of different religious traditions, in the US and abroad; compares the role of food and eating, addressing topics such as ritual practice, health, relations between humans and the divine, morality/ethics, and sustainability; and demonstrates how food practices reflect and shape gender roles and social roles among and in-between diverse populations in the United States. It seeks to present an in-depth understanding of the language and concepts used by different traditions to define “food”. This course demonstrates the methodologies used in Religious Studies, including historical, textual, comparative, and ethnographic, and consciously reflects on how and why scholars choose these methods in their investigations.