I attended the 7th International Conference on Food Studies at Roma Tre University in Rome – Italy and presented a paper entitled ‘Learning through Food at the American University in Dubai’ on Friday, October 27, 2017.
My audience of foodies and food experts was introduced to the Peace Education approach I have been developing since 2004 in the academic sphere in Canada, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, as well as to one of its main applications in the classroom: the food component. I also presented the results of a qualitative research I conducted from 2014 to 2017 at the American University in Dubai on the food learning experiences and food stories of more than 500 students enrolled in diverse Middle Eastern Studies courses.
The 7th International Conference on Food Studies was organized by the Food Studies Research Network that is curated by the Common Ground Research Networks. The Food Studies Research Network is brought together around an interest to explore new possibilities for sustainable food production and human nutrition, and associated impacts of food systems on culture.
Hosted by Gustolab International Institute for Food Studies and Roma Tre University , the conference’s scope and concerns were Food and Sustainability; Food, Nutrition and Health; and Food and Politics. Roma Tre University has always shown a tendency towards multidisciplinary research, and recently with a focus on sustainability through a new graduate degree in Innovation and Sustainability and a degree program in Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures. As for the Gustolab International Institute for Food Studies, it is a pioneering leader in Italy in developing study abroad and international education programs and research projects on Food Studies. Gustolab is the academic headquarters in this country for programs specialized on Food Culture, Communication, and Media and Nutrition for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This Institute has also worked with more than 30 universities on study abroad programs, from the USA to Canada, France and Japan.
Gustolab organized a pre-conference workshop I attended on Wednesday, October 25, focused on Studying, Teaching and Doing Research on Food Studies in Italy. The objective of the workshop was to share and discuss opportunities for study and research in the food field with professors, students, researchers, and independent scholars who are interested in learning about study programs or doing research abroad. Attendees explored topics such as study abroad programs, culinary schools, master programs and internship programs. The material ranged from the social sciences to human, technological, biological, and agroecology sciences.
It is no surprise that the research interests of academics across a wide range of disciplines relate to food in some way. Food is at the center of our lives, cultures and religions, socio-political and legal systems, etc. Scholars in humanities for instance examine issues including the cultural significance and representation of food and food as an identity marker. Food Studies programs are now growing in popularity in North America and Europe. However, misconceptions are still found in our region i.e. Southwestern Asia and North Africa, and this is quite unfortunate. Food Studies is an important interdisciplinary field of study of food and of its relationship to the human experience that definitely needs to be promoted in local academic circles.
Other culinary and food anthropology activities with my American University in Dubai students:
Further information on the Conference: