|AUD School of Arts and Sciences Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies Dr. Pamela Chrabieh attended the 7thInternational 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: The Case of Middle Eastern Studies Students’ Experiences’.
According to Dr. Chrabieh: “This paper introduces its readers 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. These approach and component combine Anthropology of Food, Sciences of Religions, Cultural Studies and Irenology. The paper also presents the preliminary results of a qualitative research I have been conducting since 2014 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. Students experience(d) conflict foods or foods as bridges across cultures and religions. They told/tell stories impregnated with gustatory nostalgia, whether relived or invented. They explain(ed) how food is an individual and collective identity marker. They also share(d) stories of migration, assimilation, pluralism, resistance and hybridity, while dealing with issues ranging from cultural appropriation to food security, as well as food diplomacy, intercultural dialogue and glocal (global-local) identity formation”.
Dr. Chrabieh concluded her paper with this statement: “It is far a given that food can bring about peace in this region and it is still early to evaluate the long-term impact of learning about cultures, religions and peace through food in the university context, but I can at least state that on a micro level, such as the classroom, and on an interpersonal level, food certainly contributes to deconstructing stereotypes and to bringing people together; therefore, food does prove to be a crucial instrument for a better diversity management and, as Sam Chapple-Sokol puts it, ‘it is a valuable addition to our toolbox as we confront conflicts both old and new’”.
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. It 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 on Studying, Teaching and Doing Research on Food Studies in Italy that Dr. Chrabieh attended. 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.
Dr. Chrabieh concludes with the following: “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. For instance, the use of food in class is seen as a frivolous or not serious enough praxis. 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”.
Further information found on the Conference: