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Anthropologist to discuss cultural perceptions of food tastes at Lycoming College

Anthropologist to discuss cultural perceptions of food tastes at Lycoming College

Richard Wilk

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Richard Wilk, distinguished professor of anthropology at Indiana University, Bloomington, will discuss the concept of taste during a presentation at Lycoming College on Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. The presentation, entitled “Tasty or Disgusting: Paradoxes of Taste,” will be held in the Mary L. Welch Honors Hall on the corner of Fourth and Basin Streets in Williamsport. The event is free and open to the public.

During his presentation, Wilk questions how people make sense of the foods they find appealing or disgusting. The assumption that food is a deeply engrained preference and people are unwavering in their cultural preferences may not hold in the face of evidence about rapid shifts in food preferences, as foods become trendy or shift in their social class meaning. For example, many people consider lobster to be a delicacy now, but it was once something people were embarrassed to admit that they ate. He provides other examples, particularly from Belize, based on his recent research.

Wilk is an internationally-recognized scholar, and his initial research on the cultural ecology of indigenous Mayan farming and family organization was followed by work on consumer culture, energy consumption, globalization, television, beauty pageants and food. He participated in the Tucson Garbage Project, has conducted ethnographic investigations of home energy use in exotic suburban California, and has studied household economics, consumer culture and cuisine in Belize. He is the author or editor of 17 books and more than 200 scholarly articles, and he curates an online museum of weird consumer culture. For the last 20 years he has worked on behalf of the Maya and Kekchi people of Belize in their struggle to protect their land.

Wilk recently received an award for “Home Cooking in the Global Village” from the Society for Economic Anthropology. His anthropological research has received support from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Andrew Mellon Foundation. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Lund, and was recently elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He just returned from an appointment as a distinguished visiting professor at the Singapore National University, where he investigated the ethnic foods sold in the markets of Singapore. To recognize his body of work, he was recently honored with the title of provost professor at Indiana University, where he co-chairs the IU Food Institute, and directs a doctoral program in food anthropology.

His visit to Central Pennsylvania is a joint effort by Lycoming College and Bucknell University. Wilk will present a different lecture at Bucknell University titled “Does Culture Cause Climate Change?” The free, public lecture will be held on Oct. 21 at 4 p.m. in Gardner Lecture Hall. For information about the presentation at Bucknell, call 570-577-3620.

The Lycoming College lecture is sponsored by its Fall 2016 symposium on global exchanges titled “Global Exchanges: Moral, Economic, and Political Motives.” The symposium is a series of events including guest speakers and workshops centered around a single topic that are explored in courses across the curriculum. In addition to his public lecture, Wilk will work with sociology, anthropology and archaeology students at Lycoming College and meet with faculty interested in sustainability, anthropology and climate change at Bucknell University.

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