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Carole Counihan explores “taste activism” at Lycoming College

Carole Counihan explores “taste activism” at Lycoming College

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This year, as part of the James and Emily Douthat Distinguished Lectureship in the Liberal Arts and Sciences, Lycoming College welcomes Carole Counihan, Ph.D., professor emerita of anthropology at Millersville University. Counihan will address the College and Williamsport communities with her lecture, entitled “Taste Activism in Urban Sardinia, Italy,” in Shangraw Performance Hall in the Mary Lindsay Welch Honors Hall on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m.

Based on Counihan’s ethnographic research in Italy’s island region of Sardinia, the talk explores taste activism — the use of taste to raise awareness about the food system and move people toward local and sustainable consumption. Taste activism takes place in social spaces as people exchange food, knowledge, sensory experiences, and use mind and body to develop a critical approach to food. In the lecture, she focuses on a “slow food” event celebrating local capers. At the tripartite event, people attended a panel discussion, visited a caper field, and participated in a collective commensal caper tasting. An expert guided them through the tasting, where they exchanged sensory perceptions with each other, developed agency in regard to tastes, and came to deeper understandings about sustainable local food.

“Food is fundamental to our sense of identity and belonging. When we think of where we are from, memories of cooking smells, favorite treats, and family gatherings around meals come to mind. Yet, food is also how activists are bringing about social change, for example resurrecting artisanal recipes and ingredients to calling for better conditions for people laboring on farms or in kitchens,” said Ryan Adams, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology at Lycoming College. “Carole Counihan has produced the material that nearly every undergraduate learning about the relationship between food and culture reads as their first exposure to the topic. It is a remarkable opportunity for our students and the community to learn directly from such an eminent and impactful scholar and teacher.”

Born in Boston, Mass., Counihan earned a bachelor’s degree in history cum laude from Stanford University, and a doctoral degree in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts. Her research centers on food, culture, gender, and identity in the United States and Italy. She has authored several books on the anthropology of food, most recently, “Italian Food Activism in Urban Sardinia.” She is editor-in-chief of the scholarly journal Food and Foodways and has served as a visiting professor at the Universities of Cagliari, Sassari, and Gastronomic Sciences (Italy), the EHESS (France), the University of Malta, Aarhus University (Denmark), and Boston University.

The lecture is sponsored by the James and Emily Douthat Distinguished Lectureship in the Liberal Arts and Sciences. Named for the valuable contributions made to Lycoming by both James Douthat, former president of the college, and his wife Emily, this lectureship attracts renowned scholarly speakers from all fields. The event is free and open to the public.