Course Syllabus

Food and Identity 

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Vertumnus, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo 

Semester & Location:

Summer 2022, Session 1 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Food Studies, History, Sociology




Monday through Friday; see detailed schedule below



About the Course

“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Quite possibly the most famous words in the entire history of food-writing, that phrase - issued by 19th-century epicure Brillat-Savarin - has never been truer than it is today. Food has always been closely linked to identity, but in the past two decades, it has also become the focus of a host of issues - everything from the industrialization of farming to the integration of immigrants - that reflect cultural, social, and even political values.  

In this course, we will look at the nexus between what you eat and who you are by focusing on food culture in Denmark, which has a deeply-rooted culinary tradition that was shaped by geography, religion, and demographics. But in recent years it has also shot to the forefront of the gastronomic world, producing a distinctive kind of cutting-edge cuisine  (‘new Nordic’ ) that has turned its chefs into celebrities and its restaurants into the object of international pilgrimage. We’ll investigate how those transformations have come about, and what they have meant - culturally, economically, and even artistically - for the society that produced them.

But we will not just be exploring the world of fine dining; we will also focus on other aspects of food culture in Denmark, such as the impact of industrial agriculture and the rise of alternatives; growing concerns about the relationship between diet and public health; and the impact of immigration on cuisine (and vice versa). In field studies in  Copenhagen, we’ll expand that exploration by talking to chefs, producers,  and food historians about what Danes eat, and what it reveals about their culture.



  • To learn how to think critically about food as a reflection of social, political, and economic phenomena
  • To develop a sense of the culinary cultures of Denmark and how these relate to broader cultures
  • To analyze the role of food in forging identity at the individual and collective levels  



Anthropological Theory

  • Ariel, A. (2012). The Hummus Wars. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. 12. 34-42. 
  • Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

This is a selection of the course readings. The complete readings will be available on Canvas.


Field Studies

During the course, we will go on various field studies to explore and taste. We will spend the first couple of hours in the classroom and then explore Copenhagen in class or in groups in the afternoon. 


Expectations of the Students

I expect you to attend all class sessions unless prevented by an emergency. If you are not in class, you cannot participate. I expect you to complete all the assigned reading and come to class prepared to discuss it in depth. I expect you to turn in assignments on time.

You are not allowed to use a laptop or smartphone in class. Considerations will, of course, be taken if you have special needs for a computer for note-taking. Please speak to the Office of Academic Support to request accommodations.

All students are expected to have completed the course readings before class so that we can discuss the material at the right level. It is important to be well prepared for class because I may randomly select students to give key points on the readings for that day.

Students are expected to participate actively in all classes and field studies and be open-minded to your fellow student’s contribution to the class. The aim is to establish an environment where we can learn from each other as well as from the texts and cases we engage with, and you are expected to actively support this approach.


Approach to Teaching

The methods used to cover class materials include lectures, video, discussions, individual and group presentations, guest lectures, and field trips. Periodically we will split up into smaller groups to review and analyze the material more thoroughly. The course will have several out-of-the-class-room sessions on location to experience the different facets of food first hand. Students are expected to be able to find and be on the external locations on time. The external locations will not be far from DIS's location and maps and addresses will be given in advance. Office hours are held after class or by appointment. 

Class hours may vary.



Students will be evaluated on their ability to understand, discuss and communicate theories within how we recreate our identity through food, as well as interpret readings and cases meaningfully. These skills will be the primary focuses in evaluations. Group work in class and in the field, as well as the student's ability to contribute to a group effort, will be taken into account for the grade.


  • 20% Ethnographic essay.  Due Fri, Jun 2 
  • 20% Snack Attack presentation. Rolling deadlines--sign up on Google doc
  • 35% Group Project Presentation and Reflection Essay that analyzes a Danish food phenomenon. A presentation should be no longer than 15 minutes; essay should be at least four pages. Presentations will take place on June 9; essays are due by June 10. 
  • 25Participation. Participation includes attendance, participation in class discussions, completing the reading, and doing in-class exercises.


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on: 


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

Date Details Due