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Williams-Forson to Speak on ‘Don’t Yuck My Yum’
Food, culture and health are the themes that launch the 2013-14 Colloquium Series of the Department of African American Studies in The College of Arts and Sciences. The opening event will feature foodways scholar Psyche Williams-Forson, who will present “Don’t Yuck My Yum: African American Communities and the Quandary of ‘Eating Healthy’” on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 4 to 6:30 p.m. in the SU Bird Library, Graham Scholarly Commons (Room 114).
The event is free and open to the public; parking is available for $5 in SU’s Booth Garage. It is co-sponsored by SU’s Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and the Department of Public Health, Food Studies and Nutrition in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics.
Williams-Forson is vice president of the Association for the Study of Food and Society and an associate professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is also an affiliate faculty member in Women’s Studies and African American Studies and the Consortium on Race, Gender and Ethnicity.
Her prize-winning book, “Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power” (University of North Carolina Press, 2006), reflects her interest in exploring food in cultural studies, material culture and women’s studies. The American Folklore Society, which honored it with a 2006 prize, praised it as a “superior work on women’s traditional, vernacular, or local culture and/or feminist theory and folklore.”
Williams-Forson is also co-editor, with Carole Counihan, of “Taking Food Public: Redefining Foodways in a Changing World” (Routledge: 2011). She has also written numerous articles and book chapters on related issues of food, class and gender. She is also the curator of “Still Cookin’ by the Fireside,” an online text and photo exhibition on the history of African American cookery for the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum.
In an April 13, 2013, Huffington Post piece, Williams-Forson addresses the cultural history behind food. “Why can’t we just eat our Chinese food or soul food in blissful ignorance, caring not about their origins or the historical characters that helped to inspire the foods on our plates?” she asks.
Her answer mirrors a premise of her research: “Because, food is not solely a source of satiation and comfort,” she writes. “Food is a dynamic, tangible result of moments and movements of people throughout history that are and have been filled with tensions and contradictions. … Erasing the pasts of other cultures is willful ignorance and we should not be comfortable in this.” Instead, Williams-Forson encourages us to learn about the history of the food we eat. If we do, “we will find that we are ingesting new and intriguing life histories, experiences, and cuisines right in our own take-out boxes,” she writes.