A $1 slice of pizza from North End, a steaming plate of dumplings from Chinatown, an overflowing burrito from Felipe’s just down the street from Harvard Square. Dishes intrinsic to our everyday diet often immigrated from afar, while paradoxically, much of what we consider foreign was created right here. In this class, we will will explore the culture, stories and heritage that travel through food, and the ways in which they help immigrants navigate the central dilemma of the diasporic condition: striking an equilibrium between holding on and letting go. We will also investigate the evolving reception of these cuisines by host cultures, and their resonances for national imaginaries and individual political sentiments. Thus, this class will hopefully enhance our culinary experiences outside the classroom through a greater awareness of their complex symbolic, political and cultural valences.

Beginning with a theoretical introduction to the intersection of diaspora and food studies, the course will then progressively meander through the specificities of Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican and Indian diasporic cuisines, as well as the particular contexts in which these cuisines migrated to and were received in their host country (often but not always the United States). Course material will include a diverse array of media – interventions by guest speakers, food memoirs, novel extracts, documentary and film, recipe collections, video clips, and scholarly articles. Thus, each class will also prompt a reflection upon these forms themselves: What does it mean for such knowledge/experience to be conveyed through the written/visual form?

Mini-Course by Nikhita Obeegadoo.

All course materials will be provided via PDF.

Dates: January 14-25, M T W Th 10am-12pm

Location: TBD

Sign up: here.

No prior experience required. Class open to all Harvard affiliates as welll as members of the general public.