A Signature Education Initiative of Duke University

Food Studies

Fall 2018

Imagining the Future of Food

Bringing scholars in the natural and social sciences and the humanities together to explore how food is grown, who grows it, how we talk about this, and why it matters. Program includes intensive training in Environmental Life Cycle Assessment and travel throughout North Carolina and California to study components of the food system.

This DukeImmerse takes the premise that cultural narratives have real world impacts and that increased extreme weather events associated with climate change must be addressed in part through changes in the food system. Imagining the Future of Food will combine coursework, experiential learning at the Duke Campus Farm and short field-based learning in North Carolina and California to ask:  where will our food come from in the year 2067? Will we have what we need to nourish a growing global population? How will climate change impact how we feed ourselves?

The challenges of the present agrifood system are complex and inherently interdisciplinary. They require scientific and technological expertise and understanding, as well as complex critical and systems thinking. Food, more than most other commodities, is a marker of personal and cultural identity that connects us to complex natural and social ecologies. Our choice of food represents our social and cultural values and is not easily shifted. As such, a nuanced understanding of the cultural, as well as agricultural, context of food will be needed if we are to change the way we eat.

Imagining the Future of Food takes five interlocking approaches:

  1. Through an introduction to basic plant ecophysiology, students will examine the growth response and yield of plants in changing climatic conditions.
  2. Experiential learning at the Duke Campus Farm will allow students the opportunity to both put science into practice and enact alternatives to the current industrial agrifood system.
  3. By critically examining food and farming in literary texts and other in forms of cultural production, students will critically consider the relationship between narrative representations of food and farming and the concrete ways in which we work to produce, share, and consume.
  4. By learning and applying the concepts and methods of Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to the analysis of alternative food choices, students will gain an understanding of the environmental impacts of each stage of the food supply chain and will appreciate the dimension of the challenge of tackling these impacts through technological and policy solutions.
  5. Through participant observation and reflection, students will learn how to think critically about food as a reflection of social, political, and cultural phenomena and analyze the role of food in forging identity.

Prerequisite: Writing 101

Program Registration: Acceptance is on a rolling basis, until program is full (registration complete with professors' confirmation).  Download registration below; submit by 12noon, March 30th to Professor Chantal Reid or Professor Saskia Cornes. 

Timeline: Work sessions at Duke Campus Farm (September 3-21), Life Cycle Analysis (September 24 - October 6), trip to California (October). 

Course fee: $800; Duke provides additional grant aid to cover the cost of any course fee for all students receiving financial aid. The course fee is in addition to tuition, room and board. Contact Duke's Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support (finaid@duke.edu) for more information. 

Lead Faculty

Assistant Professor of the Practice, Franklin Humanities Institute; Program Manager, Duke Campus Farm
Assistant Professor of the Practice, Biology; Director of Undergraduate Studies, Nicholas School for the Environment
Professor of the Practice, Romance Studies
Dalia Patino-Echeverri
Gendell Associate Professor of Energy Systems and Public Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment

Contact Saskia Cornes (saskia.cornes@duke.edu) or Chantal Reid (chantal@duke.edu) for more information.


Number Title Crosslistings Notes
ENVIRON 228S-01 How Plants Feed/Fuel the World: Nuts & Bolts of Plant Growth & Production NS, STS BIO 228-01 Fall 2018
ENVIRON 338S Introduction to Environmental Life Cycle Assessment: Applications to Food Systems EI, NS, R, SS, STS Fall 2018
GSF 290S-03 Special Topics: Land and Literature ALP, CCI, CZ, EI, W ENG, ENVIRON 290S-01 Fall 2018
ROMST 388S Food, Culture, and Society CCI, CZ, EI, SS CULANTH 389S, LING 388S, SOCIOL 388S Fall 2018