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Food, Politics, and the City


Module description

This innovative module offers an intensive academic introduction to the pressing issues of food politics of cities. We will explore themes central to our thinking about how food is produced, distributed and consumed in the city. We will reflect on the way in which cities are themselves like living, consuming organisms, the way in which food is implicated in social stratification in the city by class, gender and ethnicity, the importance of public spaces of consumption, and the divide between the public and the private in the city, the consequences of new technologies, the role of urban planning and governance, the problem of waste and the role of cities in climate change.

We will draw on examples and evidence mainly from London, but also bring in the historical and contemporary experiences of other global cities. Through in-class teaching and an on-site visit, we provide you with an overview and practical experience of questions surrounding supply chains, food inequalities, waste, urban food identities and practices, as well as learning about the history, politics and sociology of eating and drinking in cities.

Indicative syllabus

  • Growing: global cities as organisms, urban agriculture
  • Buying: food markets, food deserts, food inequality
  • Cooking: home-cooking, gender and domestic labour, migration
  • Moving: supply chains, digital food cities, food and the gig economy
  • Eating: restaurants, ethnic identity, food and civility
  • Drinking: pubs, bars, cafes, the impact of alcohol on cities
  • Wasting: shit and civilisation, climate change, recycling

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand the principal theories and apply the main concepts used in the study of food production, consumption and distribution in urban settings
  • critically evaluate a range of arguments concerning the relationship between the city and the wider food environment, food inequalities in the city, the relationship between public and private food spaces, the impact of food technology on the cityscape, and the distinctive character of urban and civic foodways
  • consider and critically assess evidence used in these arguments drawn from the historical and contemporary experiences of London and other global food cities
  • relate the material studied on the module to wider debates in the social sciences and humanities
  • transfer the knowledge and skills developed on the module to your studies on other modules at the same and higher levels.