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Last modified: Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mellon Foundation grant funds IU seminar on 'Food Choice, Freedom and Politics'

Aug. 10, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $172,000 to two Indiana University Bloomington faculty members through its Sawyer Seminars grant program.

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Richard Wilk

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The award supports a seminar titled "Food Choice, Freedom, and Politics," to be convened by Richard Wilk and Peter Todd. Wilk is Provost's Professor of anthropology and gender studies at IU Bloomington, where he also co-founded and leads the Food Studies program in the Department of Anthropology. Todd is professor of cognitive science and informatics in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington, where he regularly teaches a freshman honors seminar titled Food for Thought: The Cognitive Science of Eating.

A small number of universities are invited to compete for Sawyer Seminar funding. This is the second time that Indiana University has submitted a successful proposal. In 2009, the university was awarded Sawyer Seminar funding for "Rupture and Flow: The Circulation of Technoscientific Facts and Objects," convened by Thomas Gieryn, vice provost for faculty and academic affairs and Rudy Professor of sociology at IU Bloomington.

The seminar to be led by Wilk and Todd has three parts. First, a year-long series of meetings among scholars will focus on food choice, decisions and diet. Participants will join from a wide variety of disciplines including anthropology, psychology, economics, geography, informatics, sociology, history, communications and culture, and political science. A second week-long conference will focus on developing new models for the growing field of interdisciplinary food studies.

"There is considerable debate about what shape and direction this field should take," says Wilk. "The study of food choice presents an unprecedented opportunity to build a point of contact where different disciplines truly engage."

A third and final workshop will focus on translating academic research into public policy. Representatives of community food organizations and political representatives will attend. Conversations will focus on how to address issues of consumption, sustainability and public health.

"IU is grateful to have been invited to successfully participate in three different Mellon funded programs," says Sarita Soni, vice provost for research at IU Bloomington. "We've been honored to receive funding for eight Mellon Emeritus Fellowships, one New Directions Fellowship, and now a second Sawyer Seminar award. Professors Wilk and Todd are outstanding scholars, and they have assembled a group of eminent participants for this program, which I am certain will advance the kind of comparative historical and cultural research that is at the heart of the Mellon Sawyer Seminar program."

About Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Sawyer Seminars

The Mellon Foundation's Sawyer Seminars program was established in 1994 to provide support for comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments. The seminars, named in honor of the Foundation's long-serving third president, John E. Sawyer, have brought together faculty, foreign visitors, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from a variety of fields mainly, but not exclusively, in the humanities and social sciences, for intensive study of subjects chosen by the participants.