• Print
Pacific News

University of the Pacific professor participates in Italian food conference

Jun 13, 2012

Professor Ken Albala of University of the Pacific presented his paper, "Italianità in America: A history of the cultural politics and social construction of authentic Italian cuisine in the U.S.," June 8-9 at Food Conference: Perugia, an international convention on the history and culture of Italian food. His work acted as the keynote address that opened the conference.

The food conference utilized the broad topic of food as a lens to analyze the last 150 years of Italian history and cultural identity. In those years, there has been much discussion of seemingly contradictory trends, including the need for unification beyond simply the political, the promotion of regional differences, and the simultaneous encouragement of both immigration and emigration. 

Key to much of this discussion is the question of identity, one powerful example of which is expressed through food.  For example, the election sign from the separatist Northern League that reads, "More Polenta, Less Cous-Cous," shows that food is often more than just a meal: it functions as a symbol with multiple semantic layers.

Like Professor Albala's, other professors' talks varied from "Food Perceptions and Issues for American Universities in Italy" to "Slow Food Movement and Facebook: The Paradox of Advocating Slow Living through Fast Technology."

 "It was a great opportunity for people from a variety of disciplines to talk about their research on food," said Professor Zachary Nowak, a conference organizer and director of the food studies program of Umbra Institute, the conference host.

Nowak organized the conference with Umbra Professor Elgin Eckert, who added, "The level of the papers and the quality of the discussion after each session was high. We were quite lucky to have an internationally recognized food scholar like Professor Albala for the keynote."

This marks Nowak and Elgin's first time organizing the conference; they hope to repeat the event at the Umbra Institute in 2014.     

The Umbra Institute offers semester, summer, and year-long study abroad programs for American and Italian college students.

Since its origin in 1999, the institute has continued to set itself apart as a provider of distinctive academic programs, allowing students the opportunity to learn both in and beyond the classroom in the vibrant city of Perugia.

For more information about Food Conference: Perugia, please contact Umbra Institute professor and conference organizer Zachary Nowak at znowak@umbra.org, or visit www.umbra.org/academic/food-studies/