Spring 2024

U.S. History and Food: Labor, Migration, and Social Justice

Listed in: History, as HIST-242  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-242


Christine N. Peralta (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 242 [US/TE/TR/TS] and SWAG 242) We will examine a series of “food case studies” to uncover histories of empire, race, and science from the sixteenth century to the present. How does tracing the history of a commodity like sugar or canned tuna change our understanding of who the main actors are of US history? What role does food science play? By focusing on three themes: Labor, Migration, and Social justice, we will examine the role of trade and migration in US history, how food has shaped identity, gendered labor roles in food production and preparation, and the role food has played in survival, joy, and memory. We will specifically highlight the history of food migration from the Global South to the U.S. In the second half of the semester, we will examine food as a social justice issue and the historical movements that have highlighted food precarity such as “Bread and Roses,” the Campbell Soup Boycott, and the Delano Grape Strike. Students will develop skills analyzing historical documents, conducting oral interviews, analyzing race and labor within a comparative ethnic studies framework, as well as completing a final research project which will trace a history of food from a specific site or community.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Peralta.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference goes to HIST and SWAGS majors. The roster will strive to have a balanced mix of grade levels

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Readings, independent research, group work, written work


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2024