Why study psychology in Italy? Our world is characterized by globalization, with a level of intercultural contact unprecedented in human history. Understanding how culture shapes and influences lives and how to behave in multicultural contexts is rapidly becoming a required skill for functioning in the workplace and in the community. This course will examine psychological and cultural processes as reflected in foodways. What and how we eat defines both our own culture and our interactions with other cultures. We will study food as a defining characteristic of what it is to be human within the context of the academic study of psychology and culture.
This course will consider the many roles food plays in our lives, including the ways in which we interact with the foods we eat. We will consider as well the ways in which communities are shaped by and communicate through foods and the rituals that surround their consumption. Particular topics of discussion will include philosophical ideals of food and community, the role of religion in food consumption, recent organic and artisanal food movements, the "obesity epidemic," the material culture of food, cultural mores of contemporary food consumption and production, and the development of individual food preferences.
The course will begin in the historic city of Rome and conclude in Florence, with day trips to Naples and Tuscany. In addition to visiting sites of historic interest, students will also participate in excursions to several Tuscan hill towns, such as Parma. The course will be conducted in a seminar format with a strong emphasis on student interaction and participation, incorporating experiential exercises outside of the classroom.
Students will use historical and scholarly texts to examine critically the cultural, political, moral, and personal dimensions of food. Students will discuss and evaluate their food consumption patterns and the cultural and psychological factors behind them, discuss outside research, react to food tastings and dining experiences, and discuss lectures and discussions. In addition to the reading, writing, and critical thinking components, the course will include a unique element: travel to designated regions known for specific food production and related customs (i.e., balsamic vinegar and its role in dowries). Students also will have opportunities to go behind the scenes at restaurants, an agritourism retreat, and a gelateria. They will enjoy lectures and demonstrations from local food authorities.
To be eligible for the course, you must have taken Introductory Psychology (110 or 117). Students completing the course will earn 3 hours of credit in Psychology 435: Multicultural Psychology OR UNHO 491 (for those in the Chancellor's Honors Program). Students may also opt to take PSYC 435 for Honors credit.
Students and their faculty leaders will be lodged together in the heart of Italy's major cities, within easy and safe walking distance to class and cultural sights. Students will share double and triple rooms. Students will also be able to access public transportation so that they can experience the cities and their attractions. Some group meals will be provided, but students will have the opportunity to shop and eat like the native Italians do. Trips to the local grocers, farmers markets, cafes and restaurants will expose students to this ancient civilization's food rituals and traditions as well as to Italy's newer, slow food movement.
In Italy, students will enjoy excursions and activities such as:
• Guided city tours
• Cooking (and eating) homemade pasta as part of a gourmet meal
• Making (and eating) gelato and sorbet
• Guided tour of a cheese-making farm in Parma
• Guided tour of Florence's food markets
• Making (and eating) chocolate in Perugia
• Guided tour of an agriturismo (organic working farm resort)
Dr. Leticia Flores