MMC Hosts International Food Studies Conference

Marymount Manhattan College welcomed leading food researchers from around the globe in October when the College served as the site of the 12th International Conference on Food Studies.

The conference is an interdisciplinary forum for research on environmental, agricultural, nutritional, social, economic, and cultural issues surrounding food and is held in a different country each year. MMC had initially planned to serve as the American site in 2020, but because of the pandemic, the event was reorganized into an asynchronous virtual conference, said Katie LeBesco, Ph.D., associate vice president for Strategic Initiatives and professor of Communication and Media Arts.

According to the conference’s organizer, the nonprofit Common Ground Research Networks, 71 researchers attended this year’s meeting in person, with 31 joining virtually.

Dr. LeBesco, a prominent scholar of food culture and popular media who has been a keynote speaker for the conference in the past, served as the local area host, along with Peter Naccarato, Ph.D., vice president for Academic Affairs, dean of the faculty, and professor of English and World Literatures. The two have co-authored several books on food culture, including The Bloomsbury Handbook of Food and Popular Culture (2017), Culinary Capital (2012), and Edible Ideologies (2008).

They helped shape the conference’s central theme, “Imagining the Edible: Food, Creativity, and the Arts,” which was designed to be reflective of MMC and its ethos to think critically and act creatively.

“MMC was working on its new visual arts center The Judy at the time, and I was thinking about ways to align that with the theme and concretely connect the conference to the College,” Dr. LeBesco said. “I hadn’t seen a conference before that was about food in the arts, food and creativity.”

Dr. LeBesco also selected the conference’s plenary speakers, which included David Szanto, a teacher, researcher, and artist who takes an experimental approach to gastronomy through design and performance, and Irina Mihalache, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, whose current research examines restaurants associated with art museums.

“Hosting a conference like this brings an amazing set of international colleagues who may not have been familiar with us to our campus and shows us to be a home for dynamic thought and engagement around food studies and, more broadly, around interdisciplinary inquiry,” Dr. LeBesco said. “More people now know about and think well of MMC, so in that sense alone the event was a success.”

Published: November 18, 2022