Maribel Alvarez
Maribel Alvarez

Not just a biological necessity, food is a critical component of our cultural and spiritual well-being. That’s the message Maribel Alvarez, an associate professor in the University of Arizona School of Anthropology, will deliver in a recorded lecture at the Arizona Senior Academy at 3:30 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 22).

“Talk and food go hand in hand,” says Alvarez. “A lot of what we learn about the world and life, we learn around the dinner table.”

Her talk at the Arizona Senior Academy is part of the Academy’s encore presentation of a University of Arizona-sponsored series on food presented last fall at Tucson’s Fox Theater.

Entitled “We Eat What We Are,” Alvarez’s lecture describes both the physical and cultural dimensions of food through five “episodes” — status, stereotypes, solidarity, security and seduction. Each deals with personal or civic relationships with food and food culture.

Food provides a “sense of nourishment,” Alvarez said, but culturally it also “anchors people in a sense of identity and belonging.”

She devotes much of her talk to the economic and social concerns related to food, particularly as they affect poor and working people. She cited the growing income disparity in the United States, as well as the efforts by local businesses like Food City to provide more options at lower prices for people who are struggling economically.

“We can’t talk about (these issues) without talking about economic justice,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez, Ph.D., is an anthropologist, folklorist, curator, and community arts expert. She holds a dual appointment as Associate Research Professor in the English Department and Associate Research Social Scientist at the Southwest Center, University of Arizona. She is the lead folklorist and Chair of the Board of Arizona’s premier folklife festival, Tucson Meet Yourself.

Written by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer

Understanding the Cultural and Spiritual Aspects of Food: Jan.2015
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