Conference to Evaluate Cultural, Economic, Political Impacts of Food

Inaugural Conable Conference in International Studies promotes analysis of cuisine

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Benjamin Lawrance

Many sociologists and anthropologists argue that the harvesting, preparation, cooking and eating of food, often referred to as cuisine, is a major factor in societal development and has caused numerous economic, political and social challenges throughout history.

Rochester Institute of Technology will explore the impact of cuisine through its inaugural Conable Conference in International Studies: Cuisine, Technology and Development, March 24 through 26.

The conference explores new research about how the development of technology affects food and drink cultures and practices and how cuisine and culture respond to, are challenged by and are transformed through technological innovation.

“Technology has greatly enhanced food production and availability but has also separated the producers of food from the users and exacerbated disparities between the global North and global South,” notes Benjamin Lawrance, organizer of the conference and the Barber B. Conable Jr. Endowed Chair of International Studies at RIT. “Through presentations by leading scholars in the field, we hope to enhance understanding of the impact of cuisine on modern society and promote solutions to the challenges we face.”

The panel discussions and lectures will focus on a wide range of topics such as the local foods movement, the mechanization of agriculture and the incidence of slavery and indentured servitude in global food production.

Keynote speakers will include Carole Counihan, professor of anthropology at Millersville University and editor-in-chief of Food and Foodways; Clare Hasler-Lewis, executive director of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science; and Carolyn de la Peña, director of the Davis Humanities Institute, both at the University of California at Davis.

The conference is sponsored by the program in international studies in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Conable Endowment in International Studies, RIT’s College of Liberal Arts and the University of California at Davis. For more information, a complete schedule and to register, go to

The Barber B. Conable Jr. Endowed Chair of International Studies honors the former Rochester-area politician and diplomat who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1964 to 1984 and as president of the World Bank from 1986 to 1991. The chair was created through a grant from the Starr Foundation and is housed in RIT’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology.