Call for Applications 2021 Penn State Global Asias Summer Institute The Politics of Food in Global Asias

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Penn State University invites applicants for its annual Global Asias Summer Institute, to be held June 21-25, 2021. The 2021 Institute, co-directed by Krishnendu Ray (NYU) and Jooyeon Rhee (Penn State), focuses on the topic of “The Politics of Food in Global Asias.”

Institute participants spend a week reading and thinking about the annual theme, as well as significant time workshopping their work in progress. Particularly strong work will be considered for publication in an upcoming special issue of the award-winning journal, Verge: Studies in Global Asias (

Due to the ongoing pandemic, we are hosting SI2021 virtually. Applicants must have completed their PhDs no earlier than June 2016, or be advanced graduate students who are completing their dissertations. Successful applicants will be granted a US $300 honorarium to help support their participation.

On the theme:

“Capable of connecting human bodies to abstract nations, and techno-science to moral concerns, food has become one of the most contested fields of our time,” according to Marianne Elisabeth Lien and Brigitte Nerlich. Following the lead of Lien, Nerlich, and other critics working in the field of food studies, we recognize that food is a critical site through which to study and challenge the power dynamics that undergird social and political formations. If food is never simply about eating and survival, how might centering the relationship between food and politics help make visible the ways in which everyday practices around food (its production, distribution, consumption, and cultural circulation) intersect with broader concerns about nation-building, political resistance, the aesthetics of literary and cultural production, gender, and environmental critique?

This year’s Summer Institute seeks to bring together a diverse cohort of scholars working on projects that focalize multi-sited power struggles across gender, class and racial/ethnic boundaries in Asia and its multiple diasporas through an analysis of food and foodways. We welcome projects that approach the study of food contextually, in the process highlighting the intersectional and cross-disciplinary implications of the politics of food. Western media’s attack on the Wuhan meat market is one example where the cultural politics of race, biomedical science, and international politics intersect. The Japanese state’s calculated non-response to women’s demand for a transparent assessment of, and safety guidelines on, the radioactive-contaminated agricultural products in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster shows how gender politics intersects with the governmental health and environment policies (Aya Hirata Kimura). Debal Deb’s work protecting agro-cultural diversity by cultivating 1,340 threatened varieties of rice in Odisha, India, demonstrates that food activism involves the study of food policy, food security and agricultural bioscience. Interdisciplinary analyses of culture, immigration history, and sociology highlight the ways in which culinary traditions play an important role in the development of Asian immigrant communities and identities.

We welcome research from multiple disciplines but we are also interested in interdisciplinary research that integrates anthropology and/or sociology with other disciplines such as science, history, literature and media studies. By investigating the parallel ways in which food has been constructed in “apolitical” terms even as it can also be politicized in arenas not commonly thought of as political, we will consider how the study of the politics of food impacts our understanding of Global Asias—itself a nebulously defined, contested, and generative concept.

Application Requirements:

To apply, please send the following documents to by March 1, 2021. Items #1-3 must be sent as a single PDF file; the recommendation letter for applications from advanced graduate students may be sent separately.

1. An abstract of 1500 words outlining research project and clarifying its connection to the Institute theme.

2. A sample of current work.

3. A current c.v. (no longer than 2 pp).

4. A letter from a principal advisor about the advanced status of work (in the case of graduate students).

Decisions will be made by mid-April 2021. Other inquiries regarding the Summer Institute may be directed to Jooyeon Rhee ( or Tina Chen, Director of the Global Asias Initiative (

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