Through these complementary courses, students will explore “kin-centric” relationships between humans, plants, and the natural world, particularly as these are expressed through indigenous and/or traditional subsistence knowledges, technologies, and histories. Course content will include reading and discussion as well as experiential engagements ranging from traditional food production techniques, to the collection, processing, and application of both foodstuffs and natural dye materials.
Enrollment Requirements and Options:
Student are not required to enroll in both courses in this pod, but they are encouraged to do so. Students in this pod can enroll in online courses, Senior Year Research Project, or Independent Study work. Students may TA these courses with instructor permission.
This pod includes the following courses:
Native Food and Farming Traditions of the Americas 3 cr
While credit for the origins of agriculture is commonly associated with the Fertile Crescent, the scale of coincident agricultural achievement in the Americas is truly astounding. Many cuisines around the world, now taken largely for granted, would not exist were it not for the agro-biodiversity of Native American domesticates cultivated before European contact. Maize, domesticated in central Mexico some 8,000 years ago, is the world’s most widely cultivated crop, and central to the diets of people around the world. Imagine Ireland without potatoes, southern Italian food without tomatoes, or the spicy cuisines of Korea, Thailand, or Vietnam without chile peppers. All of these crops were first domesticated in the Americas, and traveled around the world in a process of diffusion known as the Columbian Exchange. Just as Native American plant foods revolutionized food and cooking the world over, in seeking alternatives to the industrial food production system, scholars and activists are looking to Native American farming traditions for answers. While these same traditions are increasingly threatened, movements to decolonize the food system are underway. This class will explore the range of food and farming traditions of the Americas, from prehistory to the present, and examine the implications for contemporary concerns about public and environmental health, food sovereignty and security.
Natural Dyes and Dyeing 3 cr
In this intensive course we’ll explore the practical modern use of natural dyes. We’ll examine their role in cultures, and the way this craft connects its practitioners with place.
We’ll spend some time with the conceptual ideas around the role these practices play in history, modern society, and cultural traditions including interrelated concepts within agriculture, wildcrafting, ethnobotany, and chemistry. Predominantly, though, the course will be about hands-on practice of techniques. The first week will focus on dyeing protein fibers (fibers that come from animal sources like wool, silk and mohair). The second week will focus on dyeing cellulosic fibers (plant derived fibers).
Within each type of dyeing there are a variety of modern and traditional techniques to explore. We will discuss the effects of and utilize different mordants and assists. We’ll employ multiple indigo dye vats, from different traditions and discuss and practice cultivation and preparations of plant and insect dyes. Dyeing yarn and fabric, we will use immersion techniques as well as printmaking techniques and resist dyeing methods.