Columbia University Press and Columbia Global Centers Event
Please join us for a lecture with:
Brian R. Dott, Associate Professor, History Department and Asian & Middle Eastern Studies Program,Whitman College
Kaiser Kuo, Host, Sinica Podcast
Safwan M. Masri, Professor and Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development, Columbia University
When is a chile pepper not just a chile pepper? Food lovers and food historians will delight in author Brian R. Dott’s exploration of how the chile pepper found its way into the cuisine and culture of China. Chinese cuisine without chile peppers seems unimaginable. Entranced by the fiery taste, diners worldwide have fallen for Chinese cooking. In China, chiles are everywhere, from dried peppers hanging from eaves to Mao’s boast that revolution would be impossible without chiles, from the eighteenth-century novel Dream of the Red Chamber to contemporary music videos. Indeed, they are so common that many Chinese assume they are native. Yet there were no chiles anywhere in China prior to the 1570s, when they were introduced from the Americas.
Brian R. Dott explores how the nonnative chile went from obscurity to ubiquity in China, influencing not just cuisine but also medicine, language, and cultural identity. He details how its versatility became essential to a variety of regional cuisines and swayed both elite and popular medical and healing practices. Dott tracks the cultural meaning of the chile across a wide swath of literary texts and artworks, revealing how the spread of chiles fundamentally altered the meaning of the term spicy. He emphasizes the intersection between food and gender, tracing the chile as a symbol for both male virility and female passion. Integrating food studies, the history of medicine, and Chinese cultural history, The Chile Pepper in China sheds new light on the piquant cultural impact of a potent plant and raises broader questions regarding notions of authenticity in cuisine.
Brian R. Dott teaches in the History Department and Asian & Middle Eastern Studies Program at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. He has studied changes in Chinese cultural practices from 1500 to the present and received a PhD in Chinese History from the University of Pittsburgh. Dott also traveled widely in China, living for longer periods in Beijing and Taibei. One of his favorite spicy dishes is 干煸四季豆 (ganbian sijidou, blackened green beans with chiles).
Kaiser Kuo is the host of the Sinica Podcast, a weekly current affairs podcast that has run since 2010. For many years he served as the director of international communications for China’s leading search engine, Baidu. He returned to the U.S. in 2016 and lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with his wife and two children. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, he has attained modest skill in archery, drums, sourdough bread baking, Sichuan cooking, and making Sazerac.
Safwan M. Masri is Professor and Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development at Columbia University. He is also a Senior Research Scholar at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. Masri is the author of Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly (Columbia University Press, 2017). He served as Vice Dean of Columbia Business School from 1993 to 2006. Masri is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an honorary fellow of the Foreign Policy Association.
This is a Weatherhead East Asian Institute Lectures and Panels event.
July 17, 2020
12:00 PM-1:00 EDT
Please register here.
Cosponsors: Whitman College, ASIANetwork, SupChina