Past Event

Teaching Chinese Food History in a Pandemic Era*

May 3, 2022
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
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Zoom Webinar

Chinese food has been at the center of increasing anti-Chinese (Asian) sentiment since the advent of COVID-19. As the exceptionally high rate of Chinese takeout restaurants forced to close in 2020 indicates, the pandemic has reinforced a long-held racist view of Chinese food as unhealthy and unhygienic. This panel addresses how we can help to solve this problem by incorporating cooking and eating as a critical teaching component in Asian and Asian-American history classes. More specifically, it will ask what kinds of teaching methods we can experiment with when approaching food (arguably one of the most engaging themes) as an historical subject. It will also explore how we can encourage students to ask critical questions regarding Chinese food in terms of its consumption and production in order for them to appreciate the unlikely interplay of food and racial politics. Finally, it will address how the hands-on experience of cooking, which includes grocery shopping and recipe research as well as eating and sharing, can serve as a powerful teaching tool for promoting such values as diversity, inclusion, and respect in a pandemic era. Two speakers will present on their experience of teaching on this theme, which will be followed by a discussion with the audience.

This event will take place as part of WEAI’s ongoing series, “Asia in Action: Knowledge and Inclusion in a Time of Fear and Ignorance.”

Michelle T. King is an associate professor in the History Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research specialty is Chinese gender history and she is currently working on a book project about Fu Pei-mei (1931-2004), the beloved cookbook author and television personality from Taiwan. She is editor of the volume Culinary Nationalism in Asia (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2019), author of Between Birth and Death: Female Infanticide in Nineteenth-Century China (Stanford University Press, 2014), and has written a variety of other articles and book chapters on Chinese gender history and food history.

Presenter: Yuan Yi, Postdoctoral Research Scholar in Modern China Studies at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and a D. Kim Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow for 2021-2022. Her book manuscript, "Industrial Craft: Machine, Skill, and the Making of Chinese Cotton Factories, 1877-1937," examines the industrialization of Chinese cotton spinning with emphasis on the circulation of spinning machines, technical experts, and cotton varieties between China and the United States. She earned her PhD in Chinese history from Columbia University in October 2020.

Francesca Bray is an historian and anthropologist of science, technology and medicine, specializing in China. She is particularly interested in how politics are expressed and enacted through everyday technologies (including food, housing, communications and hygiene) and in the politics underpinning different narratives about technology in national, comparative and global history. She is the author of Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China (University of California Press, 1997) and a co-editor of Rice: Global Networks and New Histories (Cambridge University Press, 2015), among many others.


*This event was rescheduled from November 9, 2021.

Sponsored by Weatherhead East Asian Institute.

Contact Information

Sarah Jessup