Course Spotlight: Culture and Cuisine of the African Diaspora

An invitation from Corinne DaCosta, Professor for Culture and Cuisine of the African Diaspora:


As I think about the world today, yesterday, and the tomorrows that are in the future; the cycles, connections, and continuances are what captivate my attention. Our mental muscles are searching for and connecting the dots that were left by our foremothers, forefathers, and ancestors. The dots are us and are within us, and shape our world. Understanding your place on the planet begins for a lot of people in the kitchen or on their plate. Culture, society, unwritten, unspoken rules, and laws often say youare thisso youeat that. As it is our brains attempt to connect and understand. We should not feel bad for this type of thinking or rationale, but we must challenge ourselves to look beyond, look deeper at how these classifications happen, and reframe them if need be. Food, its culture, and personal identity are intrinsically linked for many reasons, but one that is rather simple is that the act of eating is a bond with self. An experience that involves the earth, self, and at times everyone all across the globe.

Eating is an intimate relationship between tangible and tactile that is transformed into embodied energy. As far as diaspora connections one that is personal to me is the link between the drink of the south, Sweet Tea, and the fermented beverage that is all the rage, Kombucha. As someone who was raised with southern sensibilities, my after-school snacks were often accompanied by a glass of sweet tea, made by my great-grandmother. She would make weekly batches to never run out and quench the thirst of my rather large extended family. To make kombucha one must first make sweet tea, then add patience, a SCOBY, and some time.  I often ponder on how this serves as an allegory for the African diaspora. How something was coveted, then fermented with numerous experiences, innovations, global explorations, and institutions to be changed into something different but beautiful, a little funky, but good. I am most familiar with the blackAmerican or African American diasporic reality, but from my research, this seems to apply to other facets of the vast global community that is the African diaspora. My mother and I now brew kombucha, and we begin at the stove as my great-grandmother would with tea bags and sugar. The versatility of Kombucha reflects the diaspora as well, there are many flavors, colors, and tastes that serve everyone who would like a glass. If you are parched and would like a refreshing perspective on the cuisine and culture of the African diaspora, then perhaps this course is one that you will enjoy and I invite you to take it with a few grains of salt and a glass of Sweet Tea or Kombucha.

Stay Sharp,

Corrine DaCosta

Professor for Culture and Cuisine of the African Diaspora


Culture and Cuisine of the African Diaspora (MET ML 629) is a 14-week online course, beginning on January 25. This 4-credit course is open to graduate students and advanced undergraduates. Non-degree students may also register. Registration information can be found here.

Course Description: The foodways of the people displaced from the African continent are interwoven with many societies, cultures, and cuisines across the globe. In this course, we will study five geographic regions of Africa; north, central, east, west and south. The list of the countries that encompass each region will follow. Cookbooks, maps, songs, poems, and even some folklore will be used as texts to analyze and add context to the history of the people of the diaspora. This course will have real, and courageous, and respectful conversations including race and power and how those two elements are embedded into the food systems in North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and Europe. We will trace ingredients that came with the enslaved people and track their integration into cuisines and cultures (agriculture, pop culture, aquaculture etc.) as a collective group and then independently as a capstone course project.

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