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hmc_ie120's Journal

Harvey Mudd College IE 120 - Provisioning Paradise
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This is a shared journal used for student writings in the Fall 2002 offering of the course IE-120 at Harvey Mudd College

Provisioning Paradise -- The Politics, Culture, Technology, and Economics of Food in Southern California

Theme of the course: Decisions about the production, allocation, preparation and consumption of food are fundamental to economic, political and social structures and drive (and are driven by) advances in science and technology. The aesthetic and symbolic functions of food are critical cultural markers. Indeed, the study of food may offer one of the most effective ways to ‘unpack’ and understand the complex interrelationships of culture, knowledge and institutions that identify any society. By examining systems of food production, distribution and consumption that exist in and around contemporary Los Angeles, and by considering the historical and cultural contexts of these systems, we will develop new understandings of the ways in which technical, social and cultural factors interact in a contemporary setting.


  • Ramon Gutierrez, ed., Contested Eden: California Before the Gold Rush, (University of California Press, 1998)

  • Norris Hundley Jr., The Great Thirst: Californians and Water , (University of California Press 2001)

  • Carey McWilliams, Southern California: An Island on the Land, (Gibbs-Smith, 1973)

  • Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, (HarperCollins, 2002)

  • Steven Stoll, The Fruits of Natural Advantage: Making the Industrial Countryside in California, (University of California Press, 1998)


September 6: Introduction to the course

  • Syllabus and requirements review

  • First consideration of ‘food studies’ as an interdisciplinary approach

  • Screen and discuss Tortilla Soup

September 13: Finding a Baseline: Southern California geography, climate, aboriginal production

Facilitators: Tad Beckman, Lisa Sullivan, Josh Hodas


  • Contested Eden, Chapters 1-3

  • The Great Thirst, Chapter 1

  • Southern California, Chapter 1

September 20: Setting the Stage: The Development of Contemporary Food Production and Consumption in SoCal

Facilitator: Lisa Sullivan


  • The Fruits of Natural Advantage, Chapters 1-3

  • Southern California, Chapter 2, 3, 8

  • Contested Eden, Chapters 5, 10

September 27: Contemporary Water Politics in Southern California

Facilitators: Eric Wu, Ross Richardson


  • The Great Thirst, (selections determined by presenters)

October 4: California Biotech: The Citrus Industry

Facilitators: Peter Lamb, Jeffrey Werbin


  • The Fruits of Natural Advantage, Chapter 4

October 11: Class, Politics and Work: The Strawberry Industry

Facilitators: Daniel Marley, Rosie Wacha


  • Miriam Wells, Strawberry Fields (selections determined by presenters)

  • The Fruits of Natural Advantage, Chapter 5

October 18: Chinatown screening and discussion

October 25: "Small Agriculture" in L.A. County: Organics, Collectives, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs)

Facilitators: Juliette Petersen, Jessica Fischer


November 1: The L.A. Food Industry – Industrial Food Production / The L.A. Restaurant Industry

Facilitators: Heather Lane, Shannon Kelley


November 8: Fast Food and Car Culture

Facilitators: Erin Koos, Jeremy Rouse


  • Fast Food Nation (selections determined by presenters)

November 15: Case Study -- Foodways and L.A.'s ethnic enclaves (presenters will choose focus)

Facilitators: Tonya Icenogle, Eric Deyo


November 22: What's for Lunch?: LAUSD and the state and federal politics of school lunch programs and nutritional guidelines

Facilitators: Richard Fujiyama, Mike Shinogawa


November 29: Thanksgiving Break

December 6: The SoCal Body Politic: Food, Image, Status and the Industrial Complex supporting "Beauty" and "Health"

Facilitators: Darci Snowden, Daniel Vaughan


December 13: Course wrap-up/ Roundtable and course evaluations/ Research papers due