PERUGIA, Italy — Dr. Diana Garvin, a professor of Romance Languages at the University of Oregon currently postdoctoral fellow in Modern Italian Studies at the American Academy of Rome, recently gave a public lecture at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, Italy. The Umbra Institute is an American study abroad program that houses the Center for Food & Sustainability Studies, which offers a curricular concentration, organizes a biennial conference, and promotes faculty research in food studies.
Garvin’s invited lecture was entitled “From Local Ecology to National Biology” and focused on how the Italian Fascist regime attempted to nationalize regional foodways, deploying culinary propaganda to reform the body politic through eugenic cookery. Garvin displayed some of her archival finds, including state-sponsored recipe pamphlets and interwar cookbooks. These showed that subjugated people, often working-class women, and forgotten regions, like the rural south, were held as exemplars of the new Fascist ways of thinking due to their role as repositories of the cultural memory, yet also bore the brunt of the regimes’ worst exploitation. These marginalized materials show that dictatorial regimes operated not just on the bodies of the most vulnerable members of society, but inside of them. Deploying rural women’s food work towards reforming the national body promised to accomplish eugenic goals. Fascism militarized both people and land, as well as mobilizing food to connect the two: because bodies are built through the digestion of food, local ecology dictates national biology.
This lecture was one in an occasional series of invited lectures by prominent scholars of Italian food studies. Garvin was returning to The Umbra Institute, where she had delivered a paper at the Institute’s inaugural food studies conference in 2012. Garvin is currently revising her dissertation to publish as a book manuscript and conducting research in Rome for her second project on the culinary legacies of colonialism and the political significance of African food and foodways in contemporary Europe.
In Fall 2018, Garvin will join the faculty of the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Oregon as an Assistant Professor of Italian with a focus on Mediterranean Studies.
About the Umbra Institute:
The Umbra Institute is an American study abroad program located in the central Italian city of Perugia. Often called a “big university town in a small Italian city,” Perugia is the ideal setting to study abroad in Italy, with psychology, business, and liberal arts courses. It also offers a curricular concentration in Food & Sustainability Studies.