Food, Nutrition, and Anthropology

The consumption of food is fundamental to human existence for two reasons. First, the nutritional characteristics of the diet have enormous influence on the development and health of individuals. Second, eating is an intensely social activity. Cultural notions of personhood, kinship, sharing, and morality are all expressed in the way food is acquired, prepared and consumed. Food and nutrition are therefore of great interest to anthropologists. Emory anthropology faculty studies multiple aspects of the evolution, current diversity and clinical and social significance of the human diet and nutrition. The Anthropology Department’s interests in nutritional anthropology are shared by faculty at the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionRollins School of Public Health, and Yerkes National Primate Center. Our faculty also supervises graduates from the Department of Nutrition and the School of Public Health.

Food and nutrition studies in the Anthropology Department at Emory explore nutrition across time, place, and species. Our research foci includes work by Craig HadleyMichelle Lampl and Carol Worthman that explores current variation in nutritional outcomes, growth and development in Africa, Asia, and the USA. Peggy Barlett studies comparative agricultural systems, and the current US food system with an emphasis on issues of sustainability. Peter Brown has extensively researched obesity. Our work also spans the life course: Carol Worthman and Melvin Konner have conducted ground-breaking research on the weaning period among hunter-gatherers while others in the department study young child and adolescent growth, nutrition, and development in diverse subsistence settings around the world. Some of the faculty’s research is highly theoretical and some of it is applied, aimed at identifying and suggesting solutions to problems of inadequate growth and food insecurity and sustainability in some human populations.

Given this broad set of research interests, students in Emory's Department of Anthropology can gain training in life history theory, human and non-human primate nutrition, nutritional anthropology and international nutrition, growth and development, contemporary and comparative food systems, and sustainability studies. They also benefit from interactions with leaders in the field of international nutrition at the Rollins School of Public Health.