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[Past Event] Pacific Food Empires | Ryan Ranch

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Course Description:

Professor Dustin Wright examines the historical processes that have informed the food on our plates. In particular, we will look at food as a medium through which to understand the processes of migration, invention, colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism that have shaped much of the Asia-Pacific world, including Japan and the United States.

Apr. 2: The Manila Route and Early Food Empires

Our first session will focus on the early movements of foods and herbs from the New World to Asia. While appreciating the long journey of commodities like chilis, tomatoes and tobacco to Asia, we also begin to appreciate the new Asian foods that were brought to America’s shores in the 20th century.

Apr. 9: Modern Foods - SPAM, MSG and More

World War II sent American commodities like SPAM and wheat flour into the centers of many Asian diets, leading to reinterpretations of historical dishes in places like Korea and Japan. We will also learn about the origins of Japanese ramen, Korean “army-base stew,” the explosion of Thai restaurants in the United States during the post-Vietnam War era, and the ways that the modern manufacturing of MSG changed food production throughout Asia-Pacific and, here at home, led to a widely believed but scientifically dubious belief in “Chinese restaurant syndrome.”


Tuition: $30.00

Additional Fees: $0.00

Register for this Class


Tuesdays, Apr. 2, 9 *10:00 - noon* (2 sessions)


CSUMB at Ryan Ranch, 8 Upper Ragsdale Drive, Monterey


Dustin Wright, Ph.D., is a historian, associate professor of Japanese Culture and Language, and chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures at CSUMB. He is an associate director of the Okinawa Memories Initiative, director of the newly established Global Base Studies Project, and a fellow at Rikkyo University's Research Center for Cooperative Civil Studies in Tokyo. He is currently completing a book on the history of anti-base protest in Japan.