Eating as Moral Philosophy: A Comparison between Singapore and the U.S.

November 19, 2019

People across the world think about foods that are “good” and “bad,” and see some kinds of eating as virtuous while others make them feel guilty. This talk contrasts such beliefs in Singapore and the United States. There is every reason for food to have a close connection with morality – every religion has something to say about what we should and should not eat, and sharing food is the most fundamental act that binds us together, starting with a mother’s breast.  But how do people enact such moral precepts in practice? This paper is based on interviews, discussions and self-reports of college students in both the United States and the National University of Singapore's Tembesu College. The paper reveals the complexity of the negotiable valences of different foods, and the moralities involved in the ways they are consumed and their social context.  For college students, the everyday morals of food turn out to be closely linked with other morally fraught behavior, including exercise, sex, drinking and work.


Richard Wilk is Distinguished Professor and Provost’s Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He has also taught at the University of California (Berkeley and Santa Cruz), New Mexico State University, and has held visiting professorships at the National University of Singapore, University College London, Gothenburg University, the University of Gastronomic Sciences and Birkbeck College London. Early in his career he worked as an applied anthropologist with UNICEF, USAID, Cultural Survival and a variety of other development organizations. Most recently he has testified as an expert witness in several indigenous land tenure cases in the Belize Supreme Court. His publications include more than 150 journal articles and book chapters, a textbook on Economic Anthropology in two editions (co-authored with Lisa Cliggett) translated into seven languages, 14 edited volumes and special issues, and 6 monographs. He has lived and worked in Belize over more than 40 years, but has recently done fieldwork while teaching in Singapore.   Much of his recent work has turned towards the global history of food and the prospects for sustainable consumption as a means to minimize climate change.  His most recent book is “Seafood: Ocean to Plate” co-authored with Shingo Hamada.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

4:00 - 5:30pm

SFU Vancouver
515 West Hastings
Harbour Centre 1400-1410
Joseph & Rosalie Segal Centre

This event is free but registration is required.

Please visit HERE to reserve your seat.