Justin Shanks

Currently a PhD student in the Department of Science and Technology in Society (STS), Justin explores the ways in which science and technology have influenced what and how we eat. Rooted in the search for a more comprehensive understanding of the human—environment relationship Justin’s dissertation work involves an in-depth consideration of our changing knowledge of and relationship to science, technology, and gastronomy. More specifically, Justin is interested in historical, cultural, and scientific artifacts associated with the food cycle (cultivation, processing, preparation, consumption, and disposal) that offer a unique glimpse of the human relationship with food and technology.

PFP Chile not only offers opportunities for general cross-cultural learning, but also for specific enrichment of Justin’s knowledge of practices and problems (historical and contemporary) associated with the Chilean food system. Considering his focus on the cultural, historical, and environmental dimensions of food, the upcoming trip to Chile provides unparalleled opportunities for Justin to immerse himself in the culinary traditions and food narratives of Chile. Although this learning experience might take many forms, there are a few areas that are particularly applicable and intriguing.

Given Justin’s experience in various academic disciplines, it would make sense for him to engage in conversations with students and faculty from history, cultural studies, agriculture, sociology, literature, and urban planning among other fields. From a preliminary assessment, the food-oriented research already occurring throughout Chile aligns nicely with Justin’s interests. Participating in ongoing discussions will facilitate a more comprehensive (i.e. interdisciplinary) understanding of the Chilean food system’s complexity.

In addition to these academic conversations, the trip provides tremendous opportunities to view agricultural practices (all of sorts — industrial, small-scale, localized, wine, commodity crops, aquaculture, livestock, etc.) and learn firsthand about Chilean food customs. Keeping in line with his dissertation research involving science, technology, and gastronomy, Justin hopes to better understand how food cultivation, preparation, and consumption in Chile have changed (both long-term and more short-term [i.e. within the past 25 years]) as a result of scientific and technological developments. As one of the country’s major agricultural exports, it seems pertinent to ask how the Chilean wine industry has been affected by science and technology. Not just in terms of grape production and processing, but also with regard to shipping, economics, consumer awareness (i.e. advertising), etc.

Of course other (new) questions will arise while in Chile, but there are a number topics already ripe for investigation — Influence of import/export on Chilean diet and nutrition; Food and nutrition education programs; Role of technology in Chilean agriculture and in the Chilean kitchen; How are Chilean universities involved in the development and dissemination of these scientific and technological developments; etc. In short, Chile is an excellent site for Justin to better hone his dissertation topic, enrich his knowledge of international food networks, and immerse himself in the academics, food, and culture of Chile.

Additionally, Justin hopes to expand his Spanish language skills (currently at a basic conversational competence), enrich his knowledge of Chilean literature, and find some time to explore Chile’s natural, historical, and cultural monuments.