College of Liberal Arts

- University of Mississippi

Learning from the Study of Foodways

Catarina Passidomo

Catarina Passidomo sampling the beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. | Photo by Gabriella Passidomo

Cultural geographer Catarina Passidomo is joining the faculty of the University of Mississippi, where she is to merge the study of food and society through a joint appointment in the departments of Southern studies and sociology and anthropology.

Passidomo will teach foodways courses to undergraduate and graduate students.

In 2013, the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA), an institute of the Center for the Study of the Southern Culture (CSSC), with the College of Liberal Arts endowed a professorship in the academic study of foodways. Generous gifts from individuals and foundations augmented the endowment.

“The University of Mississippi’s academic environment is greatly enriched when we are able to offer classes and faculty members representing new fields of study,” said Glenn Hopkins, dean of liberal arts. “The study of foodways provides another important facet for our students to explore in understanding the world around them.”

Passidomo is the first UM faculty member hired specifically to teach foodways classes. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology from Washington and Lee University, and a master’s ecological and environmental anthropology and a doctorate in geography, both from the University of Georgia. Her dissertation examines organizations that worked to build community food sovereignty in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Since 2010, Passidomo has been an instructor of human geography and the geography of food at Georgia, where she received the university’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in 2013.

“She brings an important and unique perspective to the department as a cultural geographer,” said Kirsten Dellinger, chair and professor of sociology and anthropology. “Her interests in space, food and engaged community research complement the work of many of the anthropologists and sociologists in our department in ways that have already sparked talk of synergistic collaborations in the future.

“The Department of Sociology and Anthropology has benefited from a strong relationship with Southern studies for many years and looks forward to supporting Catarina and exploring new ways of connecting with the work of the Southern Foodways Alliance.”

In addition to holding joint appointments in Southern studies and sociology and anthropology, Passidomo will work closely with the SFA.

“Since its inception in 1999, the SFA has pioneered documentary and public programming approaches to the field of foodways,” said John T. Edge, the alliance’s director. “With this hire, we aim to serve the next generation of students, excited by the prospects of foodways studies.”

Passidomo said she is thrilled and honored to be joining the university and the SFA.

“It is an exciting and dynamic time to both study and engage with issues of food and society, and I am eager to work with the many creative and thoughtful individuals pursuing this work both in the university and throughout the region,” Passidomo said.

Passidomo’s areas of research and engagement will be of interest to many students, especially those in the Southern studies graduate program, said Ted Ownby, director of the CSSC.

“As a cultural geographer, she brings a set of academic skills that will be new and welcome here,” said Ownby, also a professor of history and Southern studies. “As a scholar who studies issues of foodways and justice in both New Orleans and Georgia, she brings insights into a good range of experiences.

“She should be skillful in Southern Studies 555 (Foodways and Southern Culture), in other Southern studies classes and in helping students think through their research projects. She’ll be the ideal scholar to work with both the programs of the Southern Foodways Alliance and the classes in Southern studies.”

The CSSC investigates, documents, interprets and teaches about the American South. CSSC offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in Southern studies through more than 60 courses taught by faculty in 10 departments. CSSC houses two institutes, the Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Documentary Project.

Individuals and organizations interested in learning more about ways to support the Southern Foodways Alliance and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture can contact Development Director Nikki Neely at nlneely@olemiss.edu or 662-915-6678.

Sara Camp Arnold