After earning her PhD in Human Geography and MA in Environmental Anthropology from the University of Georgia, Catarina Passidomo arrived at UM in 2014 to assume an inaugural professorship in Southern Food Studies.
Through her joint appointment in Southern Studies and Anthropology, Passidomo weaves together Southern Studies and Anthropology to form a multifaceted field of study in which she teaches and studies diverse food cultures, specializing in the relationship between Peru and the southern U.S.
Located in the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the Southern Studies program spans across different fields within the social sciences and humanities, creating an interdisciplinary academic program that grants students the opportunity to broaden their understanding of the South.
“A Southern Studies class will allow students to explore and critically examine southern history and culture, but also to consider what that history and culture mean to southerners and non-southerners today and how those meanings inform our collective future,” Passidomo said.
Passidomo serves as the Graduate Program Coordinator for Southern Studies, allowing her to work closely with Southern Studies and Documentary Expression graduate students as they collect oral histories, engage in the art of anthropological filmmaking or immerse themselves in cultural institutions.
In her current project, “Gastroimaginaries: Dreams of Food and Place in Peru and the American South,” Passidomo not only focuses on the American South as narrowly defined but also delves into the region on a global scale across time.
“The project I am working on, ‘Gastroimaginaries,’ for example, considers similarities between how the American South and Peru see food as central to regional identity and mythmaking,” Passidomo said. “I focus on discourses of hospitality, nostalgia, multiculturalism and sustainability to examine how narratives about food and place remember the past, interpret the present and imagine the future.”
In teaching Geography as well as Southern Studies and Anthropology, Passidomo utilizes the Southern Foodways Alliance as a resource to enlighten students in the connection between food and place.
SFA is an academic institution rooted in the Center for the Study of Southern Culture that strives to bring underrepresented perspectives to the forefront through the study and documentation of Southern foodways.
As a living academic institution, SFA gathers insight from those involved first-hand in the movement of food across the South, from farmers to servers, and shares them online on their website through their podcast and print publication, Gravy.
In Gravy’s most recent publication, Passidomo shares her methods of studying and reconciling with history within the classroom in her article, “Rooted in Sand: A reflection on teaching and tomatoes.”
“As a college teacher, one of my jobs is to provide context for students, so that they might better understand the increasingly confusing and complicated world they are navigating,” Passidomo said in her article. “Sometimes this means reflecting on their own histories and situating them within broader social histories; we are, after all, products of our distinct place and time, but we do not live exclusively in the here and now.”