Annual Theme - Center for the Arts and Humanities

Food sustains all living beings (humans and non-humans) as it punctuates our daily lives and helps us survive and grow. It also embraces different realities of lived experiences across time and space, connecting the past with our present through the passing of ancestral traditions. And yet, it also reveals the fragility and the impermanence of bodies and organisms; it reinforces or challenges our privilege(s) (or lack thereof) to access food sources; it becomes instrumentalized and weaponized in warfare; it questions our complex relationship to nature, land, and sovereignty; it mirrors systemic inequalities entrenched in contemporary societies. Food highlights a living paradox: it represents the key ingredient that binds us together, and yet divides us when power dynamics and privilege are at play. By shedding light on these intricate realities, “Food for Thought’ seeks to problematize and critically assess the complex social, cultural, environmental, political relationships that we have with food.


Audrey Brunetaux

Audrey Brunetaux is an Associate Professor of French Studies at Colby College. Her research focuses on twentieth/twenty-first-century French literature, culture and cinema with an emphasis on race and gender studies, decolonial feminism, decolonial foodways, Holocaust and trauma studies, and autobiography. Her publications cover a wide range of topics related to the representation of Vichy France and the Shoah in film and memoirs. She has worked extensively on the infamous Vél d’Hiv roundup of Jews of 1942 in Paris and on Holocaust writer-survivor Charlotte Delbo. She has co-edited a volume of essays on “Seeing Charlotte Delbo/Seeing the Shoah,” exploring the concept of visuality and trauma in Delbo’s texts. Her current projects examine and challenge France’s systemic racism and color-blindness through the lens of street performance, new media, and food. She co-edited a special of issue of Contemporary French & Francophone Studies: SITES on “France & Post-Racial Utopia” (2022), and she is currently co-editing a special issue of CFC Intersections on “Podcasting Disruptive Voices: New Narratives of Race, Gender &Sexuality” (forthcoming 2023).

Danila Cannamela

Danila Cannamela is an Assistant Professor of Italian Studies at Colby College. Her research focuses on literary and cultural movements that have remained at the periphery of dominant discourses. Her most recent scholarly project is an edited collection, Italian Trans Geographies, that retraces stories of trans people within the Italian peninsula and along diasporic routes. Lately she is working on a new book-length project, The Pastoral Cookbook, which investigates the idea of the pastoral as a “comfort food recipe” rooted in the classical tradition, whose simple ingredients have inspired sophisticated “cooking techniques” and contemporary reinventions. At Colby she teaches all level of Italian language and culture, as well as courses in environmental humanities and gender studies.

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Nikky-Guninder K. Singh

Dr. Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh is the Crawford Family Professor and Chair of the department of Religious Studies.  Her interests focus on poetics, aesthetics, and feminist issues. She has published extensively in the field of Sikh Studies. Her books include Poems from the Guru Granth Sahib (Harvard UP, 2022) The First Sikh (Penguin, 2019), Hymns of the Sikh Gurus (Penguin Classics, 2019), Of Sacred and Secular Desire (IB Tauris 2012) Sikhism (IB Tauris 2011), Cosmic Symphony (Sahitya Academy, 2010), Birth of the Khalsa (SUNY, 2005), The Name of My Beloved (Harper Collins, 1995), Feminine Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent (Cambridge, 1993), Physics and Metaphysics of the Guru Granth Sahib (1981). Since taste is a major integrative sensor in her aesthetic approach, Nikky Singh is excited about Food For Thought as the 2022-23 Annual Humanities Theme. In this climate of hyperpolarization, the need to revitalize our panhuman sensorium is more urgent than ever.


Mary Beth Mills: Between Commensality and Coloniality: Cooking Schools and Culinary Tourism in Thailand

Monday, February 13 | 7:00 PM
Lovejoy 215

A conversation with Mary Beth Mills, Charles A. Dana Professor of Anthropology at Colby College.

Amanda Hilton: Living Landscapes of Loss and Love: Oliviculture in Sicily

Monday, February 27 | 7:00 PM Lovejoy 215

Amanda Hilton (University of Arizona) will discuss Living Landscapes of Loss and Love: Oliviculture in Sicily.

Alivia Moore: Rematriation: A Framework for Liberation with Land in Wabanaki

Monday, March 13 | 7:00 PM
Lovejoy 215

Join Alivia Moore, co-founder of Eastern Woodlands Rematriation Collective, as she discusses Rematriation: A Framework for Liberation with Land in Wabanaki.

Course Work Spring 2023


Seminar: Sex in Art

Food for Thought Affiliated Course
Four-credit hours. Plesch.

A research seminar intended to investigate the different ways in which sexuality is represented throughout the history of art. 

Prerequisite: Any W1 course and AR101, AR111, or AR112, or permission of the instructor.



Anthropology of Food

Food for Thought Affiliated Course
Four-credit hours. Mills.

Tourism is both a global industry and a deeply personal experience. Whether viewed as a means of economic growth and heritage preservation; a source of cultural, environmental, or social degradation; a font of neo-colonial inequalities and racial/gender hierarchies; or a way to connect with nature and to share cross-cultural differences, tourism is often a subject of controversy. This course explores anthropological studies of global tourism with attention to its many variations, such as ecotourism, sex tourism, heritage and cultural tourism, among others. An independent research project enables students to apply course concepts and to analyze the cultural dynamics of tourism in a specific location. 


Seminar: Narrating Deep Time   

Humanities Lab Course
Four credit hours. Walker.

Can we tell stories that span 1,000, 10,000, or a million years? Can lived experience be contextualized not only by our social worlds but by unfolding geological and evolutionary temporalities? What formal techniques-time lapse, montage, allegory-might be used to convey that our creaturely fragility is shared not only with species contemporaneous to us, but with species extinct before we ever knew them? Guided by these and other questions, this Humanities Lab will analyze the central role of narrative in apprehending environmental impacts that unfold across deep time. Utilizing contemporary ecofeminist and environmental theories, we will consider the relationship between time, narrative, and character in novels by Hanya Yanagihara, Octavia Butler, Virginia Woolf, and H.G. Wells. Fulfills C, D, and LE requirements.


Film for Thought: The Art of French Cinema

Food for Thought Affiliated Course
Four credit hours. Brunetaux.

A survey of directors, genres, movements, and aesthetics in French cinema from early 20th Century to the present day. Emphasis on the analysis of film style and form: mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, sound, performance, etc. Students will approach film not only as a form of art, but also as a site of memory and/or a tool of socio-political discourse. Film theory will frame our class discussions. Students will develop visual literacy, analytical skills, critical and creative thinking through innovative visual projects, essays and class discussions. Course conducted in French.


Brothers at War: The Two Koreas, 1945-Present

Food for Thought Affiliated Course
Four credit hours. Diederich.

Nukes in the north and K-Pop idols in the south. The two Koreas could not seem more different today, but their division is barely a generation old. Why was Korea split and how did the two halves come to diverge so drastically? To answer these questions, this survey explores inter-Korean relations and their global contexts from division through experiences of civil war, rapid development, and geopolitical rivalry through a range of readings and media. Throughout, North and South Korea have vied for peninsular primacy and global prestige on the one hand, while upholding a shared narrative of common but sundered Korean identity on the other.


Wild Writing: A Comparative Experiential Approach to Ecopoetics (in English)  

Spring 2023 Humanities lab/Theme Course
Four credit hours. Cannamela.

Explores how the notion of “wilderness” has shifted across epochs and cultures. Students will conduct textual analysis of contemporary poetry and lyrical prose, compare and contrast Italian and English literature, and engage in experiential activities, including hands-on projects and a writing retreat on Colby Island Campus, led by British ecopoet Helen Moore. Conducted in English.


Israeli and Palestinian Literature

Food for Thought Affiliated Course
Four credit hours. Cohen Fisher .

Explores lived experiences in Israel/Palestine through memoir, fiction, poetry and cookbooks. Students will unpack and compare how various authors engage with ideas of landscape, history, identity, and home across both time and genre. Students will gain deeper understanding of how Palestinian and Israeli authors relate to their identities and environments as they grapple with classical and contemporary writing emanating from the region. 


Philosophical Approaches to Global Justice

Food for Thought Affiliated Course
Four credit hours. Moland.

Recent philosophical theorizing regarding global justice. Topics include our responsibilities regarding global poverty, the definition and causes of terrorism, the nature of collective responsibility, the ethical implications of the nation-state. Gives particular attention to philosophers who have left the ivory tower by putting their theories into action such as Peter Singer, Thomas Pogge, and Martha Nussbaum. Students have the option of putting theory into practice through a civic engagement project. Prerequisite: Two courses in philosophy.


Environmental Knowledge, Imperialism, and Resistance   

Food for Thought Affiliated Course
Four-credit hours. Millones.

European expansion during the Early Modern period sought to transform the Americas by reproducing the material, spiritual, and biological landscapes of the Old World. Amerindian peoples whose lives, cultures, and environments were jeopardized confronted the European actions and ideas by deploying an array of resistance strategies. We study this process to understand the confrontations surrounding environmental knowledge, imperialism, and resistance in our postcolonial reality. Students will engage with texts, images, and other materials from different areas and time periods to learn theories and to develop a critical perspective on the history of the encounter of cultures. Prerequisite: A 200-level Spanish literature, culture, or film course.

Course Work Fall 2022



Food For Thought Affiliated Course
Four credit hours. Lisle.

Gentrification is a process of class “upgrading” that leads to the marginalization or displacement of residents or businesses. In this reading- and writing-intensive course, we examine gentrification’s historical roots and evolution over time—from a small-scale, middle-class process built on “sweat equity” to a mass-produced global one endemic to neoliberal governance. Participants will familiarize themselves with major debates in gentrification scholarship, gentrification’s different manifestations (e.g. tourist, rural, and “studentification”), and how people resist it, before completing a significant independent research project. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing or above.

AllenIsland (8 of 13) - Erin Murphy


Contemporary Documentary Filmmaking: A Creative Practice

Fall 2022 Humanities Theme/Lab
Four-credit hours. Murphy.

This humanities lab course is will have students attend a mandatory weekend-long field trip to the Camden International Film Festival, which will be the catalyst for the class. You will take inspiration from the films you watch and the filmmakers you meet to conceive of your own documentary idea. You will spend the semester developing your idea into a feasible project. Students will learn how to research, shoot, and edit, while building relationships with their subjects. The course culminates in pitching your documentary idea to the Waterville and Colby Communities. Students leave with a fully developed project idea, to be implemented in the spring semester or in the future. 



Greek Myth and Literature

Food for Thought Affiliated Course
Four-credit hours. O’Neill.

Greek myth has shaped how we understand ourselves, each other, and the world around us. We will explore the answers that the myths of ancient Greece offer to life’s biggest questions by reading texts that form the foundation of western culture.


Fiction Writing I

Food For Thought Affiliated Course
Four credit hours. Spark.

Writing short literary fiction. No prior experience with fiction writing presumed, only interest. Class sessions will be devoted to talking about fiction basics, analyzing short stories, and critiquing fellow students’ fiction in workshops. Outside of class, students will be writing fiction exercises and complete stories, as well as reading professional stories. By the end of the semester, students should have insight into the creative process. They should have learned the basics of the craft of writing, and they should have practiced what they have learned through writing and rewriting. 

Potato Heart - Arisa White


Poetry Writing I

Food For Thought Affiliated Course
Four-credit hours. White.

What distinguishes a poem from a story from an advertisement from a phone call home? How do poems get written? And does it need to rhyme? In this workshop, students investigate these and many other questions about poetic process and craft by reading and critically analyzing contemporary poetry, writing their own poems, and offering feedback on the work of their peers. By semester’s end, students will produce a portfolio of revised poems and a statement of what they have learned about their creative process, aesthetic preferences, and their growing mastery of craft. No prior experience with poetry presumed. Fulfills English P requirement. Prerequisite: Any W1 course.


Seminar: Food for Thought: French Cuisine and Culinary Identities

Fall 2022 Humanities Theme/Lab
Four credit hours. Brunetaux.

What is the state of French cuisine today? Has French cuisine embraced a more inclusive, multifaceted mosaic of talents, culinary practices, flavors, and tastes, or is it still a monolithic, elitist institution hermetic to change? This course seeks to re-evaluate and critique French cuisine and gastronomy through a decolonial lens to decenter the narrative on food and culinary traditions in France – main focus on the culinary talents, histories, identities, and traditions of communities of color. Humanities Lab designed around food labs, creative projects, and the analysis of cooking shows, films, cookbooks, menus, food blogs, and podcasts. Humanities Lab.



Animals, Hybrids, and Machines: Franz Kafka and the Non-Human

Food For Thought Affiliated Course
Four-credit hours. Ellis.

This course introduces students to accounts of substance use and addiction from the nineteenth century through the present day. We will examine canonical and contemporary literary texts, medical writings, visual representations, and films alongside topics such as liberalism, enslavement, inequality, imperial expansion, consumerism, “digital drugs,” and the pathologization of addiction. We will consider our readings in light of the following questions: What role do substance use and addiction play in constructing the modern self and society? What can representations of addiction teach us about our relationship with the external world? How does addiction act as a metaphor, a narrative device, or even a political sign? How do gender, class, and race affect narratives of addiction? How do accounts of addiction interact with philosophical texts, medical treatises, and imperial and colonial discourses? In addition to writing critical essays, students will evaluate smartphone addiction treatment apps and devise an encyclopedia entry to a topic relevant to this course.

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Survey of U.S. History, to 1865   

Food For Thought Affiliated Course
Four credit hours. Jacobson.

This course surveys U.S. history through Reconstruction. We give special consideration to the central paradox of slavery and freedom in the U.S., as well as to conflicts between Indigenous and European peoples. It is impossible to “cover” all of U.S. history in this period. Instead, we follow a chronological trajectory and explore a theme each week. Themes include colonization, slavery, religion, labor, gender, and war. Throughout, we listen empathetically to voices from the past, and center marginalized voices who have not been the writers of historical narratives.

American Cult: New Religious Movements from Salem to QAnon​


Faith, Class, and Community   

Fall 2022 Humanities Theme/ Lab 
Four credit hours. Freidenrch.

Explores the various intersections between religious traditions, socioeconomic structures, and faith-based communities/organizations (among others), with particular attention to dynamics in Waterville. Students gain a deeper understanding of religious and other ethical approaches to issues related to wealth, poverty, and inequality. Students develop skills associated with community organizing and non-profit leadership through meaningful engagement with organizational partners. 


Introduction to Science, Technology, and Society

Food For Thought Affiliated Course
Four-Credit hours. Wesner.

Critical perspectives on the social aspects of science and technology in our lives, in the world around us, and throughout history. Issues include gender, communications, war, and the environment.

Past Themes


Freedom and Captivity

What does it mean to be free, to imagine freedom? Conversely, why are logics of control and capture adopted? How and to what ends is it possible to resist these strictures? How is the body implicated in freedom and in capture?

By enlisting the power of the humanities to translate experience, promote critical reflection, and offer fresh perspectives on challenging issues, Freedom and Captivity aims to incubate, amplify, and expand creative breakthroughs in these questions and in the relationship between freedom and captivity. Freedom and Captivity engages these larger ideas through three specific sub-themes: “Carcerality,” “Imagination and the Contained Body,” and “Freedoms.” While we welcome broad interpretations of the theme, our investment in freedom and captivity begins with two of the most pressing issues of our era: mass incarceration and displacement. These conditions are central to understanding the material and prescient stakes of freedom and captivity. While distinct, both incarceration and displacement draw together notions of subjectivity, embodiment, and space, asking us to consider the importance of space, geography, and the body in notions of freedom and capture. Why do we believe that the freedom of some depends on the captivity of others? “Carcerality” centers these pressing issues, which span social, political, economic, ecological, and geopolitical considerations, asking us to challenge the social constructs and material conditions of global captivity.

Theme Sponsors
Catherine Besteman, Anthropology
Chandra Bhimull, Anthropology and African American Studies
Gwynn Shanks, Performance, Theater, and Dance 


Boundaries and Margins

Boundaries highlight or fix limits for people, places, objects, and events. But beyond this, boundaries mark relational sites where meaning, value, and belonging are made, reworked, and contested.

Should we approach boundaries as restrictive forces that constrict us within walls, borders, and lines, be they real or metaphorical, or as creative forces that overlap, move, and encourage us to rupture our own definitions of limits? Boundaries produce and attempt to manage marginal areas. They allow for a liminal space, a space “in-between” that is transitory, transient, unexpected and uncertain to erupt. This theme will allow us to interrogate the margins, those spaces in which subversive, often oppressed, knowledges and life ways take shape. If boundaries attempt to codify and construct worlds, what new worlds can emerge through the pursuit of this theme’s inquiry?

Theme Sponsors
AB Brown, Theater and Dance
Audrey Brunetaux, French and Francophone Studies



Energy and its limits shape our lives, connecting artistic and technological innovations, local communities and oppressive structures of power, political activism and affective fatigue, histories of environmental change and societal collapse, and the origin of life and entropic fate of the universe.

This theme will bring together the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences to investigate the space between energy and exhaustion as a metaphorical realm and lived reality. Together we will explore the endless potentiality of energy and limiting effects of exhaustion as they impact aesthetic innovation, literary imagination, political anxieties, environmental limits, and activist movements—all touching upon our shared past, current political realities, and collective futures.

Theme Sponsors
Dale Kocevski, Physics and Astronomy
Chris Walker, English and Environmental Humanities


The Presence of the Past

The Presence of the Past is everywhere: in our daily lives and activities, our natural, engineered, and social environments, our political commitments, our biasses and prejudices, our religious and spiritual convictions, our scientific and technological accomplishments and ambitions, and more.

What happens when competing versions of the past come into conflict? How is knowledge about the past produced? How do structures of power and prestige operating in the present shape our current knowledge of the across the disciplines?

Theme Sponsors
Elizabeth D. Leonard, History
Megan Cook, English



Energy and its limits shape our lives, connecting artistic and technological innovations, local communities and oppressive structures of power, political activism and affective fatigue, histories of environmental change and societal collapse, and the origin of life and entropic fate of the universe.

Origins encourages a detailed and critical reflection of the social, historical, political, and cultural contexts that inform our understanding of who we are as humans, where we come from, and the trajectory we choose to follow in an increasingly interconnected global landscape.

Theme Sponsors
Shalini Le Gall, Museum of Art
Gianluca Rizzo, Studies
Arnout van der Meer, History