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Katharina Vester

Food History Wonk


Cred PhD, University of Bochum, Germany; BA/MA, University of Potsdam, Germany. Worked as journalist in Berlin for 7 years

Livelihood Assistant Professor of History, director of American studies

Interests I analyze historical cookbooks and other culinary texts to understand how people defined themselves by gender and ethnicity. My recent research showed how dieting arrived in US culture in the 19th century as a practice used by white middle-class men to demonstrate their control over their bodies and thus legitimize the control they claimed over society. When I need a break from my own research, I teach classes on pop culture. This year it is a class on vampires and American society.

Focus Cultural studies and cultural history with a special interest in food and body management practices

Recent Article “Regime Change: Gender, Class, and the Invention of Dieting in Post-Bellum America,” Journal of Social History, Fall 2010

Recent Awards Belasco Prize for Scholarly Excellence, Association for the Study of Food and Society

How did you develop your expertise? My interest began by reading cookbooks rather than using them for cooking. I noticed all the stories they tell and understood that these could be significant sources for understanding culture.

What’s your advice for aspiring historians? Look for history in unexpected places.

If you could debate any historical figure, who would it be? Gertrude Stein

Are You a Wonk? Now I am.

Additional Links
AU Profile
Take the food history challenge