2014 Speaker Biographies

Ken Albala is Professor of History at the University of the Pacific in Stockton California and Director of Food Studies at the San Francisco campus. He is author or editor of 21 books on food including Eating Right in the RenaissanceThe Banquet: Dining in the Great Courts of Late Renaissance Europe, as well as several encyclopedias and two cookbooks. His course Food: A Cultural Culinary History is available on DVD from The Great Courses company. He is currently working on a book about fasting in the Reformation era.

Roger Byrne is a Professor of Geography at U. C. Berkeley. His work focuses on historical biogeography, vegetation change, prehistoric agriculture, and pollen analysis. He currently conducting research on the history of late-Pleistocene/Holocene environmental change in California and Mexico. He is also Curator of Fossil Pollen for the Museum of Paleontology at Berkeley.

Melissa Caldwell is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies. She has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Russia since 1995. Her research focuses on understanding the forms of intimacy and responsibility that have shaped state-citizen relations in Russia during the Soviet and post-Soviet periods. She has written on such topics as food shortages and food relief, food nationalism, fast food, culinary tourism, natural foods, and gardening. Her new project is on food hacking. She is the author of Not by Bread Alone: Social Support in the New RussiaDacha Idylls: Living Organically in Russia's Countryside, and numerous articles and edited volumes. She is working on a new book Living Faithfully in an Unjust World: Toward a Secular Theology of Compassion in Russia.

Eric Crystal has undertaken intensive field research with highland minority peoples in Southeast Asia. He has worked in the Toraja highlands of eastern Indonesia as well as with a number of highland groups in northern Vietnam. An accomplished photographer, he has documented traditional rice cultivation and rice rituals in numerous village field sites. Dr. Crystal has taught anthropology at The Claremont Colleges and Asian Studies at U. C. Berkeley and at the San Francisco Art Institute. He served as Vice Chair of the U.C. Berkeley Center for Southeast Asia Studies for sixteen years.

Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley is Associate Professor of Late Imperial and Modern Chinese History at San Diego State University. Her research and teaching interests include famine studies, cultural, social, and gender history, comparative responses to trauma and disaster, and recent Sino-Japanese and Sino-US relations. Her first book, Tears from Iron: Cultural Responses to Famine in Nineteenth-Century China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), examined late-imperial conceptualizations of famine. Her current research traces changes and continuities in state and popular responses to major famines and floods in Republican and Mao-era China.  Professor Edgerton-Tarpley regularly teaches World as well as Asian history, and particularly enjoys working with K-12 teachers in her “Modern World History for Teachers” course. 

Alan Farahani  received his PhD from the department of Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology at U. C. Berkeley in 2014. His research focuses on anthropological archaeology of the Near East and Mediterranean, though with significant cross-cultural interest.  Methodologically, he specializes in environmental archaeology, and more narrowly, paleoethnobotany, which is the study of the physical remains of plants used by human beings in the past.  

Edda L. Fields-Black is Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University and currently an Andrew W. Mellon New Directions Fellowship, specializes in pre-colonial and West African history and their connections to the African Diaspora. Author of Deep Roots: Rice Farmers in West Africa and the African Diaspora (Indiana University Press, 2008), she has been studying rice and rice farmers in West Africa and the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry for more than twenty years.  Fields-Blacks is also co-author of Rice: Global Networks and New Histories with Francesca Bray, Peter Coclanis, and Dagmar Schaffer (Cambridge University, in press).

Jeffrey M. Pilcher is a professor of history at the University of Toronto. He has been teaching about food in world history since 1994 and has written or edited nine books, most recently, Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food and The Oxford Handbook of Food History.

Parama Roy is Professor of English at UC Davis, where she teaches postcolonial theory and literatures, Victorian studies, food studies, and animal studies. She is the author of Indian Traffic: Identities in Question in Colonial and Postcolonial India (1998) and Alimentary Tracts: Appetites, Aversions, and the Postcolonial (2010) and co-editor of States of Trauma: Gender and Violence in South Asia (2009).