SURF

Adrienne Johnson

Corporealizing Identity: Competitive Eating and the Cultural Meaning of American Bodies

Competitive eating is a vernacular form of cultural criticism masquerading as mass entertainment. My research into the significance of competitive eating in American culture will unveil collective but inarticulated perspectives on consumerism, gender roles and our economic climate. Competitive eating is at once a glorification of American excess and an indictment of it; a direct challenge to idealized human form and a confirmation of its strength. Historically, I believe competitive eating served to homogenize immigrant diet in 19th century America. By tracking the foodstuffs of competition, I hope to prove that as American politics globalized, home-grown traditions like competitive eating grew more regional and divisive.

Message to Sponsor

My interest in competitive eating grew from my interest in eating disorders and body image disorders which I studied at UC Berkeley. When I first began reading into the wealth of literature on these topics, I was suprised by how scholars solely focused on the classicly-defined"disorders" of eating restrictions. I see competitive eating as a different symptom of the same underlying cultural anxieties that gave rise to these disorders -- anxieties about changing gender roles, consumerism, secularization, and immigration. I hope that my serious academic research on competitive eating will supplement the wealth of literature concerning anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and other eating disorders.
  • Major: American Studies
  • Mentor: Kathleen Moran, American Studies