Eating and Drinking in the Time of Totalitarianism

Course Description

Between the 1920s and 1950s, a number of Europe’s fledgling democracies disintegrated into totalitarian dictatorships. Aimed at extending the power of the single-party state over every aspect of their societies, interwar Europe’s totalitarian regimes frequently claimed to be building a new type of human subject and modern civilization. In contrast to these claims of full-spectrum socio-political domination, however, scholars of modern Europe have begun to question the degree to which these regimes really were “totalitarian” in their expression of power. This seminar, therefore, is designed to explore the political and cultural histories of twentieth century Europe’s totalitarian regimes, including Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and others via the analytical lenses of various types of foodstuffs and beverages. Ranging in topics from the production of genetically-modified strains of wheat to the regulation and enjoyment of alcoholic beverages, we will explore these societies “from above” and “from below” by evaluating the degree to which everyday eating and drinking impacted both the construction of these notorious dictatorships and the on-the-ground realities of everyday, quotidian experience.


Institution & Term

  • University of California, Los Angeles (Winter 2021)


Course Syllabus

  • Available upon request