Nicholas J Williams
I study food, ideas, bodies, and knowledge in modern America. My major interest is in how people have come to understand food through myriad ways of knowing, such as through science, storytelling, or bodily knowledge, and how they have connected personal experience and understanding with larger contexts: historical trauma and healing, governmental policies around diet and nutrition, and so on. Much of my interest in foods come from personal experience in learning to be more critical and intentional with food in my own life and this experience informs the kinds of research I do in seeking to understand how individuals—especially scientific researchers—construct knowledge about something so easy to take for granted in the fabric of daily life. My dissertation, "Knowing What You Eat: The Quest to Understand Food in Modern America," uses eating as a knowledge-making practice to understand the place of human bodies in scientific research around food from the 1870s through WWII. Focusing mainly on scientists, this dissertation explores the many efforts to construct knowledge about food as it relates to human bodies, efforts that laid substantial groundwork for our modern food system. In addition to my dissertation, I am also writing a book entitled "Learning to Live Together: A History of Euthenics and the Educational Environment." This book, though not about food, tells the story of euthenics, the “science of the controllable environment” that evolved into a philosophy of education, which viewed education not as something you get in a school, but as a process of living in and engaging with the environment in everyday life. Through this story, I argue for a more expansive conception of education today, one that is more inclusive of the diversity of lived experience.