Training and Transformation: Reflecting on GJFS’s First 5 Years

Reflecting on the GJFS's first five years. Copyright Emily Contois.

Emily Contois

5th Anniversary Commentary from Former Editors-in-Chief 

Warren Belasco, one of ASFS’s founding members, once told me a story about putting together an early issue of Food, Culture & Society on his living room floor. My involvement with the Graduate Journal of Food Studies wasn’t quite as intimate, but alongside a talented and dedicated group of fellow grad students, I contributed to our first six issues, from a number of living rooms, classrooms, and cafés.

As it did for many others, the GJFS fostered for me a community of new colleagues, collaborators, and friends, at the same time that it provided a wealth of academic opportunities. I published one of my first peer-reviewed articles, “Not Just for Cooking Anymore: Exploring the 21st Century Trophy Kitchen,” in the inaugural issue. It was research that I began while still working in a cubicle on worksite wellness programs, dreaming in my few free hours of returning to the academy. Through the GJFS, I also practiced how to peer review and write a book review and served in successive roles as media director, managing editor under Carla Cevasco, and editor-in-chief.

The GJFS was an academic training ground for me, a space to try and to fail, to experiment and to sometimes contribute a little something to our fascinating field of food studies—like how to define food studies, ponder its future, and discuss its various publics with colleague and friend, Katherine Hysmith. Brad Jones and I transitioned the GJFS to its current online, open-access format, increasing its visibility and accessibility. I reflect fondly on the journal’s Food-Stuff section too. I imagined it as a space for work that transcends the bounds of the academic research article, one that welcomes and nurtures pieces that are creative, multimodal, personal, and experimental—like Gretchen Sneegas’ “Autoethnography of U.S. Academic Drinking Culture,” Emily Farr and Maya Hey’s “A Relay of Ferments,” and my student Emely Vargas’s “Dear Mom: Teach Him to Cook, Not Me.” Over the years, we’ve published a number of memorable pieces in the journal, but Leah LaFera and Darcy Mullen’s “Objects in Residence” photo essay still moves me every time I read it. In the most recent issue, Editor Catherine Peters’s Cite This collection was brilliantly conceived.

More than anything though, the GJFS’s crowning achievement so far, in conjunction with the Graduate Association for Food Studies, was to form a community where graduate students could learn skills that are expected, but not always directly taught—like how to write a peer review report, navigate the editorial process, moderate a panel, or develop an online presence. My greatest hope is that these formative experiences can shape a generation of scholars who find paths into the academy (and the many worlds of food) to remold our institutional processes toward genuine support, joy, and generosity.

Biography 

Emily Contois is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the University of Tulsa. She received her PhD in American Studies from Brown University and holds additional master’s degrees in Gastronomy from Boston University and Public Health Nutrition from UC Berkeley. She’s currently writing a book, tentatively titled Diners, Dudes and Diets: Gender and Power in U.S. Food Culture and Media. She also writes for Nursing Clioblogs, and is active on social media at @emilycontois