I arrived at the Anthropology of Food programme holding an undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology, some convictions about food sovereignty and local agriculture, a few niche interests in relatively useless food trivia, and evidence that I would be better off working somewhere other than a farm or kitchen. I was attracted by SOAS's reputation for being critical, radical, and extremely diverse. This was made immediately evident by the range of our small cohort (from professional chefs and entrepreneurs to highly theoretical academics), each bringing their own interesting ideas and opinions.
Guided by a carefully constructed syllabus and the course convenors, we waded through an unbelievable amount of provocative theory and deep ethnography, from the origins of agriculture to modern food certification schemes. The energy from course discussions, which brought texts and classmates into rigorous dialogue with each other, would often carry on after seminars to the student bar, and beyond. The resulting network of people with shared passions, which expanded further through IFSTAL (a multi-school interdisciplinary food systems group), led to several lasting friendships and a professional collaboration several years later.
During the MA, I had the opportunity to supplement the food courses with fantastic modules on migration studies, which provided a human and historical context for my dissertation and appreciation for the SOASian spirit (particularly the relationship between critical inquiry and informed activism). All of these elements of my SOAS experience set me on a more empathetic and informed path to work in research for development, and sustainable food systems.