Led by: Lissa Caldwell, Professor of Anthropology 

Lissa Caldwell is Professor of Anthropology at UCSC and the past Editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies. Her research and teaching focus on the intersection of state socialism, political practice, and social justice, with a special interest in how food is used as a form of political expression, disruption, and mobilization. Her new research focuses on food hacking and hacktivism in socialist societies. At UCSC she has been part of the campus Food Studies network, and she has regularly taught “Food and Culture” and the “Anthropology of Food,” as well as courses on “Consuming Culture,” “Poverty and Inequality,” “Memory,” and “Ethnography of Russia and Eastern Europe.” 

Professor Caldwell has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Russia since the 1990s, and has also done research in former East Germany and elsewhere across postsocialist Europe. Some of her favorite memories of fieldwork in Russia include visiting her friends at their summer cottages and then picking and eating wild mushrooms and berries covered with bird poop, getting harassed by security guards for taking pictures in a grocery store, and falling asleep at the table during the eight-hour birthday party thrown by one of her dearest friends, an 80-year-old babushka. 

Professor Caldwell first visited Berlin in 1990, when it was still a divided city. Her introduction to Berlin was arriving by train to the wrong station on the East Berlin side and having to make her way back to the West Berlin side. Now, more than thirty years later, she is excited to be leading this study abroad program in order to bring together her two passions – the anthropology of Russia and Eastern Europe and the anthropology of food – in order to share with students how much has changed since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dismantling of Checkpoint Charlie. These changes have also dramatically affected Berlin’s food worlds, and we will explore the many ways in which Berlin’s food scene makes room for both a vibrant multicultural cuisine and an enduring socialist East German nostalgia cuisine.



Ph.D. Student April Reber

April Reber is a PhD candidate in the Anthropology department at UCSC. Her current research follows an emerging German political party, Alternative for Germany (AfD) to analyze sovereignty conflicts in multi-level governments between the EU and Germany. To understand these conflicts, her research focuses on conservative climate politics, East German history, and 21st-century nationalism. 

While Dresden is her base, April travels throughout Germany attending AfD meetings, campaign speeches, and Stammtische, talking politics and gossiping over drinks with locals long into the night. Some of her best experiences in Germany include practicing German with other foreigners, conversing with villagers about local issues, camping and hiking along the Alps, and laboriously converting cups and tablespoons into mL and grams while baking and cooking with friends. 

April completed her undergraduate fieldwork in the mountains of northern Thailand, researching how environmentalism can sometimes become a vehicle for ethnic antagonism. She sought to understand how citizens, who are historically discriminated against and economically disenfranchised, assert their rights. April has also traveled to India, China, and Laos on research trips. She looks forward to exploring Berlin with students during Summer 2022!

A Message to Students and Loved Ones

More than thirty years ago, when I was a college student, my first visit to Berlin came exactly one week after Checkpoint Charlie was officially taken down but the Berlin Wall was still everywhere. It seemed as if everyone was carrying a pickaxe to chip off chunks of the Wall as a souvenir. This was an exciting time to be in Berlin, as two cities and two countries, and their respective citizens were trying to figure out how to become one. Already the new Berlin was emerging as a space where anything could happen, even as it had to be negotiated between a democratic West and a socialist East: capitalist consumer culture, punk culture, squatters, civic activism, free speech, and so much more. Alongside this cultural and political flourishing was also a strong civic commitment to grappling with and being responsible for Germany’s difficult pasts, whether it was the Holocaust or Soviet Occupation. 

Since that time, Berlin has remained one of my favorite places. Every time I visit, I am reminded of what a magical place it is – a city where sober accountings of the past sit alongside whimsical imaginings of what the present and future could and should be. Berlin is a dynamic space, where critical debate and a strong commitment to justice and equality are constantly on display and in action. Above all, it is a place where people feel strongly about living their best lives. 

For me as a scholar of the everyday worlds of state socialism, Berlin is infinitely fascinating for how we can understand how and why the Soviet Bloc came to be and how the collapse of socialism led to very particular ways of life. And as an anthropologist with a keen interest in food and material culture, Berlin is a living laboratory for seeing how food has always been central to identity politics, labor practices, nostalgia, and community organizing. 

I am excited to be leading this study abroad to Berlin and sharing this magical city with you. I am looking forward to exploring the city’s socialist past, its postsocialist present, and its democratic future, and using food cultures as one of our framing themes. Through our two courses, the Ethnography of Russia and Eastern Europe and the Anthropology of Food, we will examine the particular ways in which state socialism shaped every aspect of people’s lives, from the ways in which their homes were structured and decorated to the types of foods that they ate and enjoyed. At the same time, we will learn about how and why food is such an important topic for understanding critical questions in anthropology, and the social sciences and humanities more generally, about social organization, family dynamics, personal beliefs, political ideologies, and civic engagement. In addition, we are planning exciting excursions that will allow us to know Berlin intimately, as insiders. 

I hope that you want to join us – and that you will fall in love with Berlin, too!

Lissa Caldwell