Okra to Opera: The Conference on Southern Culture returns for its second year, this time exploring the diverse ways that food touches on every aspect of life – from religion, to socio-economic concerns, to cultural identities, and beyond. Events range from speakers and panel discussions to literary readings and musical performances, with food samplings and more in between. Full conference registration is open to the public online, and all events without meals are free admission with no reservations required.
Attendees will have the opportunity to examine the diverse ways that the growing, cooking, consuming and availability of food impacts southern culture, as a diverse group of scholars from across the region share viewpoints from the perspectives of business and economics, psychology, history, the arts, and more.
Keynote speaker Elizabeth Engelhardt will discuss “Southern Food Matters.” Author of recent books A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food and Republic of Barbecue, Engelhardt teaches American Studies and in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas, Austin.
Guest speaker Dr. Rebecca Sharpless, who focuses on women, labor and food as a history professor at Texas Christian University, will discuss “Fame and Fortune: The Tradition of Food Entrepreneurs in the South.” Converse alumna Elizabeth Sims, founder of the Tupelo Honey Café, will participate in the closing session panel discussion.
An artistic celebration of food includes a reading by award-winning novelist Susan Tekulve; a musical collaboration with composer Scott Robbins and poet Rick Mulkey and Converse musicians; a one-act play performed by Theatre Converse, and an art exhibition curated by Converse student Jacqueline Bielevicz at The Johnson Collection Gallery.
Conference topics include: Food on the Move: Migration & Food Cultures; Southern Food in Literature, Song, and Ritual; Food and Farming in the 21st Century South; The Politics of Food; Everybody Eats: Food Insecurity in the South; Making a Living in Food.