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Main Street College to present on history of chocolate

Kathryn Sampeck head shot

Kathryn Sampeck

Exploring a staple of Valentine’s Day, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Main Street College will be presenting “How Chocolate Came to Be: An Ecology of Colonial Knowledge and the Genesis of Taste” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 21, in room 118 of the Illinois State University Alumni Center. Guests will get a chance to sample chocolates from Missouri-based award-winning craft chocolate maker Askinosie Chocolate.

Professor Kathryn Sampeck, of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, will be the presenter. Cacao, a tree whose seeds people use to make chocolate, has long been a way for people to understand the world. For pre-Columbian Mesoamericans, cacao linked people to each other, the plants, animals, and places around them, and to the divine, the environment seen and unseen. This interpretation of environmental relationships of and through cacao was equally vibrant for newly arrived colonists in the 15th and 16th centuries. How we experience and understand chocolate today has its deep roots in those colonial dynamics.

Sampeck’s research on this topic has appeared in ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America and is featured in the book Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, to be published in fall 2018 by the University of Texas Press. She has also made numerous presentations on the subject.

Main Street College was created in 2014 by College of Arts and Sciences Dean Gregory Simpson. It began with the specific goal of demonstrating the tremendous range of work being done in the college and how that work affects and relates to the broader community. “I’m very much looking forward to Professor Sampeck’s presentation, and I’d like to invite everyone—both within and outside of the University community—to join us for what promises to be a delicious evening,” Simpson said.