Catarina Townes

Associate Professor of Southern Studies and Anthropology

Catarina Passidomo Townes

Dr. Catarina Passidomo studies the intersection of food, place, and power in the American South and other locations.

Research Interests

  • Food and foodways 
  • Place and placemaking 
  • Race and racialization 
  • American South 
  • Latin America 


Dr. Passidomo earned a Ph.D. in Human Geography and a M.A. in Environmental Anthropology from the University of Georgia.  Her dissertation investigated the emergence of food justice initiatives in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and the significance of place and race for those projects.  Since joining the faculty of the University of Mississippi in 2014, her research and teaching have focused on the often-contested intersection of food, identity, race, memory, and region in the American South.  She has been interested in understanding how narratives about food and place in the American South bear similarities with other regions, such as Peru.   

Dr. Passidomo serves as the faculty liaison for the Southern Foodways Alliance, and Graduate Program Coordinator for the Center for the Study of Southern Culture’s M.A. program in Southern Studies and M.F.A. program in Documentary Expression. 


Published in Humanity & Society

This article develops the concept of gastrodiplomacy—or the use of food to enhance a region’s brand and image—through analysis of two cookbooks: Heritage, by Sean Brock, and Peru: The Cookbook, by Gastón Acurio. Each of these celebrity chefs mobilizes diversity and multiculturalism rhetorically to suggest that contemporary foodways are an authentic portal to racial harmony and inclusion. I argue that these chefs’ social position as men of European descent perpetuates the “white gaze” of contemporary public engagement with cuisine and foodways because the historic and contemporary contributions of marginalized groups become narrative props rather than authentic voices. By focusing on two sites—Peru and the American South—this article demonstrates the function of gastrodiplomacy as a form of soft power that rhetorically undermines racial and class hegemonies while practically reinforcing them. The historical and social contexts of these two regions demand an analysis that incorporates discussion of the connections among foodways, culture, place, and power and consideration of linkages between the U.S. South and the Global South. From a sociological perspective, this article demonstrates the ways in which contemporary food movements often perform rhetorical maneuvers that obfuscate inequality by using white male voices to present foodways as common and universal.

Courses Taught

  • Geog 101 Introduction to Geography
  • SSt 101 Introduction to Southern Studies
  • SSt 105 Introduction to the South and Food
  • Anth 338 Food, Place, and Power
  • SSt 555 Foodways & Southern Culture


Ph.D. Geography, University of Georgia (2013)