Culinary Anthropology; Gender; Immigration; Memory; Ethnicity
Ph.D., Brandeis University
M.A., Brandeis University
Ed.M., Boston University
Curriculum Vitae (pdf)
Ellen Rovner is a cultural anthropologist who studies the intersection of gender, class, food, and ethnicity. She is an adjunct professor at Boston University, teaching in the Masters in Liberal Arts and Gastronomy program. Ellen regards research as a tool for social action. She has published essays on how gender roles construct food practices to shape individual and collective identities, and has presented professional talks on issues concerning changing notions of home, feminism, and food.
Ellen is also closely involved with food security and the cultural integration of immigrant communities in Chelsea, MA, her research field site. Instrumental in the formation of a Somali community garden and a summer education and enrichment program for elementary school aged children on the grounds of a synagogue in Chelsea, Ellen seeks to bring together disparate religious and ethnic groups to improve the quality of life in an ethnically diverse, low-income community.
Growing up in a household where Yiddish was often heard, and women controlled and managed family and social life, Ellen likes the Yiddish idiom "shitterein" to describe not only her approach to ethnographic work, but also the framework of her life course. “Shitterein" denotes the experience and method of “authentic” Jewish cooking without recipes, but with intuition, touch, and "taam," taste. Spoken as an aside by generations of Jewish women to describe what they did to prepare beloved nurturance for families--beginning at the table but extending to untold aspects of life--Ellen views" shitterein" as a sensual, intuitive, and creative path to personal visions of valued identities, new and old, and, importantly, to joy.
I am exploring how women’s embodied food practices and beliefs can be used to empower and further cross-cultural understandings between socially marginalized immigrant Latinas and older, Jewish women in Chelsea, MA. Digging deeper into my Jewish family’s immigrant roots in Chelsea, I want to research how their legacy can be used to better lives of more recently arriving immigrants.
Jewish Boston, Huffington Post, Jewish Journal and Visions