Christy Shields

Associate Professor

  • Department: Communication Media and Culture
  • Graduate Program(s): Global Communications
  • Office: 
  • Office Hours: 
    Mondays and Thursdays 11:00–12:00 or by appointment

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After studying French and political science at Northwestern University in her native state of Illinois, Professor Shields attended New York University where she earned a master’s degree in French studies and anthropology. Shortly afterwards, she moved to Paris and began work on her PhD degree at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS). While working on her dissertation, she taught part-time at The American University of Paris, where she began in 2001, and worked as a free-lance consultant on a wide variety of applied anthropology projects in Europe and the United States, usually focused on food production or consumption.

An anthropologist interested primarily in the study of food and foodways, Shields became a full-time faculty member at The American University of Paris in 2012. In her PhD dissertation, she uses discourse and narrative as analytic frames for exploring the relationship between food and identity in France and the United States, and maintains a strong interest in the cross-national comparison of foodways. More recently, building from her interest in gastronomic discourse, she started a collaborative ethnographic research project aimed at exploring the manner in which terroir and quality, are understood and experienced in practice by the various actors involved in the “Terroir Program” of the Comté cheese cooperative in the Jura Massif region of France.


  • PhD, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales
  • MA, New York University
  • BA, Northwestern University


  • “Mastering French Cuisine, Espousing French Identity: The Transformation Narratives of American Wives of Frenchmen,” The Anthropology of Food (Special Issue entitled “Migrations, Food Practices and Social Relations”), December 2010.
  • Rozin, P., Fischler, C., Shields-Argelès, C., “Additivity dominance:  Additives are more potent and more often lexicalized across languages than are ‘subtractives’,” Judgement and Decision Making, Vol. 4, No. 6 (October 2009): 475-478.
  • “Alimentation et Identité Nationale: le soi et l’autre en France et aux Etats-Unis.” In Fischler, C. and Masson, E. (eds.), Manger : Français, Européens et Américains face à l’alimentation. Paris: Odile Jacob, 2008.
  • “Célébrer la fin du sevrage: A propos du texte de Jean-Pierre Winter.” In M. Szejer (ed.), L’art de nourrir les bébés. Paris: Albin Michel, 2008.
  • Rozin, P., Fischler, C., Shields-Argelès, C and Masson, E., “Attitudes towards large numbers of choices in the food domain: A cross-cultural study of five countries in Europe and the United States,” Appetite, Vol. 1, No. 5 (2006) : 304-308.
  • “Imagining the Self and the Other: Food and Identity in France and the United States”, Food, Culture and Society, Vol. 7, No. 1 (2004):14-28. (Winner of the ASFS 2003 McIntosh Graduate Student Paper Award).
  • Rozin, P., Fischler, C., Kabnick, K., Pete, E., Shields-Argelès, C., “The ecology of eating: smaller portion sizes in France than in the United States help explain the French paradox,” Psychological Science, 14, 5 (September 2003):450-454.

Conferences & Lectures

  • “Play vs. Plaisir: Comparative Perspectives on Food Pleasures in the United States and France”, presented at Crossroads in Cultural Studies, Paris, July 2-6, 2012.
  • “Epouser la cuisine et l’identité française : récits de transformation d’Américaines mariées à des Français”, presented at research seminar Alimentation, corps et santé, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, January 16, 2011.
  • “Les calories, le corps et le contôle de soi : analyse du discours nutritionnel aux Etats-Unis,” presented at the Sixième Rencontre du Groupe de Réflexion sur l’Obésité et le Surpoids, Paris, November 6-8, 2008.
  • “Gastronomic Discourse in Contemporary France”, presented at the Joint Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) and the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society (AFHVS) entitled Resilient Culinary Cultures:  Disaster, Innovation and Change in Foodscapes, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, June 4-8 2008.
  • “Lost in Translation:  Le goût et le plaisir selon les cultures,” presented at an interdisciplinary conference entitled Questions du Goût, organized by the Centre de Linguistique Appliquée of the Université de Franche-Comté, Besançon, France, April 30, 2008.
  • “Terroir en ville”, presented at Tourisme, Terroir et Gastronomie, hosted by the Université Lumière Lyon 2 and organized in conjuction with Université du Québec à Montréal,  Lyon, France, December 3, 2007.
  • “Discours et représentations alimentaires: comparaison France-USA”, presented at a European Summer University entitled Food histories and cultures:  Diverse approaches, organized by the François Rabelais University of Tours and the European Institute for Food History,  Tours, France, September 14-21, 2003.
  • “Imagining the Self and the Other:  Food and Identity in France and the United States,” presented at the annual ASFS/AFHVS conference entitled Local Democracy: Sustaining Healthy Communities through Ethical, Sustainable Food Systems, Austin, Texas, USA, June 12-15, 2003.
  • “Le Soi et l’Autre en France et aux Etats-Unis : Constructions identitaires et modernité alimentaire”, paper presented at an International Symposium entitled Food, Body, Health, organized by the Centre Edgar Morin and OCHA, Paris, France, September 25, 2002.
  • “France-USA :  le poids de la culture ?”, paper presented with Claude Fischler and Estelle Masson at the 7e Journée Nationale de l’Obésité Infantile, Paris, December 1, 2001.


  • American Anthropological Association (AAA)
  • Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS)
  • Centre Edgar Morin (CEM) of the Institut interdisciplinaire d’anthropologie du contemporain (iiAC-CNRS)

Research Areas

* Cultural perspectives 

* Cross-national, cross-cultural research 

* Ethnographic Research (Participant-Observation, In-depth Interviewing, Collaborative Research) 

* French Culture and Society 

* Anthropology of Food and the Senses 

* Anthropology of Health and the Body 

* Taste and Terroir, Taste and Place 

* Food and Identity 

* Cultural Perspectives on Cheese 

* Ritual and Symbol

1. Cross-national comparison of foodways (focus on France and the United States)

For her dissertation research Shields worked closely with French sociologist Claude Fischler and American psychologist Paul Rozin on an interdisciplinary, trans-cultural study of « food, health and identity » in Europe and the United States. Within the frame of this study, Shields focused on a Franco-American comparison using focus groups, semi-structured interviews and in-depth life history interviews. While a portion of this work has been published (see Shields 2004, 2008, 2010), Shields is currently working on additional publications stemming from this data. She is particularly interested in using discourse and narrative as analytic frames within cross-national studies to account for and examine the important relationships between food and identity, self and other, language and practice.

2. Taste as activity, taste as place

In new series of projects, Shields is interested in approaching taste, not only as an integral part of a larger food discourse (as she does in her gastronomic discourse research), or as the reproduction of social class (à la Bourdieu), but as a collective, framed and reflexive activity through which we build relationships with objects (such as food) and with other people. From this perspective she will explore, in particular, the relationship between taste, place and identity in two very different contexts within contemporary France.

2a. Comté cheese, taste and terroir 

In February 2012, Shields began work on a collaborative ethnographic research project focused on the elaboration and use of Comté's "Wheel of Aromas" as well as the related “Jury de Terroir” (terroir tasting panels). This research will contribute to on-going academic discussions concerned with the relationship between taste and place, on the one hand, and taste as reflexive practice, on the other.

2b. Taste, place and belonging in Belleville

Belleville is a mythic working-class neighborhood in the northeast of Paris, and while various forms of gentrification are clearly visible, the area is still home to an extremely diverse population, with important immigrant populations from countries in Northern and Western Africa, China and Turkey, among others. Shields, who has been a resident of this neighborhood for the past twelve years, is now in the early stages of defining a collaborative ethnographic project with a local artist aimed at combining ethnography and the arts in order to study the imbrication of food, place and belonging in this strongly cosmopolitan section of Paris. Drawing from recent academic explorations of food, place and the senses in the city, they aim to examine how, in contrast to the Jura, belonging is not grounded in a terroir, but constructed instead through the meeting and movement of people, foods and cuisines.