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Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education
Davis Humanities Institute
227 Voorhies
University of California, Davis
(530) 574-8459

American Studies
2133 Hart Hall


University of California Davis
Program in American Studies
Director, Davis Humanities Institute (2007 to present)
Professor (appointment 7.1.10)
Associate Professor (appointment 7.1.05)
Assistant Professor (appointment 7.1.01)
Affiliated Faculty, History Department (as of fall 2010)


Children: Sofia (12/3/00) and Eva (2/9/03)




Series Editor

  • Science/Technology/Culture, with Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Massachusetts Press (launched 2008).
    • Aram Sinnreich, Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture (August 2010).

Book Reviews

  • Review of Health and Medicine on Display: International Expositions in the United States, 1876-1904, American Studies (forthcoming Fall 2010).
  • Review of The Garlic Capital of the World: Gilroy, Garlic, and Making of a Festive Foodscape, Food, Culture, and Society, v.13, n.1 (March 2010): 145-6.
  • Review of Virtual America in Western Historical Review, v. 40, n. 4 (Winter 2009): 513-4.
  • Review of House of Plenty: The Rise, Fall and Revival of Luby's in American Book Review, v. 29, n. 3 (2008): 31.
  • Review of The Cult of Pharmacology: How America Became the World's Most Troubled Drug Culture in Technology and Culture v. 48, n. 3 (2007): 668-670.
  • Review of Dominance by Design: Technological Imperatives and America's Civilizing Mission in American Historical Review (April 2007): 493-494.
  • Review of Inventing Beauty: A History of the Innovations that have Made Us Beautiful in Journal of Design History, v.18 , n. 4 (2005): 401-2.
  • Review of Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-ray in American Historical Review, v. 110, no. 3 (June 2005): 806-7.
  • Review of Body Work, Revolting Bodies, Fat Boys in American Studies, v. 46, n. 2 (Summer 2005): 174-6.
  • "Consumption By Design," Review of Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World in Business History Review, Harvard Business School, v. 78, n.3 (Autumn 2004): 554.

Edited Journals

  • “Food Globalities and Foodways Localities,” with Benjamin Lawrance, special double issue of Food and Foodways, with v. 19, n. 1-2 (2011), forthcoming February 2011.
  • Co-Editor of Boom: A Journal of California, forthcoming from UC Press in February 2011, with Louis Warren.
  • Re-Wiring the Nation: The Place of Technology in American Studies, with Siva Vaidhyanathan, special issue of American Quarterly, 2006.

Encyclopedia Contributions


  • Book of the Year Prize, Association for the Study of Food and Society (for Empty Pleasures)
  • Work and the Humanities, Mellon Foundation Grant to UC Humanities Network, May 2011 (one of three PIs, 800k grant)
  • Mellon Research Initiatives in the Humanities, Grant to Humanities at UC Davis, March 2011 (co-author of grant, funding for 2011-2017, 1.5 million grant)
  • Imagining America Fellow, Imagining America Consortium: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, 2010-2011
  • Principal Investigator, “The Said and Unsaid: Reclaiming Civility on Campus,” National Endowment for the Humanities, September 2010 (Project PI, Davis Humanities Institute Project, 30k + campus match)
  • Chancellor’s Fellow, UC Davis, 2008-2013 (25k research support)
  • Principal Investigator, 2008 UC Multi Campus Research Group, Food and the Body (between UCD, UCB, UCSC, housed at UC Davis, 3 year 85k funding through 2012)
  • Recipient, 2008 UC Davis Extension and Outreach, Community-Scholar Collaboration Grant (one year 8k funding for web-based collaboration, co-proposed with Jonathan London)
  • Recipient, 2008 UC Humanities Research Institute 20th Anniversary Conference Award, “Environmental Humanities” (5k for 2009 event at DHI)
  • Recipient, 2007 Chemical Heritage Foundation Travel Grant (one week)
  • Recipient, 2006-2007 Professional Development Grant, UC Davis (one quarter)
  • 2006-2007 UC Humanities Research Institute Fellow, Race and Food Group (one quarter)
  • Recipient, 2005-2006 Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Mentoring, UC Davis
  • Recipient, 2005-2006 Washington D.C. Center Research Grant, UC Davis (one week)
  • 2005-2006 UC Davis Humanities Institute Fellow, Food and Culture Group (one quarter)
  • Finalist, 2004-2005 UC Davis ASUCD Distinguished Teaching Award
  • Recipient, 2004-2005 Hagley Center for Business History Short-Term Grant (two weeks)
  • Recipient, 2001-2008 UC Davis Faculty Research Awards


  • Society of Fellows, first annual symposium of faculty and graduate student fellows in the humanities across the University of California System, University of California, Irvine, April 29, 2011 (co-organized).
  • Beyond Borders: Migration and the Next California, second annual Boom symposium and launch party for Boom: A Journal of California, Mondavi Center, UC Davis, March 10, 2011.
  • Failed State? Crisis and Renewal in California Politics and Culture, co-sponsored by Boom, the New America Foundation, and the California Studies Association, UC Davis, April 16, 2010.
  • Tasting Histories: Food and Drink Cultures Through the Ages, Robert Mondavi Institute of Food and Wine Science (with MRGs in World History and Food and the Body), February 27- March 1, 2009.
  • Performance, Identity, Representation: New Modes of Research in the Humanities, DHI graduate student symposium, UC Davis, May 2008 (with DHI staff and graduate student assistants).
  • Beyond the Book: Humanities Scholarship in the Digital Age, DHI Conference, UC Davis, February 1, 2008 (with DHI staff and graduate student assistants)
  • Founding Food Studies, UC Davis, May 3, 2006.


  • Boom: A Journal of California—Academic Publishing and the Question of Change, American Studies Association, San Antonio, November 2010 (forthcoming).
  • Boom and the Future of Academic Publishing, Pacific Coast American Historical Association, Santa Clara, August 2010.
  • Reading Michael Adas: Perspectives on War, Technology, and the Transnational, American Studies Association, New Mexico, October 2008.
  • Food Factories: Exploring the Appeal of Technological Tourism, American Studies Association, D.C., November 2005. Individual Presentation: Mechanized Southern Comfort: Labor, Consumption, and Technology at Krispy Kreme.
  • Marketing, Branding, and Consumer Choice, American Studies Association, Atlanta, November 2004. Individual Presentation: Saccharin and Consumer Desire in the 1950s.
  • Kitchens, Chapels, and Prada: Consumer Spaces and Global Exchange. American Studies Association, 2003. Individual Presentation: Decoding the Prada GPS.


  • "Boom: A Forum on California Writing," Autrey Museum, Los Angeles, June 2011.
  • "Tomato Men: Technology and Expertise in the Mechanization of California's Tomato Harvest," Conable Conference on Cuisine, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, March 25, 2011.
  • "From Healthy to Horrible: What the History of Artificial Sweeteners Reveals about Sugar," Sugar Highs and Lows: Dietary Sugars, the Brain, and Metabolic Outcomes (University of California Conference on Health and Obesity), UC Davis, March 17, 2011
  • Moderator, “In the Field: Producing Food for Tomorrow,” Food for Tomorrow Conference, New Perspectives: Invention and Innovation Symposium, Lemelson Center, Smithsonian, Washington D.C., November 6, 2010 (forthcoming).
  • “Free Lunch or Techno-Fix: Appetite, Artificial Sweetener, and What Mother Nature Intended, U.S. 1951-1987,” German Historians’ Conference, September 30, 2010, Berlin.
  • “State of the Field: Food History,” Organization of American Historians, Seattle, Washington, March 2009.
  • “What Cultural History Tells Us About Consumer Health (the case of artificial sweetener), Foods For Health in the 21st Century: A Roadmap for the Future, UC Davis Centennial Symposia, UC Davis, November 18 2008.
  • “Full Belly Panic: Diet Food and the Consumer Imperative in 1950s America,” Association for the Study of Food and Society, New Orleans, June 2008.
  • "The Place of Science and Technology Studies in American Studies," American Studies Association, Philadelphia, October 2007.
  • "Placing Eating Risks in an Environmental Context: The Saccharin Rebellion of 1977, Association of American Geographers Conference, San Francisco, April 2007.


  • Thinking About Culture: Or How "Diet" Came to Mean More, Solano Dormitory Faculty Forum, May 25, 2011.
  • "Selling the Free Lunch: One Hundred Years of Artificial Sweeteners," University of Santa Barbara, May 4, 2011.
  • "Tomato Men: Technology and Expertise in the Mechanization of California's Tomato Harvest," Cuisine, Technology, and Development Conference, Rochester Institute of Technology, March 25, 2011.
  • "From Healthy to Horrible: What the History of Artificial Sweeteners Reveals about Sugar," Sugar Highs and Lows: Dietary Sugars, the Brain, and Metabolic Outcomes," Coast/UCOP Obesity Symposium, UC Davis, March 17, 2011.
  • "Artificial Sweetener, Cultural History, and the Rise of the "Diet" Business," UC Office of the President Research Lunch Series, Oakland, February 9, 2011.
  • "Why Diet Food Doesn't Work," Grand Opening: Winery, Brewery, and Food, Robert Mondavi Institute of Food and Wine Science, UC Davis, January 28, 2011.
  • "Empty Pleasures: Artificial Sweetener and the Rise of Indulgent Restraint," Culinary Historians of Northern California, San Francisco (Reading at Omnivore Books), January 13, 2011.
  • "Artificial Sweetener and the Business of 'Healthy Pleasures,'" Health Services Research Seminar, Center for Healthcare Policy and Research, UC Davis, Sacramento, December 9, 2010.
  • "Why the Humanities Needs A Center," Dean's Colloquium, UC San Diego, December 1, 2010.
  • “Three Stories You Don’t Know About Artificial Sweeteners, but Should,” Shields Library, University of California, Davis, October 15, 2010.
  • "Empty Pleasures: Gender, Technology and Knowledge in the Promotion of and Protest Against Artificial Sweetener in the United States,” Nutrition, Eating and Drinking in the History of Medicine, Science, and Technology, Combined Conference of the German Society for the History of Medicine, Natural Science and Technology and German History of Technology, Maastricht University, Netherlands, September 25, 2010.
  • "Innovation, Identity, and Artificial Sweetener Promotion in the Post-War U.S. " Invited speaker, Science Studies Colloquium, University of California, San Diego, March 2010.
  • "Why Canners Created Diet Food ," keynote address, Letters and Sciences Celebration, University of California at Davis, February 2010.
  • "Without Removing the Pleasure: What Made Tillie the Queen of Diet Food," Tillie Lewis Day, Haggin Museum, Stockton, October 25, 2009.
  • "Making More Out of Less: Entrepreneurs, Identity, and Consumer Citizenship in Early Artificial Sweetener Promotion," Cultural Studies Colloquium, September 25, 2009.
  • Artificial Opportunities: Affiliation and Masculinity in Early Artificial Sweetener Production,” Graduate Student Symposium Address, American Studies, University of Texas at Austin, April 2009.
  • “From Consumption to Production to Ecology: Past, Present, and Future Technoidentities,” keynote address, Mid-America American Studies Association, University of Iowa, April 2009.
  • "The Business of Diet Food: Abbott Laboratories and the Sucaryl Campaign," Hagley Museum and Library Research Seminar Series, Wilmington, DE, March 2008.
  • "It's All in How We Define Technology: Bringing Gender, Race, and Power to the Center of SHOT, Society for the History of Technology 50th Anniversary Workshop address, Washington D.C., October 2007.
  • "What the Humanities Can Teach us About Teaching," lunch speaker, Summer Institute of Teaching with Technology, UC Davis, July 2007.
  • "Living A Life of Research," Keynote address, UC Davis Undergraduate Research Conference, April 2007.
  • "Material Culture, Technology, and Popular Medical Cultures," guest lecture, Chinese Medicine and the Body Course, UC Berkeley, May 2006.
  • "What Makes the Donuts Taste So Good? Understanding Technology at Krispy Kreme," campus lecture, Minnesota StateUniversity Moorhead, American Studies, April 2006.
  • "Mechanized Southern Comfort: Touring the Technological South at Krispy Kreme," Dixie Emporium: Consumerism, Tourism, and Memory in the American South, Macon, GA, October 2005; American Historical Association, Philadelphia.
  • "Technology and Material Culture," UC Berkeley Material Culture Working Group, May 2005.
  • "Materials of Culture: Saccharin, Science and Gender in the 1950s," Beyond Consumption: The Culture of Food and Wine, Davis Humanities Institute Conference, March 2005.
  • "Saccharin and Post-War Domestic Science," Consortium for Women and Research, UC Davis, November 2004.


  • Participant, "Envisioning Cuisine Studies," Plenary Discussion, Conable Conference on Cuisine, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, March 25, 2011.
  • Participant, "Food Anxieties: A Symposium on the Question of 'What to Eat,'" MultiCampus Research Program on Food and the Body Conference, Bonny Doon Vineyard and UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, March 14, 2011.
  • Moderator, "An Informed Society," Democracy and the Culture of Civic Conversation, California Council for the Humanities Forum, Los Angeles, March 4, 2011.
  • Artificial Sweetener, American Studies, and the Rise of the "Diet" Business, American Studies 10: Introduction to American Studies, UC Davis, February 24, 2011.
  • Research and Methods: Q and A on Empty Pleasures and American Studies, Upper Division Course: Theory and Methods in American Studies, Carleton College, February 22, 2011.
  • Recent Trends in Journal Publishing, Cultural Studies Workshop, February 17, 2011.
  • Writing the Prospectus, Cultural Studies Workshop, February 18, 2010.
  • Job Interview Practice Session, Cultural Studies Workshop, November 2009.
  • UC Multi Campus Research Program on Food and the Body, Dissertation Retreat Facilitator, Sonoma, November 21-22, 2009.
  • Writing Effective Abstracts, Graduate Student Roundtable, UC Davis, January 2009.
  • UC Multi Campus Research Program on Food and the Body, Dissertation Retreat Facilitator, Calistoga, September 14-15, 2008.
  • “Diet Divas: Female Sweetener Entrepreneurs and the Promotion of Diet Foods in the U.S.,” Multi Campus Research Group working papers series, UC Santa Cruz, April 2008.
  • Effective graduate student mentoring in the humanities and social sciences, Faculty roundtable, UC Davis, April 2008.
  • Prospectus Writing, Cultural Studies Graduate Group Colloquium Series, UC Davis, March 2007.
  • Material Culture in American Studies, Graduate Student Workshop Speaker, American Studies Conference, Oakland, October 2006.


  • Institute for the Future, The Future of Snacking, Palo Alto, August, 2011.
  • Institute for the Future, Global Food Outlook Expert Workshop, Palo Alto, October 21, 2010.
  • California Dairy Council
    • Foods for Health Initiative Group Strategy Session, UC Davis, Spring 2009
    • One-On-One Session, August 2009.

one of three founding bloggers, site launched 10/09, over 11,000 hits as of 10/10

  • Stomach Share, October 29, 2010
  • Slow Food and Less Food, October 22, 2010
  • Food Stamp Soda Ban Means More Coke Zero, October 15, 2010
  • Nourishment and Cookie Dough, September 17, 2010
  • Appetite and the MRI, February 23, 2010
  • The Sustainable Pen, December 11, 2009
  • No Time for the Flu, November 18, 2009
  • The Brand Image and Me, October 27, 2009
  • The Pink, October 20, 2009


  • Chair, UC Davis Humanities Institute Associate Director Search Committee, Winter 2011
  • Member, Research Recommendations Committee, UC Davis, (winter/spring 2011)
  • Participant, One Health Planning Group, UC Davis (2010)
  • Team Member, Discovery & Dissemination Design Team, Strategic Plan Development, UC Davis Health System (2010-2011)
  • Member, Information and Education Technology Review Committee (2010)
  • Chair, UC Humanities Network (2010)
  • Member, Division of Social Sciences Advisory Committee (2009-2010)
  • Member, Chancellor's Blue Ribbon Committee on Research (2009-2010)
  • Member, Vice Provost’s Budget Committee for Instruction and Research (2008-2009)
  • Member, Committee on Research (2008-2009)
  • Member, Executive Committee, Robert Mondavi Institute of Food and Wine Science (2008- 2009)
  • Member, Executive Committee, Foods for Health Initiative (2008-2009)
  • Member, Cultural Studies Admissions Committee (2008-2010)
  • Member, Dean’s Advisory Committee (2006 - 2008, 2002 – 2004)
  • Director, Davis Humanities Institute (2007 – present)
  • Director, Humanities Program (2007 – 2009)
  • Coordinator, Multi Campus Research Group on Food and the Body (with UCB, UCSC, UCD) (2007-present)
  • Member, Center for History, Society and Culture Program Committee (2007 – present)
  • Member, Chancellor’s Retreat Implementation Committee (2007 – 2008)
  • Director, American Studies Program (2007- 2008)
  • Chair, Program Review Committee Education MA Review, Grad Council (2006 – 2007)
  • Member, Science and Technology Studies Program Committee (2005 – present)
  • Chair, Education Policy Committee, Grad Council (2005 – 2006)
  • Member, Cultural Studies Executive Committee (2004-2007)
  • Member, Graduate Council (2004 – 2006)
  • Member, Cultural Studies Graduate Group (2001-present)


  • Editorial Board Member, American Quarterly (as of 2011)
  • Advance Book Reviews for University of California and AltaMira Press (2011)
  • Grant Review for the National Endowment for the Humanities, Challenge Grants, 2010.
  • Manuscripts reviewed for University of Georgia Press, Food, Culture, and Society (2010)
  • Member, Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes Sustainability Taskforce (2009)
  • Member, American Studies Association Speakers Bureau (2009-present)
  • Outside reviewer for the following programs: American Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (2009); Humanities Center, Oregon State University (2009)
  • Editorial Board Member, History and Technology (2008-present)
  • Series Editor, with Siva Vaidhyanathan, “Science and Technology in American Culture,” University of Massachusetts Press (launched 2008)
  • Encyclopedia of the Body, advisory board member, Greenwood Press (2008)
  • Outside reader for article submissions to the following journals: American Quarterly (leading journal in American Studies); Food, Culture, and Society (journal for the Assoc. for the Study of Food and Society); Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, Disability Studies Quarterly, Current Anthropology
  • Tenure review (outside) for NYU faculty (2008)
  • Manuscript review for NYU Press, Harvard Press
  • Grant review for Massachusetts Cultural Council Science Panel (2008)
  • Grant review for NSF (2007, 2008)
  • Co-Coordinator, Science and Technology Studies Caucus, American Studies Association (2007-2009)
  • Member, American Studies Association Council (2007-2010)
  • Member, American Studies Association Executive Committee (2007-2010)
  • Grant review, Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Studies Program (Humanities) (2007)


American Studies Association
Organization of American Historians
Association for the Study of Food and Society
Society for the History of Technology
Western Humanities Association
Consortium for Humanities Institutes and Centers
Imagining America


  • Empty Pleasures interview on WICN Radio New England (recorded January 13, 2011).
  • "Saccharin's Mostly Sweet Following," Elena Conis, Los Angeles Times (12/27/10).
  • Empty Pleasures interview on WCUB AM, Manitowic, WI, November 23, 2010.
  • Empty Pleasures interview on This Way Up, Radio New Zealand (recorded November 20, 2010).
  • Empty Pleasures, Interview with Celeste Quinn, WILL Radio, NPR Illinois, November 11, 2010.
  • Empty Pleasures and Artificial Sweetener Use, interview on KPFA (Berkeley), October 26, 2010.
  • “Bitter Truth: ‘Corn Sugar’ Shift is Meant to Confuse Consumers,” Op-Ed, Sacramento Bee, September 25, 2010, 13a.
  • Empty Pleasures interview on Martha Stewart Radio, September 23, 2010.
  • Empty Pleasures interview with Jeffrey Calison, Capital Public Radio (Sacramento), September 13, 2010.
  • “P. 99 Test,” solicited blog post, September 2010
  • Technology and Weight Loss: Artificial Sweetener, Interview with Robert Siegel, “All Tech Considered,” All Things Considered, September 6, 2010.
  • “Ask An Academic: Sweet,” Q and A with Eileen Reynolds, The New Yorker Book Bench, August 31, 2010,
  • “Making the Case for Humanities Majors,” December 2009, Newswatch, UC Davis
  • “Drinking among Young Women on the Rise” CBS Early Show, October 2009.
  • “Old Fashioned Cleaners Sweeping into Homes,” Sacramento Bee (3/7/09).
  • “Field Studies: In Exploring Culture, Politics, and the Environment, Food Programs Hit the Mainstream,” Jane Black, Washington Post (8/20/08).
  • UC Davis Humanities Institute Looks to FutureCollege Currents, Fall 2008.
  • Saccharin and American Culture, Insight, NPR (aired: 3/17/05).
  • Barbie and Branding, Marketplace, NPR (aired: 6/11/04).
  • Listerine Ads and 1920s US Culture, Living on Earth, NPR (aired: 12/03).
  • "Memorializing 9-11," interview aired (9/10/02) KCRA Sacramento.


1996-2001 Ph.D., American Studies, University of Texas at Austin
Dissertation: Powering the Modern Body: Theories of Energy Transfer in American Science, Technology, and Popular Culture, 1870-1945. Committee: Jeffrey Meikle (chair), Linda Henderson, Desley Deacon, Jan Todd, Mark Smith


Material culture, technology and science studies, gender, food studies, business history and corporate cultures, consumer culture (advertising, marketing, branding).


PhD Committees
  • Megan Bayles, Cultural Studies (co-chair)
  • Sarah McCullough, Cultural Studies (co-chair)
  • Daniel Caeton, Cultural Studies (member)
  • Ami Sommariva, Cultural Studies (chair)
  • Stacy Jameson, Cultural Studies (chair)
  • Jee Eun Song, Cultural Studies (chair)
  • Lesley Madsen-Brooks, Cultural Studies (chair) [completed 2007; asst professor of public history, Boise State]

PhD Qualifying Exams
  • Kelly Grove, CST (2012); Megan Bayles, CST (2011); Rosalinda Salazar, English (2011); Tom Galaraga, CST (2011); Sarah Mccullough, Cultural Studies, CST (2010); Daniel Caeton, CST (2010); Ami Sommariva, CST (2009); Stacy Jameson, CST (2008); Jee-Eun Song, CST (2007); Lesley Madsen Brooks, CST (2004)
Undergraduate Theses (American Studies)
  • Marisa Swain, 2011; Stevie Jeung, 2009; Kristine Vandenberg, 2008; Sivan Kovnator, 2008; David Asen, 2007; Alicia Leupp, 2006; Megan Neves, 2006; Eric Covey, 2006; Hilary Costa, 2006; Rebecca Chamow, 2006; Emily Laurel Smith, 2005; Andrew Ramos, 2005; Shelly Crull, 2002
Undergraduate Internships/Independent Studies
  • 2010-2011
  • American Studies Marketing/Communications Internships (5 students)
    UC Davis Humanities Institute Internship (1 student)
    American Studies Marketing Internships (4 students)
  • 2009-2010
    American Studies Marketing Internship (1 student)
    Davis Humanities Institute (1 student)
  • 2007-8, 2008-9, 2009-10
    Corporate Cultures (6 students, total)


AMS 10: Introduction to American Studies
AMS 21: Objects and Everyday Life
AMS 101G: Marketing Products and Places
AMS 125: Corporate Cultures
AMS 155: Symbols and Rituals in American Life (Food)
AMS 158: Technology and the Modern American Body
AMS 160: Marketing and US Culture
AMS 190a: Senior Thesis Workshop
AMS 199: Marketing Internship in American Studies
Cultural Studies (Graduate Course, new): Culture, Knowledge, and Health
HUM 299L: Digital Humanities Seminar





Copyright 2010 Carolyn Thomas