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Subnatural Histories from Buildings to Palates

A Conversation with David Gissen and Ashley Rose Young
September 9th, 2014
5:00 PM


Subnatures are those forms of nature – or the human corruption of – it deemed filthy, fearsome, or uncontrollable. David Gissen originally defined and applied this concept within the field of architecture to identify a series of practices that engage with subnature as both provocation and critique. During this talk, David Gissen and Ashley Rose Young pushed the boundaries of subnature beyond the study of space and place, exploring how this concept can inform other disciplines ranging from ecology to food studies. Attendees had the opportunity to taste historic street foods that enhanced their understandings of the dank, dark, and delicious subnature foods that have made up the underbelly of famous American cuisines for centuries.

In addition to a culinary historical reenactment, the lunch included “subnatural” food selections by caterers Maggie Radzwiller and Phoebe Lawless, and sample specialties from Duke’s campus smokehouse.

David Gissen, a professor at the California College of the Arts, is a historian, theorist, critic and curator of architecture and urbanism.

Ashley Rose Young is a doctoral student at Duke University working on food culture in nineteenth-century New Orleans.

This event was part of a larger series at Duke, Subnature and Culinary Culture, organized by Humanities Writ Large Visiting Faculty Fellow Thomas Parker. For more information, visit