Publication Date

May 29, 2018

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily


  • Asia


Food & Foodways

Nicole Tarulevicz is senior lecturer of history and of Asian studies at the University of Tasmania (Australia). She lives in Hobart, Tasmania, and has been a member since 2005. 


Nicole Tarulevicz is senior lecturer of history and Asian studies at the University of Tasmania (Australia).

Nicole Tarulevicz is senior lecturer of history and Asian studies at the University of Tasmania (Australia).

Alma maters: BA, University of Auckland (New Zealand), 1996; PgradDip, University of Melbourne (Australia), 1997; MA, University of Melbourne, 1999; PhD, University of Melbourne, 2004

Fields of interest: Southeast Asia, Singapore, nationalism, British Empire, food

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? My career path has been marked by change. As an undergraduate student, I aimed for a career in law. But I joined a good friend in a class on the history of Asia—a great strength of the University of Auckland in that moment—and was thus forever lost to the legal profession. A decade of living and learning and teaching in Melbourne, Australia, intellectually immersed in Singapore historiography, led, perhaps somewhat improbably, to a tenure-track position at Cleveland State University (Ohio). Teaching US veterans and future social studies teachers, writing NCATE reports, and shopping at the West Side Market was tremendously rewarding. In 2010, I left my lovely CSU colleagues and accepted a position at the University of Tasmania, teaching Asian studies, Southeast Asian history, world history, British Empire, and food history.

What do you like the most about where you live and work? My colleagues in history have been warm and welcoming. One of the delights of my current position is that I have had the opportunity to work with a number of PhD students. In the Australian system being a supervisor (PhD advisor) involves working closely with students for three to four years on their thesis (dissertation), with great teaching and learning opportunities. In addition, Tasmania is Australia’s island state, and the generally temperate climate and microclimate-friendly terrain make the Sunday Farm Gate Market a seasonal delight all around the year.

What projects are you currently working on? My current work explores how Singapore, as a free port and historic crossroads of trade, exemplifies and presages various elements of globalized food systems, currently and specifically including the ideas, practices, and institutions historically connected to constructions of food safety.

Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how? Singapore is a foodie delight, so it may be unsurprising that my research interests have shifted from the cultural-political to the critical lessons of food history. As a teacher, I strive for improvement in every section of every course unit but the greatest changes have been driven by my uses of the Reacting to the Past role-playing pedagogy.

What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research?Early 20th-century Jell-O advertisements at the Culinary Collection at the University of Michigan, found while I was looking for a milk advertisements. I cannot really lay claim to “finding” them as the then-culinary archivist, JJ Jacobson, suggested I look in the file box, and I suspect she knew the material would capture my imagination, which it did, the end result was this exhibition:

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?I recommend Jeffery Pilcher’s Sausage Rebellion: Public Health, Private Enterprise, and Meat in Mexico City, 1890–1917 (New Mexico, 2006) for AHA readers interested in how food can provide a critical window to broader historical questions. As a non-American, I am always looking for things to help me make sense of America, and I recommend Kristin L. Hoganson’s Consumers’ Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity, 1865–1920 (North Carolina, 2007).

What do you value most about the history discipline? I particularly appreciate the inclusion of everyday life in history. That is, I value history formulated so as to include the structures and methods that allow rigorous thinking and writing about those fascinating tidbits that are nearly indistinguishable from gossip. For me, historical thinking is not just something that I do at work, it is something that helps me make sense of the world around me, and lets me justify my nosiness as professional curiosity.

Why is membership in the AHA important to you? My first AHA meeting was as a graduate student on the job market. Since then I have been invited to join panels, stood in elevators with scholars that have shaped my work, met collaborative partners, and more recently, organized panels and taken my own graduate students to the conference. If anything, my AHA membership is even more important to me now that I am not working in the United States—it helps me stay connected to US colleagues and professional trends and to think about being part of a community of historians that goes beyond nation states. Also, I adore having a personal copy of AHR to mark-up as I see fit.

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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Matthew Keough
Matthew Keough

American Historical Association