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Hi'ilei Hobart graduated with her PhD in Food Studies in 2016. Read on to learn more about Hi'ilei's professional background, research interests, and the projects she is currently working on.

Hi'ilei Hobart holding a cat.

What was your professional background before coming to NYU?

I had been working professionally as an archivist before coming to NYU; prior to graduate school, I also worked for several years as a project manager for an interior design company.

What inspired you to pursue your PhD and research interests?

To be honest, I had only applied to two programs  the Bard Graduate Center (where I received my MA) and NYU Food Studies. My interest in food and visual culture was so specific that I needed a specific kind of program to support it; simultaneously, I was not confident that I "belonged" in academia and so I did not think about traditional, discipline-specific programs. I saw a PhD as a path to somewhere else, even if I wasn’t sure where that elsewhere might be.  

What was the most influential part of your experience in the PhD program?

The wide-openness of it. Food is such a pervasive element of our everyday that the research pathways can be endless. This pushed me to think deeply about the work that is meaningful to me and the stories that I am personally invested in telling.

Can you tell me about the work you’re doing now? 

I’m currently finishing revisions of my book on the social history of ice in Hawai’i that’s under contract with Duke University Press; I’m teaching in the Anthropology Department at UT Austin; I am doing a number of smaller projects in between that think about the intersections of environment, temperature, and Indigeneity.

What would you consider to be the greatest accomplishment(s) of your career so far? 

I just won a very unexpected award for the “most thought-provoking article in 2019 in the field of Native and Indigenous Studies” for my article in NAIS. That felt really affirming.

Do you have any advice for folks interested in a similar career path?

Put your energies toward intellectual projects that feed you on many levels. It is what will sustain you.

About the PhD in Food Studies

PhD, Food Studies

Our doctoral degree in Food Studies offers an interdisciplinary, research-focused approach to the study of food in its historical and cultural contexts.

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