4.314/5 | Advanced Workshop in Artistic Practice and Transdisciplinary Research – Chocolate Factory: An Ethnography of Global Relations

Instructor: Azra Aksamija

TA: Zhexi Zhang

This course is a transdisciplinary experiment in teaching and learning about the global embeddedness of everyday objects, exploring the world through the lens of a chocolate bite. It takes you on a journey from the Taza Chocolate factory in Cambridge to the food of the gods in ancient Mayan and Aztec ceremonies; from the childhood memories of Easter eggs and Hanukkah coins, to the pralines filled with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp’s romance in a small French village; from sweetness and stickiness, to obesity and toothaches, facemasks and medicines for indigestion, rheumatism and insomnia; from the history of colonialism and slavery, to contemporary trafficking and child labor in Western Africa; from Tootsie Rolls on Main Street and gentrification of Kendall Square, to the study of social entrepreneurship and fair trade policies; from the micro-scale social life of cacao bacteria to the macro-scale of the social and environmental cost of the global chocolate industry; from critical art, bio-design, and the craft of mould-making to the creation of your own chocolate art-science-technology project.

Inspired by Donna Haraway’s inquisitive method of implosion, we will first engage in a sensory exploration of chocolate, to then move toward a deconstruction of its many meanings and global connections through a range of analytical dimensions: artistic, cultural, political, economic, symbolic, historical, material, biological, technological, and educational. The course offers the opportunity to engage with art as a critical research tool and as a means for addressing the social, cultural, and ecological consequences of technology, build bridges between industry and culture, and challenge the boundaries between public and private, and human and non-human. Working on individual and group projects geared towards the disciplinary interests of the students, we will disassemble and reassemble the links between the facts, actions, and people in the world of chocolate to understand and reimagine the world we live in today. In this class, Willy Wonka’s creative genius will guide us toward a utopian factory of imaginaries seeking a better future.

Additional work required of students taking the graduate version. Limited to 20. Students taking a production-based ACT class will be charged a $75 lab fee after the add date on a semester basis. The fee covers the cost of student production materials used as part of the class. SMACT graduate students are exempt from the lab fee.  


  • Lab Fee: 75
  • Credit: u: hass-e, hass-a
  • Schedule: TR 2-5
    Location: e15-207