Biological science tells us what items in our world are potentially edible, but culture decides what constitutes food. Culture informs us as to whether a specific item is appropriate, appetising, valued, desirable, prohibited, restricted, staple or medicinal. These and other qualities are products of culture not simply the ‘food’ itself. ‘You are what you eat’ illustrates the social dynamics through which identities, relationships, and hierarchies are created, performed and reproduced.
This module examines cultural variation in what constitutes food, drink and medicine in contemporary societies and contexts. We will also look into changing patterns of food acquisition from prehistory into the present.
In particular we will examine how our cultural definitions, discourses, values and practices concerning food act to build, sustain and nourish us as biological bodies, as individually specific persons, and as participants in specific social, cultural, ethnic, national and transnational groups.