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.
Aims and Objectives
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:
- To develop a critical understanding of what constitutes ‘food’ from a cultural and comparative perspective.
Section One: Introduction to food studies.
What is food?
What is an anthropological approach to food?
Food and the body: cultural and bio-anthropological approaches.
Food and personhood: how food creates and nourishes persons.
The role of food in ethnicity, national cuisines, migration and global brands.
Section Two: Food through Time.
Why did people move to food production in prehistory?
How do we know what people ate in the past and why they might have chosen it?
Food security in changing worlds: foraging, farming, free-trade, fairtrade.
Section Three: Selected themes
Spices, simulants, fasting and altered states
Proscription, taboos and cannibalism
Sharing, abundance and feasting
Food banks; food waste
Learning and Teaching
Teaching and learning methods
Teaching consists of lectures, seminars and workshops.
Lectures will deliver an introduction to the week’s topics/themes, key ideas and debates, and relevant literatures.
Seminars will be discussion-based and focus on developing a deeper understanding of selected concepts, approaches and issues, by means of engagement with set reading.
Workshops will provide opportunities for guided but largely independent learning and practice of ethnographic methods directed to the investigation of food and culture.
|Preparation for scheduled sessions||24|
|Wider reading or practice||26|
|Completion of assessment task||40|
|Practical classes and workshops||12|
|Total study time||150|
Resources & Reading list
Van der Veen, Marikje (2003). World Archaeology. Luxury Foods, 34(3).
MacClancy, Jeremy (1992). Consuming Culture: why you eat what you eat. New York: Henry Holt.
Rathje, William and Cullen Murphy (1992). Rubbish: The archaeology of garbage. HarperCollins.
Barker, Graeme (2006). The Agricultural Revolution in Prehistory: Why did foragers become farmers?. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Counihan, C. & P. Van Esterik (2013). Food and culture: a reader. Routledge.
Fardon R., O Harris, T.H.J. Marachand, M.Nuttall, C Shore, V. Strong, and R. Wilson (2012). Handbook of Social Anthropology. London: Sage.
Klein J. and J. Watson (2016). The Handbook of Food and Anthropology. London: Bloomsbury.
Hendry, Joy (1999). An Introduction to Social Anthropology. New York: Palgrave.
This is how we’ll formally assess what you have learned in this module.
This is how we’ll assess you if you don’t meet the criteria to pass this module.
Repeat type: Internal & External