The Anthropology of Food

Module code: 001AU
Level 6
30 credits in spring semester
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Dissertation

Food is at the centre of contemporary debates on social and cultural processes. This module is designed to explore how and why it has become an increasing focus in academic debates, the media, and people's lives. An important part of this is the way food intersects with a huge range of ideas and practices at different levels, from intimate and personal engagement through the body, memory and the senses, to transnational economic and political processes. While there has long been a body of work on food as a medium for constructing self-identities and forging and maintaining social relations, in recent years there has been increasing attention paid to food as a focus for activism, ethical consumption, and the realization of social and political values. The module will look at and problematize different aspects of food, encompassing production, exchange and consumption. We will cover topics as diverse as agrarian transformations, organics, certifications and traceability, markets, class differentiation through consumption, nutrition and health. In so doing the module will use anthropological perspectives to unpack how food has come to symbolize sociality, but also to consider the tensions, conflicts and debates that have emerged ¿ both in private and public life ¿ over the values and moralities that different food chains engender. Assessment: 7,000 word dissertation

Module learning outcomes

  • demonstrate knowledge of key themes in the anthropology of food
  • show awareness of how these key themes relate to wider debates on politics, material culture and consumption within anthropology
  • demonstrate knowledge of ethnographic and cross-cultural case studies of food
  • use ethnographic data to illustrate, interrogate and/or critique different theoretical approaches to food, including those that relate social/cultural values to money/market values
  • carry out independent research on the anthropology of food, including devising original research questions, collecting and analysing relevant data, and developing independent conclusions