Food and Cultural Studies

Food and Cultural Studies

Food and Cultural Studies

Food and Cultural Studies

Synopsis

What and how we eat are two of the most persistent choices we face in everyday life. Whatever we decide on though, and however mundane our decisions may seem, they will be inscribed with information both about ourselves and about our positions in the world around us. Yet, food has only recently become a significant and coherent area of inquiry for cultural studies and the social sciences. Food and Cultural Studies re-examines the interdisciplinary history of food studies from a cultural studies framework, from the semiotics of Barthes and the anthropology of Levi-Strauss to Elias' historical analysis and Bourdieu's work on the relationship between food, consumption and cultural identity. The authors then go on to explore subjects as diverse as food and nation, the gendering of eating in, the phenomenon of TV chefs, the ethics of vegetarianism and food, risk and moral panics.

Excerpt

This book came out of our experience of team-teaching a new module, The Culture of Food, which had been motivated by a shared realization that our leisure time was increasingly dominated by eating, cooking and shopping for food. Soon after the module was conceived, there appeared a flurry of books such as David Bell and Gill Valentine's Consuming Geographies (1997), Alan Beardsworth and Theresa Keil's Sociology on the Menu (1997), Alan Warde's Consumption, Food and Taste (1997) and Carole Counihan and Penny van Esterik's reader Food and Culture (1997). From different disciplinary perspectives, all of these books seemed to be the product of a particular cultural enthusiasm and we became increasingly interested in its relation to the interdisciplinary field of cultural studies. In our discussions of the shape of the module, we were struck by how food had periodically surfaced as an object of interest in cultural studies, yet had never really developed as an area of study. Our decision to explore these issues resulted in this book, and one way of reading it is as an introduction to 'doing' cultural studies through the examination of food cultures.

The book is organized around a series of discrete chapters which foreground some of the key issues in food-cultural studies. We hope it offers an introduction to some key theoretical frameworks for understanding food cultures while, at the same time, developing new ideas through a series of case studies. If there is an underlying thread running through all the chapters, then it is probably the idea of a circuit of culture, developed first by Richard Johnson (1986) and subsequently used and refined by Peter Jackson (1992) and the Open University Culture, Media and Identities team (Du Gay et al., 1997). The meaning or 'life story' of any food cultural phenomenon - a foodstuff, a diet, table manners - needs to be understood in relation to five major cultural processes: production, regulation, representation, identity and consumption. For example, the bacon butty we might decide to eat at lunch has

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