Food and Globalization: Consumption, Markets and Politics in the Modern World

Food and Globalization: Consumption, Markets and Politics in the Modern World

Food and Globalization: Consumption, Markets and Politics in the Modern World

Food and Globalization: Consumption, Markets and Politics in the Modern World

Synopsis

Food has a special significance in the expanding field of global history. Food markets were the first to become globally integrated, linking distant cultures of the world, and in no other area have the interactions between global exchange and local cultural practices been as pronounced as in changing food cultures. In this wide-ranging and fascinating book, the authors provide an historical overview of the relationship between food and globalization in the modern world. Together, the chapters of this book provide a fresh perspective on both global history and food studies. As such, this book will be of interest to a wide range of students and scholars of history, food studies, sociology, anthropology and globalization.

Excerpt

Alexander Nützenadel and Frank Trentmann

Food and globalization are inseparable. Since ancient times long-distance trade has involved staple foods and luxury products such as wine, tea, coffee, rice, spices and dried fish. Securing greater access to food was a driving force behind colonial expansion and imperial power. Food markets were the first to become globally integrated, linking distant areas and cultures of the world. In no other area have the interactions between global exchange and local practices been as discernible as in changing food cultures. Food consumption plays a crucial role in the construction of local and national identities and in the changing self-understanding of social groups, migrants and ethnic communities. But food consumption and distribution have also been major arenas of political contention and social protest, ranging from demands for food entitlements and social citizenship to distributional conflicts between producers and consumers, from movements for 'free trade' to those championing 'fair trade'. Yet in much of the literature on 'globalization' food has played little more than a Cinderella role, marginalized and subordinated to the leading cast of financial markets, migration, communication and transnational political cooperation.

Food has played a distinctive role in the course of globalization, arguably at least as important as those of finance, transport, and industry, which tend to dominate writing on the subject. Human societies can manage without money, telegraph cables, or cotton goods. They cannot go without food. Food is a necessity of human existence. It concerns culture as well as calories. In the 1960s Lévi-Strauss singled out food as a way of decoding the unconscious attitudes of a society. Since then, anthropologists have moved away from a structuralist reading of food, stressing instead processes of internal differentiation as well as the influence of external factors like political economy. Food helps to order and classify social norms and relations – dogmeat on a plate may be a sign of impurity and barbarism in some cultures, a tasty delicatessen in another. These orders are unstable, with room for change over time, as well as subject to internal differentiation. Still, it is possible to highlight certain properties and mechanisms that make food such a central and contested medium in the history of globalization. Most existentially, food is about survival. Unlike any other commodity traded through global networks, food becomes part of our human body and selves. 'You cannot eat money' – nor can . . .

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