Food and the Status Quest: An Interdisciplinary Perspective

Food and the Status Quest: An Interdisciplinary Perspective

Food and the Status Quest: An Interdisciplinary Perspective

Food and the Status Quest: An Interdisciplinary Perspective


The use of food to negotiate status is found in all human societies. Here, for the first time, a single book brings together contributions from different disciplines to investigate, from ethological and anthropological perspectives, behavior that appears to have biological roots such as the tendency to seek status through the medium of food. It explores the limits that our biological heritage places on cultural expressions of such behavior, as well as the multiplicity of ways in which biologically based tendencies can be transformed by culture. Finally, it addresses the impact of status-seeking on nutritional programs in developing countries.

Polly Wiessner and Wulf Schiefenhövel are Senior Research Fellows at the Forschungsstellefür Humanethologie, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft.


Wulf Schiefenhövel

F ood, like sex, satisfies a primary need of humans and consequently lies at the crossroad of biology and culture. In this strategic position, it presents many interesting facets. Food and nutrition considered from the viewpoint of both social and biological sciences have been the focus of interest of the European Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, under the coordination of Igor de Garine of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. The founding meeting was held in New Delhi, India in 1978 at the International Congress of Anthropological and Ethological Sciences. Since then sixteen other symposia have been held, each with a different topic: uncertainty in food supply; cultural and physiological aspects of fatness; food sharing; seasonality of food supply; nutritional problems of the elderly; children's food traditions; the formation of the Mediterranean diet; food preference and taste; food tradition and innovation, etc.

The present volume is the outcome of one of these symposia convened by Polly Wiessner and me at Ringberg Castle of the Max Planck Society at Lake Tegernsee in Bavaria. Together with the authors of this volume, the following colleagues contributed: Serge Bahuchet, Renate Edelhofer, Mark Eggerman, Isabel Gonzales Turmo, Geoffrey Harrison, Adel den Hartog, Helen Macbeth, Marianne Oertl, Jana Parizkové, Armin Prinz, Detlev Ploog, Khosrow Saidi, Frank Salter, and Vasile Zamfirescu.

The use of food to enhance status has been the subject of excellent studies, many of which are discussed in this volume, but little has been done to put this topic into a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary perspective. However, research in human ethology, anthropology . . .

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