This chapter is concerned with the contribution of anthropological approaches to the study of food practices. As Carole Counihan and Penny van Esterik explain, anthropology has traditionally maintained an interest in food 'because of its central role in many cultures' (1997:1), and work within the discipline has sought to explore food from a 'range of symbolic, materialist, and economic perspectives' (1997:2). If, as the anthropologist Edmund Leach observes, the 'subject matter of social anthropology is customary behaviour' (1973:37), then anthropology would seem to have much in common with cultural studies. Indeed, cultural studies has often borrowed theoretical approaches and categories from anthropology. Ethnographic techniques, used by anthropologists to study the practices of a particular culture, have been deployed in projects such as Paul Willis's (1977) Learning to Labour, a study of a group of working-class 'lads' in Wolverhampton in the 1970s. Martin Barker and Anne Beezer have claimed that, within cultural studies, '[e]thnography is now widely held to be the only sure method of catching hold of the full meanings of people's activities' (1992:9). Meanwhile, in the study of youth subcultures, Claude Lévi-Strauss's concept of bricolage has been employed as a means of referring to the creative potential of subcultural style (Clarke, 1975; Hebdige, 1979).
In spite of this apparently fertile relationship between anthropology and cultural studies, however, some critics have questioned their supposed proximity. For example, Signe Howell, an anthropologist, has attempted to identify a series of crucial differences. While anthropology favours the study of other cultures, she argues, cultural studies prefers to analyse its own; and while anthropology maintains 'an unavoidable commitment to people' (Howell, 1997:107), cultural studies is more preoccupied with questions of representation. Finally, Howell contends that, unlike cultural studies, anthropology accords a central role to empirical data.