Food pervades society. Although Durkheim initially considered food as too organic in nature to be an object of sociology, he used drinking and eating as examples of those ‘social facts’ that form a societal power and impose on the individual. Levi-Strauss famously understood the passage from raw to cooked food as a ‘language in which each society encodes messages that allow it to signify a part of what it is’. Similarly, Douglas saw food as a ‘code’ that needs to be deciphered to uncover cultures and worldviews. Inspired by Bourdieu, culinary discourses have been analysed as factors in the formation of prestige and authority. Most recently, studies from multiple disciplines are debating food as a collectively constructed and sometimes highly contested object that marks the boundary between nature and society.
How and under which circumstances is food becoming a social fact? How is it related to society-nature relations? In what ways is food entangled with societal cultures, worldviews and power constellations? When does food become politicized or de-politicized? How are science, politics and industry interlinked with the production, dissemination and consumption of food? In what ways are social inequalities, diversity and gender related to food and nutrition? How can food be democratized in a globalized world?
We will read and discuss literature from political sociology, the history of sciences, the philosophy of sciences, STS, governance and public policy studies and related fields which bears on these questions, alongside case studies of food in a variety of scientific, political, economic and civil society settings. The seminar is focused on but not limited to six key topics: I) Social theories of food; II) Food between science and politics; III) Food safety and regulation; IV) The politicization and de-politicization of food; V) Food security and food inequalities; VI) Food democracy and sovereignty in a globalized world.
Bornemann, Basil and Weiland, Sabine. 2019. Special Issue: New Perspectives on Food Democracy. Politics and Governance 7 (4).
Freeman, Andrea. 2013. "The Unbearable Whiteness of Milk: Food Oppression and the USDA." U.C. Irvine Law Review 3 (4):1251-79.
Murcott, Anne, Warren Belasco, and Peter Jackson. 2013. The Handbook of Food Research. London et al.: Bloomsbury.
Nestle, Marion. 2002. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition 2013). Berkeley: University of California Press.