Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Dr Jakob Klein

Key information

Department of Anthropology and Sociology Senior Lecturer in Anthropology Food Studies Centre Deputy Chair, SOAS Food Studies Centre China Institute Academic Staff, SOAS China Institute
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
020 7898 4428
Support hours
Office Hours Term 3: By Appointment Only

Research interests

Since the late 1990s, I have sought to document and understand cultural transformations in contemporary China through the lens of food. I have simultaneously sought to shed light on Chinese perspectives on the global challenges of our contemporary food systems, including food safety, the future of regional foodways, environmental degradation, and the politics of meat-eating. To these ends, I have carried out ethnographic fieldwork in marketplaces, restaurants, kitchens, farms, and factories, primarily in and around the cities of Guangzhou, Guangdong Province and Kunming, Yunnan Province.

One strand of my research is concerned with regional cuisines and local foods. I have investigated reinventions of Cantonese teahouses and restaurant cuisine in Guangzhou under radical state socialism and market reforms, the heritagization of a local goat-milk cheese (rubing) in Yunnan, and how a national, party-state project to promote the potato as a Chinese staple food has been taken up by local officials, agribusinesses, food writers, and other actors in economically marginal, traditional potato-producing regions. I am also interested in the role of transregional and transnational migration in the transformation of Chinese cuisines.

Another research strand investigates food safety and food ethics. For example, I have studied how urban residents in Kunming have discussed their concerns about food safety, quality, and taste and addressed them in everyday practices of sourcing and cooking food. I have also written about more organized attempts, by environmental NGOs and businesses, to transform urban eating habits and food ethics and to establish direct links with rural smallholders.

Throughout my research, I have paid close attention the role of changing food cultures in the dynamics of social relations and inequalities, along lines such as class, gender, ethnicity, state power, regional differentiation, and urban-rural divides.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Theodore Parker Charles Crossing Borders; The Evolution of Food Traditions in Post-Ottoman Thrace
Anna Colquhoun Making local specialities: Food, place and value in Croatian Istria
Samuel Dic Sum Lai Jancingmei in Caacaanteng: A Sinophone Notion via a Hong Kong Foodway
Pauline Harlay Tea, Taste and Traders: Cultural Mediators and the Reinvention of the Chinese ‘Traditional’ Beverage (working title)
Marie Launay-Smirnov Around the Monastic Table: The Experience of Monastic Food for Retreat Participants in France (working title)
Xinru Li Mango TV as Youths’ CCTV - An Ethnography of Youths, Media and Nation
Wanlin Lu Food, Migration and Everyday Eating: Chinese Professionals in London (Working titles)
Pascale Pean The Taste of Home: Identity and Resistance in Haitian-American Food
Lu Qiao Chinese Cosmetic Surgery Tourism in Seoul: Body Politics, Transnationalism and Decentralised Centralism
Michela Siuni Tastemakers? Taste-shapers? Exploring the taste of Korean food in Greater London through Korean food entrepreneurs
Cas Sutherland Queer Feminist Kinship: An Intersectional Approach to Activism and Community in Taipei, Taiwan
Yuqi Wang Between secularity and religiosity: a Buddhism-oriented town in Mainland China (working title)
Dr Chenjia Xu


Contact Jakob