Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Dr Jakob Klein

Key information

Roles
Department of Anthropology and Sociology MA Tutor Food Studies Centre Deputy Chair, SOAS Food Studies Centre China Institute Academic Staff, SOAS China Institute
Building
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office
564
Email address
jk2@soas.ac.uk
Telephone number
020 7898 4428
Support hours
Term 1 research leave

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
Hannah Bennett Golf Course Culture in China: An Exploration of Gender, Class, and Social Stratification (working title)
Theodore Parker Charles Crossing Borders; The Evolution of Food Traditions in Post-Ottoman Thrace
Anna Colquhoun Food and tourism in Istria: Local specialities and the construction of a region (working title)
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, care and the digital sphere: Community group buying (shequ tuangou) in urban China
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
Elizabeth Carla Smith Cosmopolitan Creatives: Asian Self-Making and Consumption in London (working title)
Yuqi Wang Between secularity and religiosity: a Buddhism-oriented town in Mainland China (working title)
Dr Chenjia Xu

Publications

Contact Jakob