SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Anthropology of Food: Politics, Place and Mobility

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 1

Contemporary food economies and food cultures are often characterised as being marked by growing mobilties of peoples, tastes and goods. Food systems, we are told, have become increasingly delocalised as processes of food consumption are divorced from processes of food production. Food preparation and eating, the story goes, are increasingly happening beyond the home; cooking skills and the close connection between cuisines and local agroecosystems are being lost in the process. Rather than building connections between people, it is argued, more and more food is implicated in processes of labour alienation and 'gastro-anomie'. At the same time, however, food has become the locus for ethical actions aimed at (re)connecting producers and consumers. It has become an intense site for the politics of belonging, cultural ownership and place. Far from being marked by some boundless mobility, foods and tastes are restricted by pandemics, border controls and migration laws and are implicated in social practices of exclusion on the basis of race, class and gender. In this module we explore the complex and often paradoxical relationship between place, mobilities and food. We critically interrogate claims made about food system 'delocalisation', 'deskilling' and 'gastro-anomie'. We examine food markets, street foods and restaurants as sites of both cultural production and labour exploitation, of social interaction, cosmopolitanism and open debate, and of social control, surveillance and spatial cleansing. We explore contemporary forms of ethical food activism, including in the digital realm, and consider the complex role of food in migration.


This module is both an open option and a core module of MA Anthropology of Food. Only students on the MA Anthropology of Food programme may take it in combination with 15PANH090 Anthropology of Food: Diet, Society and Environment. All other MA students may take either 15PANH087 or 15PANH090 as an option, but not both.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module, a student will be able to:

  • Have a grasp of key theories and debates in the anthropology of food, as they pertain to place, mobility and cultural politics.
  • Critically analyse social science approaches to cooking and cuisine.
  • Appreciate the roles that food plays in human mobilites, place-making and identities.

Suggested reading

Dolan, C. 2010. Virtual moralities: the mainstreaming of Fairtrade in Kenyan tea fields. Geoforum, 41(1): 33-43.

Caldwell, Melissa. 2018. Hacking the food system: Re-making technologies of food and justice. In Digital Food Activism, Tanja Schneider, Karin Eli, Catherine Dolan, Stanley Ulijaszek (eds.). London: Taylor and Francis.

DeLind, Laura B. (2003) ‘Considerably more than vegetables, a lot less than community: the dilemma of Community Supported Agriculture’, in J. Adams (ed.), Fighting for the Farm: Rural America Transformed. The Pennsylvania State University Press, pp. 192-206.

Leong-Salobir, Cecilia, Krishnendu Ray and Jaclyn Rohel (eds) (2016) ‘Rescuing Taste from the Nation’, Special Issue of Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies 16 (1).

Appadurai, Arjun (1988) ‘How to make a national cuisine: cookbooks in contemporary India’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 30 (1): 3-24.

Sutton, David E. (2014) Secrets from the Greek Kitchen: Cooking, Skill, and Everyday Life on an Aegean Island. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ray, Krishnendu (2020) 'Rethinking food vending' (SOAS Food Studies Centre Distinguished Lecture), Gastronomica 20 (1): 1-15.

Ray, Krishnendu (2016) The Ethnic Restaurateur. London: Bloomsbury.

Fukutomi, Satomi (2014) ‘Bottom-up food: making rāmen a gourmet food in Tokyo’, Food & Foodways, 22 (1-2): 65-89.

hooks, bell (1992) ‘Eating the Other’, in bell hooks, Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End Press, pp. 21-39.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules