750B Ethnographic Locations: East Asia

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

Special Theme 2023/24: The Cultural Politics of Chinese Food

In this module we explore key themes in the anthropology of Chinese societies through the lens of food and its cultural politics.

In China, food figures prominently in the formation and expression of cultural identities, majority-minority interactions, political power, religious practice, and everyday social relations. Longstanding concerns about food security have increasingly given way to anxieties about food safety and dietary health and renewed interest in culinary tourism and heritage. Food also mediates the relationship between China and the world and shapes the experiences of Chinese in the diaspora.

The module addresses current issues and debates surrounding food systems and food practices, as they pertain to Chinese societies and peoples. Topics will include:    

  • Cooking Chinese: Transnational Migration, Restaurants, and Cultural Identity
  • Contested Chineseness: Culinary Nationalism and Heritage-Making in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan
  • Feeding the Family: Food Safety, Social Trust, and Inequality
  • Meat-Eating and Vegetarianism: Industrial Farming, Religious Resurgence, and the Cultural Politics of Meat
  • Lactophobia and Lactophilia: Dairy, Nutrition, and Body Politics

The module will appeal to students interested in anthropological perspectives on contemporary Chinese societies and cultural politics in national and transnational frameworks, and to those wishing to deepen their knowledge and understanding of current debates in the anthropology of food through a sustained exploration of Chinese contexts.

The module does not presuppose prior knowledge of Chinese history or language, but students may wish to explore some of the suggested readings in preparation for the course.  


No prerequisites. This module is also a School-wide Open Option. 

Guided option for students on:

  • MA Social Anthropology
  • MA Social Anthropology + Intensive Language
  • MA Anthropology of Food
  • MA Anthropology of Food + Intensive Language
  • MA Anthropology of Global Futures and Sustainability
  • MA Medical Anthropology and Mental Health
  • MRes Social Anthropology
  • MRes Social Anthropology + Intensive Language

Suggested Readings


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules