SOAS University of London

SOAS Food Studies Centre

Navigating Foodways: Questions and dilemmas in thinking through/with food 2014 SOAS Food Studies Centre Postgraduate Research Workshop


Date: 9 June 2014Time: 12:00 AM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 116

Type of Event: Workshop

Navigating Foodways Image


Food-related practices and processes constitute a wide array of themes and ideas, including, but not limited to, labour, power, gender, taste, ritual and health. Scholars from various fields have been confronted with the challenge of thinking through and with food. This workshop takes the concept of ‘foodways’ as an encompassing theme to draw upon the ways in which Food Studies, and the social relations and subjectivities entangled in food processes, can be re-thought and re-organised. The diverse experiences of researchers, who explicitly and indirectly think through and with food, offer insight on varied and dynamic practices, engagements, and actors. Therefore, the need to unpack concepts entangled with foodways is inescapable, particularly in relation to significant global concerns, amongst them: biosecurity, tourism, trade, consumerism, migration and environmental concerns. Delving into the methodological, theoretical, and epistemological questions and dilemmas that the study of food presents can only expand or create new grounds of analysis.

Workshop Objectives:

This workshop brought together 11 research students, at various stages of their research projects and from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, to share, explore, and reflect upon various methodological and theoretical approaches for the study of food and foodways. The aim was to provide researchers with an opportunity to draw from varied perspectives in considering the challenges and insights arising from research that seeks to tackle inquiries on various facets of Food Studies.

The workshop also provided an opportunity for researchers to come together and present and share their research interests in a less formal setting, in order to create new connections and collaborations, and to share them with senior researchers from the SOAS Food Studies Centre. Ultimately, this workshop explored the state of research, and established a community of early career researchers in Food Studies at SOAS.


10.00 - 10.30Registration
10.30 - 11.00Opening remarks (Jessica Chu, Kathrine Cagat, Harry West)
11.00 - 12.00

First Session: What is food?
‘What is food?’ conjures theoretical and pragmatic concerns about the nature of food. Explorations on a wide range of debates such as, mobility, authenticity, technology, materiality, and taste, are constituted in a wider context to matters regarding diaspora communities, agricultural activities, food security and culinary practices. As such, this panel aims to elaborate on the vibrant discourses, engagements and relationships that food is integral to, and that it likewise encapsulates and engenders.

Chair: Zofia Boni
Discussant: Eona Bell

  • Cheap and Cheerful, Hip and Stylish: Different meanings of Chinese food in Sydney, Leo Pang (Anthropology Department, SOAS)
  • Eating out à la Turca: Turkish, Kurdish and Turkish-Cypriot-run restaurants in London, Nese Tosun, PhD Candidate (Cultural Studies, University of Warwick)
  • A Grain of Uncertainty: Dynamic rice varieties and relations in Ifugao rice cultivation, Kathrine Cagat (Anthropology Department, SOAS)
12.00 - 12.15Coffee Break
12.15 - 13.15

Second Session: What are the boundaries of food?
A focus on the boundaries of food will illuminate the centrality of food in relationships and interactions within and across communities. Thus, the issues featured in this panel contribute to discussions of dynamic spaces and platforms which involve foodways. Explorations on food markets, activism, built-environments and migration, illustrate the boundaries of food spatially, temporally, culturally, and epistemologically. In doing so, this panel considers both physical and metaphorical boundaries that impact the movement of people, things and ideas as they relate to food.

Chair: Leo Pang
Discussant: Elizabeth Saleh

  • Food and Locality in Finsbury Park, Hannah Roberson (Anthropology Department, SOAS)
  • Ridley Road and Broadway Market: Food markets, gentrification, and the construction of community in Hackney’s ‘Urban Village’, Anna Cohen (Anthropology Department, SOAS)
  • Food’s Movement in Marrakech, Morocco, Katharina Graf (Anthropology Department, SOAS)
13.15 - 14.15Lunch Break
14.15 - 15.15

Third Session: How do we feed and eat?
The matters which concern ‘feeding’ and ‘eating’ consider various scales of foodways, along with the multiple domains of relations and knowledge for which they are constituted in and shaped. From an analysis of everyday family practices to the nutrition-related policies of nation states, the featured papers will address the inextricable relationship between feeding and eating. In this way, the panel will examine and reflect on the complex and often negotiated relationships between those who feed, and those who eat.

Chair: Kathrine Cagat
Discussant: Elizabeth Hull

  • Feeding a Child, Eating as a Child: Children and family foodways in Warsaw, Zofia Boni (Anthropology Department, SOAS)
  • Between Schnitzels and Hummus: Everyday cooking in Israel, Claudia Prieto Piastro (Middle East & Mediterranean Studies, King’s College London)
  • On Managing the Wetlands-food Nexus in the Bushbuckridge region, South Africa, Amrita Lamba (Development Studies Department, SOAS)
15.15 - 15.30Coffee Break
15.30 - 16.30

Fourth Session: How do we study food?
In exploring the multitude of approaches to issues regarding food, this panel aims to discuss the opportunities and challenges that the study of food presents. The featured papers address what different disciplines and approaches can tell us about food and how they can elaborate on food matters. Inversely, the panel also seeks to illuminate the ways in which food can enrich or challenge a wide range of issues across various disciplines. Examining the processes involved in studying food also allows for reflection on the methodological and analytical difficulties in understanding the saliency of food within discourses, domains of relations and systems of

Chair: Hannah Roberson
Discussant: Anne Murcott

  • Chinese Agricultural Investments in Zambia: A value chain analysis, Jessica Chu (Anthropology Department, SOAS)
  • Modern Retail Chains in India - a Multi-sited Ethnography of the Centralisation of Governance of the Indian Agri-food Sector, Misha Velthuis (Development Studies Department, SOAS)
  • Measures of Dietary Diversity and the Indian Malnutrition Enigma, Mehroosh Tak (Economics Department, SOAS)
16.30 - 16.45Coffee Break
16.45 - 18.00

Plenary Discussion (final roundtable)

Chair: Katharina Graf
Drawing from the contributions of all participants, the final session addresses the discussions throughout the workshop. Taking into account the variety of analyses presented and referred to, we put forth the question ‘What are we saying about food?’ or inversely, ‘What does food say about us?’ We hope for a discussion which reflects not only on seminal studies regarding food, but also on the state of current research by early career and senior scholars alike. Similarly, in assessing studies on food, the plenary reflects on our own theoretical, methodological and epistemological preoccupations and endeavours, thus, delving into taken-for-granted concepts and approaches. The hope is to put forth a challenge to the study of food across time and disciplines.

Organiser: Zofia Boni, Kathrine Cagat, Jessica Chu, Katharina Graf, Leo Pang, Hannah Roberson

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