SOAS University of London

SOAS scholar awarded €130,000 AXA Research Fund to research relationship between bread and urban stability

23 May 2017

Dr Katharina Graf, Post-Doctoral Researcher in the SOAS Food Studies Centre has been awarded a grant of €130,000 from the AXA Research Fund for a project examining the price of bread as a measure of urban stability.

The aim of the project is to strengthen understanding of why and how bread represents a valid measure for political and socioeconomic risks. Bread is often used as a metaphor to talk about the Arab Spring. The link between rising bread prices and the recent political upheavals in Arab countries has been acknowledged in academic studies and in the news, but so far, no research has focused on the role of bread in urban stability.

Dr Graf will focus her research on Moroccan bread and aims to explore how the price, availability, quality and provenance of flatbread affect the way people perceive their government. The study will focus on the vantage point of ordinary people who are most affected by food insecurity.

Dr Graf said: "During my PhD research in Morocco, I was struck by how important bread was to Moroccans. Bread represents more than just a staple food to them; it also harbours so many immeasurable values. It is imbued with social meaning pertaining to material, religious, moral, economic and also political dimensions. Indeed, in a context where the government historically positions itself as food provider, the price of bread also relates to what people think of their political leaders.”

To showcase research from the project, Dr Graf is planning a photo exhibition at SOAS’s Brunei Gallery as well as poetry and comedy clubs, and cookery classes.

The AXA Research Fund is the philanthropic initiative of insurance leader AXA, supporting scientific research that aims to develop the levers of societal progress and implement innovative solutions to ensure a better life to all. Since 2007, €131 million has been committed to support 531 research projects, carried out in 34 countries by researchers of 55 nationalities. AXA Research Fund both undertakes long-term partnerships with top-tier academia and helps them share their expertise to enrich the public debate and initiate positive changes.

The project began in December 2016 and will last for two years. To find out more, visit the project page.