The Cultures of Food, Eating and Cooking

European Summer School in Cultural Studies
26-31 July 2010

Over the last decades the topic of food has assumed ever greater prominence and importance in cultural studies. Aesthetics and culture are entwined with the ideas of eating and drinking. ‘Gastronomy’ was coined by Grimod de la Reynière in his Almanach des gourmands (1803), but is associated even more closely with J.-A. Brillat-Savarin’s Physiology of Taste (1826). One might suggest that the discourses of aesthetics emerged in parallel with the growth of gustatory and culinary culture, which may explain why terms like ‘taste’ and ‘gusto’ assumed such prominence in the exercise of critical and aesthetic judgement. For Claude Lévi-Strauss, cultures come into being through the primary distributions they effect between the raw and the cooked, with culture itself being definable as the process whereby the natural is in various ways ‘cooked’ into meaning and significance. Human groups have historically marked themselves off through dietary laws (kosher, halal) and other systems of gustatory requirement and convention, and food and cooking styles function both as symbols of national identity and sources of national insult (English ‘rosbifs’, French ‘froggies’, German ‘Krauts’).

In recent years, the aesthetics and culture of food have come to intersect with wider and ever more urgent sets of economic and political questions about food. The ethical questions relating to exploitation of animals raise questions about the carnivorous norms of world eating. Ecological considerations bear on the production of food, with many species of fish under severe pressure from overfishing and meat production threatening the world’s ecosystems. The world is currently undergoing a new wave of food colonisation, with the significant agricultural land-grabs being undertaken in Africa by the powers of the Middle and Far East, while global warming is likely to make political and military struggles over water ever fiercer in the coming decades.

The 2010 European Summer School in Cultural Studies, hosted in London by the London Consortium, will be devoted to the issues that radiate from food, eating and cooking. We invite papers that consider these issues from all perspectives, and at all scales, from the local to the global. Contributors may wish to submit papers on topics including, but not restricted to the following:

  • Food and the body: thinness and obesity, excrement, food as medicine, health and food; food pathology: anorexia, bulimia
  • Language and symbolism of food: greed, consumption, digestion, disgust, sweetness, bitterness, starvation; orality, linguistic and gastronomic; the rhetoric of wine-tasting; diet and recipe-books
  • Food and the thematics of need, hunger, lack, desire; perverse food, food and decay (pourriture noble, roquefort, gravlax, rakørret) delicacies and extreme food (foie gras, white truffles)
  • Food, ritual and culture: religion and food, sacrifice and sacrament, feasting, table manners, cannibalism, teetotalism, taboo
  • Food in literature, film, painting and music 
  • The architecture of eating and drinking: the table, the kitchen, the refectory, the café, the pub, the restaurant
  • Food, art and aesthetics: cookery, gastronomy, ‘taste’, meal-making in contemporary art
  • Food and the media – cookery programmes, TV chefs, and ‘gastrotainment’
  • Imperialism, colonialism and food
  • Local, regional, national and international cuisine and collective identities
  • Food, time and space: meal-times, refrigeration, the migration of foods (chilli, chocolate); fast food and slow food; local and long-distance food
  • The politics of food and water; ecology, sustainability; hunger art and hunger-strikes; biopolitics of nutrition; food ethics: vegetarianism and ‘eating well’
  • The sciences and technology of food: agriculture, genetically modified and engineered food, ‘molecular’ cooking

The European Summer School in Cultural Studies is a joint venture between The International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture, The Copenhagen Doctoral School in Cultural Studies, The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, The London Consortium and University of Oslo.
The summer school will be hosted by the London Consortium in London July 26-31 2010. Proposals should be sent to the contact at the local partner institute by the deadline of Monday 15 March 2010. Both doctoral students and junior researchers (post-docs) are invited to apply for the summer school. Doctoral students and junior researchers who are accepted for the summer school are eligible for ESSCS scholarships. These scholarships cover travel and accommodation costs up to a set amount.

Applications should include:

  • Title of proposed paper
  • Abstract (max. 300 words)
  • Biographical information (short CV)
  • Brief description of research project/interests
  • Contact information (e-mail, telephone and postal address)

 For registration and further information, please contact:

  • In Denmark: Marie Kirkegaard, Copenhagen Doctoral School , 1 Karen Blixens Vej, 2300 Copenhagen. Tel: +4535328211, email:  web: