: Food and Society

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSC08314

Semester and Year Offered: 2nd Semester & Every year

Course Coordinator and Team: Oinam Hemlata Devi and Lovitoli Jimo

Email of course coordinator: hemlata[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: NA

Course Description:


course orients the students towards the emergence of food studies and interest in food as a subject of study in anthropology at the cusp of food and economic anthropology and how food studies contributed to the making of the discipline has. Food plays an ubiquitous role in our everyday lives and the sociality around food reveals a lot about complexity of human relationship in terms of the producers and consumers of the food. Precisely, how societal norms, customs and manners play an important role in construction of food and foodways. In brief, the aim is to expose the students to theoretical frameworks and food writings in anthropology and sociology that help in understanding socio-political processes that shape food practices and foodways, both globally and locally?


In this context it would be significant to examine what is good to eat? How do caste, religion and gender relations shape the production of what is good to eat and what is not good to eat? How does food become ‘symbols’ of national and local identity?

Course Outcomes:

  1. On successful completion of this course students will be able to:
  2. Get introduced to key concepts and theories that help in making sense of food as a subject of study in anthropology at the cusp of food and economic anthropology and its interlinkages with ideas of body, hygiene and food politics.
  3. Critically analyse the emergence of food studies as an important topic to interact and engage with diverse communities / multicultural and diverse society.
  4. Have an understanding of the diverse societal norms, customs and manners in construction of food and foodways and apply that understanding to better appreciate the diverse food practices of communities.
  5. Students are expected to understand that embodied experiences like eating not only brings people together but it is also a marker of difference. An introductory course on food and society would enable students to examine the social constructions around notions of diet, and its interlinkages with ideas of body, hygiene and food politics.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module 1: Introduction to food and foodways

In this section the students would be introduced to works to understand how eating and dietary patterns and studies on single food substances were seen as entry point of analysis. A structuralist and materialist readings of food and foodways would be helpful in understanding the semiotic and economies of food production and distribution networks. A special emphasis would be given to understand how food accounts for nutrition.

Module 2: Food biographies and sociality

In this section we will read two ethnographies which follows the making of a commodity and its power networks and an ‘unfinished’ commodity to understand how sociality is shaped by production networks, synesthetic reason and microbiopolitics’.

Module 3: Social stratification, food production, and culinary practices

Students acquainted with readings of sociology of India have come across references of rules of commensality, proscription and prohibition. Food becomes an important marker of difference.

Module 4: Foodways and globalisation

George Ritzer through his work on Mcdonaldisation builds upon Weber’s idea of rationalisation and shows how global foodways have transformed the foodscape. In this section we try and understand through food and foodways how local meets global and its impacts on food production.

Module 5: Mapping food waste

One of the increasing concerns around issues of food security is about food waste. How do we understand the waste we generate in production of food crops to commercial restaurants? Is there a way to map food waste?

Assessment Details with weights:

There will be three assessments

  1. Class Test 30%
  2. Group presentation 30%
  3. End semester Exam 40%

Reading List:

  • Appadurai, Arjun. ‘Gastro-politics in Hindu South Asia’, American Ethnologist 8 (3): 494-511.
  • Bestor, Theodore C. 2001. ‘Supply-side sushi: Commodity, market and the global city, American Anthropologist 103(1) :76-95.
  • Chigateri, S. (2008). ‘Glory to the Cow’: Cultural differences and Social Justice in the Food hierarchy in India. South Asia: Journal of south Asian Studies. 31:1, 10-35, DOI: 10.1080/00856400701874692
  • Cook, Ian and Michelle Harrisson. 2003. ‘Cross over Food: Re-Materializing Postcolonial Geographies’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, 28(3): 296-317
  • Harris, Marvin. 1974. Cows, Pigs, Wars & Witches. The Riddles of Culture. New York: Random House. Pp3-35
  • Holtzman, Jon. 2002. “Politics and Gastropolitics: Gender and the Power of Food in Two African Pastoralist Societies” The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 8 (2) : 259-278
  •; Accessed on 1 November 2016
  •; Accessed on 1 November 2016
  • Iverson, Vegard and P.S. Raghavendra.2006. ‘What the signboard hides: Food, Caste and employability in small South Indian eating places’, Contributions to Indian Sociology 40(3):311-341.
  • Janeja, Manpreet. 2010. Transactions in taste. The collaborative lives of everyday Bengali food. New Delhi: Routledge.
  • Krishnaraj, Maithreyi. 20015. “ Food Security: How and for Whom?” Economic and Political Weekly 40 (25): 2508-2512
  • Levi- Strauss, Claude. 2008. ‘The Culinary triangle’. In Carole Couniham and Penny Van Esterik. Food and culture. A Reader. 36-43. London: Routledge.
  • Marte, Lidia. 2007. 'Foodmaps: Tracing Boundaries of 'Home' Through Food Relations', Food and Foodways, 15: 3, 261 — 289
  • Mintz, Sidney and Christine M. Du. Bois.2002. ‘The anthropology of food and eating’. Annual Review of Anthropology 31:99-119.
  • Mintz, Sidney. 1985. Sweetness and power. The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Penguin. (selected chapters)
  • Murcott, Anne. 1988. "Sociological and Social Anthropological Approaches to Food and Eating." World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics 55:1-40.
  • Paxson, Heather. 2013. The life of cheese. Crafting food and value in America. Berkley: University of California Press (Selected chapters)
  • Philips, Sarah Drue. 2002. ‘Half-lives and healthy bodies : Discourses on “contaminated” food and healing in post- Chernobyl Ukraine’. Food & Foodways, 10:27–53.
  • Thorat, Sukhdeo and Joel Lee. 2005. ‘Caste discrimination and food security programmes’. Economic and Political Weekly 40(39):4198-4201.

Additional Reading

  • Khatri, P. (1988). Harris and the Sacred Cow: A Critique on Marvin Harris’ Materialistic Theory on the Hindu India’ Holiest Animal. Tribhuvan University Journal, 21(2), 27-34. Retrieved from