P103
From nature to culture? Lévi-Strauss' legacy and the study of contemporary foodways

Convenors:
Katharina Graf (SOAS, University of London)
Elsa Mescoli (Universite de Liege)
Discussant:
Valeria Siniscalchi
Location:
U6-1D
Start time:
22 July, 2016 at 9:00
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

In The Raw and the Cooked, Claude Lévi-Strauss argued that the preparation of food is a form of language that reveals a society's structure. Cooking transforms food from nature into culture. The aim of this panel is to explore Levi-Strauss' legacy and evaluate its usefulness in today's context.

Long abstract:

In the first volume of his Mythologiques, entitled The Raw and the Cooked, Claude Lévi-Strauss argued that the preparation of food is a form of language that reveals a society's structure. For Lévi-Strauss, the so-called culinary triangle of the raw, the rotten and the cooked represents a semantic field within which the various forms of transformation of food from nature into culture play a key role. Since Lévi-Strauss, following extensive changes to food production, preparation and consumption, the notion of cooking has become ever more diversified, and became increasingly contentious. Yet, the multiple ways of combining and processing ingredients still give social and cultural meanings to food and trigger the creation of sociabilities and belongings through its own destruction (Gell 1986). This panel aims to explore Levi-Strauss' legacy and evaluate its usefulness in today's context from different angles, ranging from domestic food preparation to industrial production and global circulations of food. To what extent can this concept still provide an interpretative framework of topical food issues? Which contemporary myths does it shed light on? How could it be deployed to read the history of food and link it to contemporary questions? This panel welcomes papers on the history of food preparation, contemporary food preparation, including debates in professional and multimedia circles, various forms of food production and the possible transformation of food within globalised food markets. Although mobilizing a classic anthropological theory, this panel aims to be interdisciplinary and to present a diverse range of analytical perspectives.