Accepted Paper:

Popularizing the Raw and the Cooked? Cultural transformations in collective cooking events  


Inga Reimers (HafenCity University)

Paper short abstract:

My contribution aims to trace popularizations of Lévi-Strauss’s legacy in current formats of collective cooking and eating. How does it influence today’s conceptions of and expectations towards (collective) cooking and eating? And how could it function as a tool to analyze these situations?

Paper long abstract:

In the past few years, food production and consumption were and are discussed controversially in terms of ethics and sustainability (Julier 2013; Bendix/Fenske 2014; Bennewitz 2014). In this context, formats of collective cooking and eating have become popular especially in urban spaces, for example the project "Über den Tellerrand kochen" (cooking beyond one's edge of a plate) where refugees and locals cook and eat together in order to enable community and cultural exchange. Here, the topics of food and food preparation are used to create awareness for both, cultural diversity and equality.

In my current field research on collective eating and cooking formats like the aforementioned I am often faced with a topos of cooking as an ongoing practice which is capable to 'gather people around the fire'. Also in Claude Lévi-Strauss Mythologica Volumes the fire plays a key role in understanding cultural processes. Here the practices of cooking and eating function as indications. In my research these practices are rather a method which considers, like Lévi-Strauss did, especially cooking as a form of language.

So I'd like to trace forms of popularizations of Lévi-Strauss' legacy in my field of research: How does popularized ethnological/anthropological knowledge influence today's conceptions of cooking and eating as well as the expectations people have when they attend such cooking events. Could the collective transformation of the raw into the cooked thus be seen analogously to social and cultural processes within these groups and help to understand how strangeness becomes intimacy?

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