WORLD ANTHROPOLOGICAL UNION

CONGRESS 2024​

SELECTED PANEL

( pn5 )

Anthropology of Nutrition: Food as an Identity Resource

Organizers

    Alexander Novik

    Russia

    Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Armando Maxia

    Italy

    Ethnographic Museum of Sardinian Mountain Culture

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Oxana D. Fais-Leutskaja

    Russian Federation

    Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

IUAES Affiliation: Anthropology of Food and Nutrition

Keywords:

Nutrition, Alimentary culture, Traditions' construction, Identity, Nationalism

Abstract:

In recent decades, the anthropology of nutrition has confidently turned into an independent mega-discipline, since the subject of its research is directly related to a person’s physical health and positive ethnic self-perception - the most important indicators of the well-being and happiness of both an individual and small communities and entire nations. Nowadays, alimentary tradition is increasingly acquiring a new, relevant meaning: it is turning into a resource of identity for the population in its emic vision, into one of the determinants and dominants of self-awareness, as well as a means of expressing its self-identification, as a sign and indicator of collective nationalist sentiments [Giannitrapani, Puca 2020 : 19], while gastronationalism, which is growing in the conditions of post-globalism [DeSoucey 2010], is increasingly revealed as an organic component and one of the manifestations of banal nationalism [Billig 1995]. As expert in nutritional studies C. Counihan proves, food in general has long ceased to be just a “set of products” and a phenomenon of “only material culture”: it has expanded its boundaries to a truly “universal phenomenon” [Counihan, van Esterik 1997: 6], analysis which allows us to find the key to understanding and deciphering many intangible facets of the existence of society, including the social processes occurring in it [Barthes 1967: 310]. It is no coincidence that A. Appadurai proposed considering food as a kind of “powerful semiotic device” and “part of a semiotic system in a specific social context” [Appadurai 1981: 494–495], turning the process of its consumption into saturation not only and not so much on the physical, but on a symbolic level. Undoubtedly, D. Le Breton is right when he noted that when we eat, we engage in “collective consumption of our culture in its entirety” [Le Breton 2007: 350]; he is echoed by the anthropologist R. Valeri, who emphasizes that “the absorption of certain dishes turns into a real cult of its own origin” - all the more magnificent and successful [Valeri 1977: 358], since nutritional habits are among the most “durable”, rooted and difficult to lose the cultural fundamentals of man, since of all his habits they are acquired almost the first [Colombo, Navarini, Semi 2008: 78]. The purpose of the panel is to attract the attention of researchers to traditional cuisine as the “quintessence” of the alimentary and, more broadly, material and spiritual culture of a particular community, its most conservative and stable element, since in the field of food ethnographic specificity is preserved incomparably longer than in other areas of the ethnic culture, for example, in clothing, housing and beliefs.

English

Anthropology of nutrition: food as an identity resource

In recent decades, the anthropology of nutrition has confidently turned into an independent mega-discipline, since the subject of its research is directly related to a person’s physical health and positive ethnic self-perception - the most important indicators of the well-being and happiness of both an individual and small communities and entire nations. Nowadays, alimentary tradition is increasingly acquiring a new, relevant meaning: it is turning into a resource of identity for the population in its emic vision, into one of the determinants and dominants of self-awareness, as well as a means of expressing its self-identification, as a sign and indicator of collective nationalist sentiments [Giannitrapani, Puca 2020 : 19], while gastronationalism, which is growing in the conditions of post-globalism [DeSoucey 2010], is increasingly revealed as an organic component and one of the manifestations of banal nationalism [Billig 1995]. As expert in nutritional studies C. Counihan proves, food in general has long ceased to be just a “set of products” and a phenomenon of “only material culture”: it has expanded its boundaries to a truly “universal phenomenon” [Counihan, van Esterik 1997: 6], analysis which allows us to find the key to understanding and deciphering many intangible facets of the existence of society, including the social processes occurring in it [Barthes 1967: 310]. It is no coincidence that A. Appadurai proposed considering food as a kind of “powerful semiotic device” and “part of a semiotic system in a specific social context” [Appadurai 1981: 494–495], turning the process of its consumption into saturation not only and not so much on the physical, but on a symbolic level. Undoubtedly, D. Le Breton is right when he noted that when we eat, we engage in “collective consumption of our culture in its entirety” [Le Breton 2007: 350]; he is echoed by the anthropologist R. Valeri, who emphasizes that “the absorption of certain dishes turns into a real cult of its own origin” - all the more magnificent and successful [Valeri 1977: 358], since nutritional habits are among the most “durable”, rooted and difficult to lose the cultural fundamentals of man, since of all his habits they are acquired almost the first [Colombo, Navarini, Semi 2008: 78]. The purpose of the panel is to attract the attention of researchers to traditional cuisine as the “quintessence” of the alimentary and, more broadly, material and spiritual culture of a particular community, its most conservative and stable element, since in the field of food ethnographic specificity is preserved incomparably longer than in other areas of the ethnic culture, for example, in clothing, housing and beliefs.

Nutrition, alimentary culture, traditions' construction, identity, nationalism