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Week 3: The study of food and drink: semiotics, anthropology and sociology

R. Barthes `Wine and Milk', `Steak and Chips', `Ornamental Cookery' Mythologies (transl. A. Lavers, London, 1972) pp.65-71, 85-87

id. `Lecture de Brillat-Savarin' transl. in M.Blonsky ed. On Signs (Oxford, 1985) very brief and fun

*A. Gopnik, `Is there a crisis in French Cooking?' in New Yorker, 28.4/5.5 1997, 150-161, journalistic but well-written and clever

*P.Bourdieu, Distinction (transl. R.Nice, London, 1984), pp.179-200, more serious but quite readable, considering the author

*Mary Douglas `Deciphering a meal' in Implicit Meanings: Essays in Anthropology (London, 1975), pp.249-275, a classic

*Mary Douglas, Constructive Drinking. Perspectives on Drink from Anthropology (Cambridge, 1987) c.1

M.Sahlins, `Food as Symbolic Code' in J.C.Alexander, S.Seidman edd., Culture and Society( Cambridge, 1990), pp.94-101, brief, but quite difficult at first

Intro. to S. Mennell, A. Murcott, A.H. van Otterloo, The Sociology of Food (London, 1992), a survey of approaches

M. Visser, Much Depends on Dinner (London, 1990) and The Rituals of Dinner (London, 1992) are wide-ranging and very readable. You may have copies; the Library only has the first.


Would you answer the questions under week 1 differently after reading these articles? What are the main issues in modern studies of food and society? How important is food as a marker of cultural difference? How can we assess the significance of food in a particular culture (cf. Foucault's comments in the introduction to this booklet)? Do anthropologists tend to overestimate the ritualism of eating-habits of other cultures?

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