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Food: The Medium is the Message (IL921)

Artist Gokcebag's image

A 10 course meal* for imagining the world via food, and food via the world...

* May contain mixed methodologies, eating, moving around and creating.

Art work: Sakir Gokcebag

What will we do?

We will each grow a plant; individually and collectively generate and share recipes, foodmaps, raw and cooked ideas, and a collective foodography. Below is a suggested path, that might be subject to change depending on the speakers' availability. Bibliography is indicative, further resources will be provided on dedicated OneNote Class Notebook.

Why? (aka Learning Outcomes)

By the end of this module, you will have reflected on where and how you feel empowered to effect the cartographies of food, what and how you would like to communicate via food and what urgencies you perceive.

You will have been exposed to a variety of food studies methodologies, and forms of output.

You will have engaged in multiscalar analysis of food issues.

You will have acquired flexibility in deploying food's agency in everyday life and professional settings.

How will we do it? (Weekly path)
Week 1: Is the medium the message?

Key questions that this introductory session will be working with among others are as follows:

What is the relationship between the object of study and the subject of study in food studies? Is it different than any other interdisciplinary field?

How do we communicate via food whether it is for research purposes or in everyday life?

What role does risk, pain, pleasure, health and sickness play in these?

How are the boundaries set via food? Which boundaries the food transgresses?


Marte, L. (2007) Foodmaps: Tracing Boundaries of ‘Home’ through Food Relations. Food and Foodways, 15 (3-4): 261-289.

McLuhan, M. [1964] (2001) Understanding Media. London: Routledge.

Heldke, Lisa M. (1992) Foodmaking as a Thoughtful Practice. In: Curtin, Deane W. & Heldke, L. eds. Cooking, Eating, Thinking: Transformative Philosophies of Food. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press: 203-29.

Week 2: Am I what I eat?

Workshop led by Kirsty Clarke (TBC)

In this session we will problematise the relational space between the acts of eating, what is eaten, and the moral and political selves, ideally with a workshop by Kirsty Clarke entitled “Queering culture, fermenting trouble” (TBC). We will also inquire, what agency do we have over food? What agency does food have on us?

Kirsty Clarke’s Workshop Brief:

“Recently Wiz Khalifa made headlines by saying that men who didn’t cut up bananas before eating them were ‘suspect’. Does the way you eat show your sexuality? If it’s meaningful to talk about ‘culinary sexuality’ can we go beyond this and use our collective kitchen to cook-up a queer revolution?

Fermentation is a process, both vital and contaminating, by which live agents transform food, altering it, perhaps even queering it, making it radically new and different. At the same time it is a process with its roots deep in tradition, cultures old and communal and stands apart from anything pasteurised or homogenised that contains no living culture.

Please join us to ferment both ideas and foodstuffs as we challenge both palettes and heteronormativity Grand Union is proud to host this informal workshop in the queer art of fermentation. Our discussion and pickling will be accompanied by a soundtrack curated by Dr Luis-Manuel Garcia, Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at The University of Birmingham.”


Butler, J. ([1990] 2010) Gender Trouble. London: Routledge.

Highmore, B. (2008) Alimentary Agents: Food, Cultural Theory and Multiculturalism. Journal of Intercultural Studies 29 (4): 381-398.

Further readings to be suggested by Kirsty Clarke.

Week 3: Food Pedagogies

Guest Lecturer: Zofia Boni (In person or via skype)

In this session we will delve further into the everyday and political questions of how and what we learn about food, by food & while doing food. From red labels on the products we buy to the table etiquette, our relationship with food is rarely accidental, but requires habitus generation by “bodies” (i.e. families, health agencies, schools, etc.) that have at times contrasting agendas and priorities.

Zofia Boni will share her fieldwork experiences and research in school canteen’s in Poland. She focuses both on day-to-day verbal and non-verbal negotiations and more discursive debates, which involve diverse social actors such as family, school, other state and non-governmental institutions, food industry and media. She situates the issues related to children and food within the context of post-socialist transformation, shifting notions of parenthood and childhood, and the changing politics of food and food education in Poland. Her current research project, funded by the National Science Centre Postdoctoral Fellowship, focuses on the social dynamics of childhood obesity in Poland.


Bourdieu, P. (1984) The Habitus and the Space of Life-Styles. In Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London and New York: Routledge: 165-222.

Further reading to be suggested by Zofia Boni.

Week 4: Doing things with Numbers Evidence Based Decision Support for Food Security

Led by Martine Barrons (TBC)

Moving on from a discussion of self, to meso analysis of within state actors, we now shift our attention to doing things with numbers. How does food yield itself to data? As a temporary and fluid material presence, how and what can we measure about food? How do ‘we’ become data? How is food related statistical data generated? How can statistical evidence support policy?

Drawing on Martine Barrons’ expertise in the area, we will explore the uses and effects of doing things with numbers when it comes to food.

The module leader will also do a recap of the different methodological approaches we have explored so far.


Smith, Jim Q., Barons, Martine J. and M Leonelli. (2015) Decision focused inference on networked probabilistic systems: with applications to food security. JSM Proceedings. Seattle, Washington: American Statistical Association: 3220-3233.

Further readings to be suggested by Martine Barrons.

Week 5: Eating Digits

Led by Tim White (Theatre Studies) & Steve Ranford (Senior Academic Technologist in Digital Humanities)

By week 5 we have a familiarity about the ways in which knowledge(s) of food are generated, and how we learn from and about food. Week 5 will shift its focus to the digital and virtual representations of these knowledges (generated individually, institutionally or academically), taking one step further also the concept of “doing things with numbers”. Whether it is large amounts of data that is generated by a team of researchers that needs data visualisation tools or an Instagram picture of a romantic dinner, food and its reflections are constantly digitised and virtualised. A highly sensory and material “entity”, how is food translated into virtual? What are the aesthetic and numerical compromises?

In this session jointly ran by Tim White (Theatre Studies) and Steve Ranford (Senior Academic Technologist) we will explore digital tools that are available within the field of Digital Humanities while critically reflecting on the limits of doing things with food online, virtually and digitally.


To be suggested by Tim White

Week 6: Steaming Week - No formal session

This week is designed for us to digest all we have ingested so far, or to start steaming ideas for the foodmapping assessment.

Week 7: Growing Futures

Led by Rosemary Collier

Growing food is inevitable but also comes at a cost. According to a paper published by Lillywhite, Collier and Pole, “Integrated Farm Management (IFM) is seen as one way for agriculture to contribute towards the UKs challenging national targets for climate change, pollution, biodiversity and other environmental factors” (2009, p.39) but “[IFM and associated assurance schemes] fail to take sufficient account of ‘impact’ and ‘outcome’” (ibid.). Collier and her colleagues suggest that an ecosystem approach, considering both the impact and the outcome, can be adopted as a decision-support tool.

In this session led by Rosemary Collier we will critically explore the limits and benefits of an ecosystem approach to growing, based on UK based policies and case-studies. We will further ask, what are the global implications of feeding a nation? How is growing today and now relates to the future possibilities of growing both here and elsewhere?


Lillywhite, R; Collier, R and J Pole. 2009, “Assessing the costs and benefits of agricultural production using an ecosystem approach”, Aspects of Applied Biology, 95. 39-44.


Week 8: Me, My Belly and the City

led by GSD (TBC)

Building upon previous week’s discussions, this week will further elaborate on the concepts of sustainability, security and safety of food, this time with a focus on the urban landscape and foodways. Drawing on the expertise of colleagues from the Global Sustainable Development (GSD) program, this week aims to explore city-based policies and practices (ideally with Coventry based examples for the first iteration of the module). This week has the further intention of critically illuminating how the urban consumer-dwellers can empower themselves and each other within the sustainability agenda be it via flirtations with apps such as Olio, experiments with zero-waste households, or buying and consuming ethically. Following the multiscalar approach of Week 7 (regional, national to global ecosystemic issues), this week elaborates on how individual can be part of the sustainable agenda, while having the city as the framework for the scale of activity.


Steele, Carolyn. Hungry Cities.

Extra readings to be suggested by GSD

Week 9: Food Presents

‘Food hopping’ fieldtrip session led by Mark Hinton and Dr Nese Ceren Tosun, with the participation of Coventry residents and food establishments

In this session, playing with the double entente of the word “presents” as both here and now of the food activities but also “food presents” as food gifts, we will explore the current ways in which Coventry residents (individual and commercial) deploy food to communicate and connect with each other, but also with the city. Drawing on Mark Hinton’s knowledge of and collaboration with the various food actors in Coventry but also his personal experience in generating a cookbook in a past community-led project, the idea is to explore how food can be an expressive tool whether it is to tell personal stories (threads to Week 1 & 2) and/or to negotiate ethnic, religious and other backgrounds and experiences (i.e. migrancy), among neighbours but also with the cityscape itself.

Following on previous weeks’ critical approach to porousness of the boundaries of the cities and nations when it comes to food due to trade, policy, cultural or environmental impact, this week will further play with the idea of temporality, tradition and culinary innovation as enacted by ethnically marked restaurants and individuals negotiating cultural, financial, commercial and dietary priorities. It will further explore theoretically and practically the limits of hospitality and gift exchange, be it as part of neighbourly presence in the city or hospitality sector.

We will be guests to some of our neighbours in Coventry, to nibble on home-made food and collect “food presents”.


*Please note:

  •  Off-campus location: The session will take place outside of campus and we will need to visit 3-4 different locations. Please let the tutor know of any mobility issues.
  • Time limits: 2 hours is an ambitious time limit for this fieldtrip and we may need to extend the hours for this week (to be agreed with the cohort)


Mauss, M. ([1954] 2010) Gift. London: Routledge

Tosun, N. C. (2017) Diasporic Authenticities. In: Performing Home: A la Turca Foodscapes in London, Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Warwick.

Week 10: A Recipe of One's Own: A Symposium

This week we will collectively organise a "symposium”, truthful to the original Greek sense of the word, a convivial final gathering with our thoughts and recipes. We will all cook/prepare an edible/drink to be shared with the rest of the class using the seeds/herbs/plants we grew throughout the term.

Before fully closing the circle, we will delve further into the body as a final challenge by exploring the sensory experience by a mindful eating exercise.

Module Convenor

Dr Nese Ceren Tosun


Term 2 (Spring) - 2019-20
Wednesday 10.00 am - 12.00 pm


Humanities Studio


For 10 CATS

Referenced Growing Journal (1000 Words) (50%)

Student Devised Food Mapping Project (50%)

For 15 CATS

Referenced Growing Journal (1500 Words) (50%)

Student Devised Food Mapping Project (50%)

For 20 CATS

Referenced Growing Journal (2000 Words) (50%)

Student Devised Food Mapping Project (50%)

For 30 CATS

Referenced Growing Journal (2500 words) (40%)

Food Matters Blog (20%)

Student Devised Food Mapping Project (40%)