Food culture: the anthropology of food and nutrition

Excerpt from an unpublished review paper on Globalisation, Culture and Traditional Food Systems.

Culture, as a concept, cannot easily be defined although it has been described by various Anthropologists over the years. Spencer-Oatey (2012) explained that defining culture tends to be difficult because of the various uses for which the term has been employed. His definition of culture takes into consideration the behavioural patterns of people in a group as shaped by their values, beliefs, orientation and policies, and how this may influence, but not necessarily determine, individual behaviour within the group, as well as their interpretation of the behaviour of people outside the group. Matsumoto and Juang (2012) add that what defines the term “culture” is that it is translated and transferred from one generation to the next. Culture is dynamic and individuals may possess multiple cultures as they move into new cycles such as occupation, religion or geographic regions (Avruch 1998). Continue reading

Food systems of indigenous people

Excerpt from an unpublished review paper on Globalisation, Culture and Traditional Food Systems. This section specifically reviews research by Kuhnlein, H. V., Erasmus, B. and Spigelski, D. (eds.) Indigenous peoples’ food systems: The many dimensions of culture, diversity and environment for nutrition and health. Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment, FAO. Rome.

The UN fact sheet[1] on indigenous people estimates that worldwide, there are more than 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 different countries. These indigenous people are custodians of their unique traditions and retain the social, economic, political, and cultural behaviours that distinguish them from the prevailing societies in which they live. It is also believed that they possess invaluable knowledge on the sustainable management of their natural resources and are considered descendants of those who originally inhabited a given geographical location before the arrival of colonisers and immigrants. Continue reading

Food taboos: Religious and cultural food laws

Excerpt from an unpublished review paper on Globalisation, Culture and Traditional Food Systems.

The significance of food to humans is not restricted to nutrition and biological functions (El-Mahi, 2013) but is also a means of expression in many cultures and religions. For instance, when a Muslim faithful asked Prophet Muhammad “What is faith?” he responded: “to offer food and give the greeting of peace” (Feeley-Harnik, 1995).   Continue reading