Sociology of Food



Author(s): Annechen Bahr Bugge 

What kind of activity is cooking? In the Norwegian food discourse the domestic cook is described as a scientist, an artist, an expert, a perfectionist, a patriot, a protector of nature, a politician, a gourmet, a good mother, a good wife and a domestic mistress. This makes daily cooking to something more than routinized housework, it is also a significant part of self presentation and identity formation. The material that will be presented is part of a doctoral project on the process of establishing food habits. An aim of the project is to get an understanding of what roles cooking has in everyday life. A characteristic trend in domestic cookery the last decades is the increase in the use of foreign and commercial food products, kitchen technology and cooking utensils. Cooking has become fashionable. Food processors, blenders, pasta-/coffee-/bread-machines are typical examples of necessities in middle class kitchens. However, there is little that indicates that this has saved time and labour, but rather has led to higher demands on the domestic cook when it comes to creativity and complexity. This is also due to the fact that cooking has shifted from a back stage activity more to a front stage activity. The ideal kitchen of the 50s was a closed working room, while the ideal of today is more open, available and informal. Food-programs on TV is also seen in association with this process. When food-programs first came in the 60s they reflected the goals of the Norwegian food policies. Cookery was portrayed as a serious activity and the TV-cook made sensible and traditional food. Today the most popular food-programs show cooking more as entertainment and self presentation.




Author(s): Tanja Kamin and Blanka Tivadar

The paper presents first, qualitative phase of the research on food related consumer concerns in Slovenia. 5 (focus) group discussions were preformed, 38 informants have been interviewed. Firstly, the paper discusses informants´ most often mentioned concerns, which have been categorized in 11 groups: a) concerns about food ingredients and specific foodstuffs, b) concerns about food preparation and family relations, c) concerns about hazards brought about by scientific and technical advancements in the area of food growing and production d) neophobia, e) body-related concerns, f) concerns about micro-biological safety of food, g) concerns about infection with BSE agent, h) ethical concerns, i) financial concerns, j) etiquette/formal concerns and k) health related concerns. Secondly, it explores ways in which food related concerns influence individuals' food shopping, cooking and eating and finally, it analyses strategies informants use to cope with uncertainty e.g. ignoring information, avoiding certain food, occasional diets, buying meat from known sources, symbolical changes in food consumption, convincing her/himself that "good habits" (e.g. eating honey or apple first thing in the morning, eating at least one hot meal in a day etc.) can prevent the majority of serious diseases.




Author(s): Evgenia Poretskina 

One of the consequences of the process of liberalization of economy in Russia of recent decade was the filling of inner food market with imported food-stuffs. Simultaneously the system of the attitudes towards domestic and foreign food-stuffs began to form. It has gone over the different stages: from the attractiveness of new instilled tastes to the conscious choice and preference. The peculiarities of the system of the attitudes towards domestic and foreign food-stuffs in Russia will be studied in the paper. We divided all attitudes into three groups according the influenced factors: risk-reducing, national (patriotic) and situational. The risk-reducing attitude is tightly connected with healthy way of life and it often based on the availability of consumer information; as a rule in this case the consumer chooses the food of domestic origin as the less harmful. The national attitude usually is connected with national gustatory traditions, and in the recent time with patriotic mood in the society. The positive national attitude toward Russian food-stuff has significantly increased during the 90-th. The situational attitude is the most moderate one, when the consumer doesn't declare certain preferences and chooses the food-stuffs according to the concrete situation. Each of the attitudes has its own peculiar character in up-to-date Russian society and connected with many economic, social and cultural factors. The reasons of every attitude, its display in the everyday practices will be studied on the empirical material, consisted of 100 semi-structured interviews with Russian families focused on their life strategies, made in 1998-2000.




Author(s): Antje Springer and Georgios Papastefanou 

Uses and applications of modern biotechnology especially genetic engineering of food products led to controversial public debate in western cultures. Rejection of GM food seems to prevail but there are marked differences between nations. In the EU e.g. overall 73 % of the population are rejecting GM food. Beside the group of countries who are close to the EU average like Sweden, Spain, Westgermany, Ireland, Belgium and North Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Denkmark, France and Greece show an above-average rate of rejection, with Greece showing the highest. Italy, Luxembourg, Eastgermany, Finland, Greatbritain and the Netherlands are showing a below average rate of rejection, with the Netherlands and Greatbritain (about 57 %) showing the lowest rejection rate in the European Union. The national differences are clear cut, but is explanations of the differences are somehow vague, relating mainly on a kind of north-south european disparities. In our analysis we are trying to quantify the amount of differences being due to socio-economic structural differences in contrast to subejctive belief and knowledge on gm food. We do this by estimating regression equations separately for each country in EU, based on data of Eurobarometer 1999. Thereby empirical results on reasons of intraeuropean variation in gm food attitudes are provided, which might be helpful to built on a theoretical socio-cultural approach of intersocietal disparities.




Author(s): Johanna Mäkelä

Changes like industrialisation and urbanisation, the position of women, and globalisation have left their marks on our eating practices. In the Western world, the field of eating is more fragmented than ever despite the fact that the differences between social groups have diminished. The gained luxury of choice allows the pondering of questions related to quality, healthfulness, safety, ethics and politics of food we eat. At the same time there is an ongoing discussion on disruption of eating patterns as a generally shared whole of rules and practices. The field of eating is splintered and full of contradictions. It is possible to explore these contradictions with concepts such as gender, class, age and life phase. Nevertheless, with six conceptual oppositions I try to pinpoint the complexity of present eating practices beyond these traditional concepts. The oppositions in my presentation are convenience vs. culinarism, health vs. pleasure, ethical vs. egoistic eating, dangerous vs. safe food, eating alone vs. eating together, natural vs. technological food. In everyday life these dichotomies occur in parallel and they do not exclude the effect of socio-demographic factors. The ambivalence of the post-modern life and the complexity of making choices is crystallised in the multidimensionality of eating practices. Few people are directly involved in food production but consumers are paying more attention to the methods and conditions of production than ever. The choice of food has become a form of political and moral statement making.




Author(s): Juha Hedman, Osmo Kivinen and Jonna Nurmi 

In this paper we focus on analysing malnutrition in different stages of the lifespan and compare health hazards deriving from malnutrition in different countries. As income levels and life expectancy rises, and populations become more urban, countries face different forms of malnutrition and consequently shifts in disease patterns. We study how the consequences of malnutrition over the lifespan are dealt with in different countries and what the optimal mechanisms of control are. Malnutrition, operationalised as un-optimal calorie intake, is subdivided into three different forms of health hazards: undernutrition, overconsumption and lifestyle-related diseases. In our framework the different components of malnutrition are placed on the individual lifespan. Our panel data covers 51 countries and 10 age cohorts comprising a total of 510 observations (individual stages of life). We utilise statistics from the UN and its special agencies FAO and WHO. By using the results of logistic regression to compute risk analysis, we measure and compare various mechanisms of controlling malnutrition. As our results show, in childhood the focus of malnutrition is mainly on undernutrition and the key question is construction (access to food). In adulthood the focus is on overconsumption, the key question being prevention (access to income). When reaching old age, lifestyle-related diseases become the primary focus and the key question is treatment (access to health care).




Author(s): Mari Niva

Food production and consumption in modern society are characterised by many competing yet interrelated developments. One of these relates to health aspects, which appear more and more dominant in the context of food. At the same time, new technologies, such as biotechnology, enable new production methods and new kinds of foods. However, this technologisation of food may induce new risks and bring new elements into the discussion of trust in food. Technologisation is in close connection to what might be called scientification of food and eating, referring to the increasingly salient role of scientific knowledge in food and food production. In many new foods, such as genetically modified and functional foods, the aspects of health, technology and science coalesce in interesting ways. This presentation is based on my ongoing doctoral thesis in consumer economics. In the thesis, I analyse consumers and new foods from the perspective of everyday knowledge. By using the concept of everyday knowledge I explore consumers' interpretations and views of new foods and their ways of conceptualising scientific and other forms of knowledge relating to food and eating. The study uses both qualitative and quantitative data about consumers and foods produced with new technologies. My presentation will look into the concept of everyday knowledge in the context of new foods and reflect on the relation between scientification of eating and conventional views on food, diet and health. Secondly, I will discuss the implications of technologisation with respect to the discussion of risks of and trust in food.




Author(s): Paloma Herrera Racionero and Cecilia Díaz Méndez 

This paper tries to do a critical analysis focused on the main Spanish statistics about food consumption: Household Budget Survey and the Consumption Panel of Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Food (MAPA). We think their limits offer a new framework in order to understand food consumption and eating habits, their permanence and change. These statistical sources provide the possibility of knowing the market process or the market trends but it can't offer us a global knowledge about the social bases of food and eating behavior.




Author(s): Torbjörn Bildtgård

The role of medicine and politics in shaping modern eating is often overlooked in sociology. This paper uses a Foucaultian discourse analysis to look at how food and eating has been problematised in Sweden in medical and political documents over the last two centuries and what strategies, techniques and apparatuses have been developed to solve these problems. Three qualitatively different historical medico/political approaches to food and eating are identified: an economising approach, a "nutritional-hygiene" approach and finally a risk-management approach. It is argued that nutritional science has been been closely involved in setting the agenda for as well as legitimising a number of political concerns and interventions for more than a century. Finally it is argued that we have to understand the modern concern with food risks not as a reaction to an essential state of the modern world but as a discursive effect to a large extent generated by the medical discouse around food.