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055: Food Studies as an Academic Discipline with Dr. Krishnendu Ray (Day 10 SFW2)

“Food Studies”, a relatively new academic discipline often sits at the crossroads of anthropology, sociology, agricultural studies, culinary studies and philosophy. Dr. Krishnendu Ray, author of “The Migrant’s Table” (2004) and “The Ethnic Restaurateur” (2016), and Associate Professor with the Food Studies department at New York University helped us see the distinction between “reading” and “doing” academic research through diverse examples.

What makes us human? How is eating a transformative practice? Dutch ethnographer and philosopher Annemarie Mol builds on the theories by Merleau-Ponty and Levinas to understand these questions in her recent work “Eating in Theory” (2021).



Can seeds and plants create sanctuaries for forced migrants and marginalised communities? “Moveable Gardens” (2021) edited by American anthropologists Terese Gagnon and Virginia D. Nazarea draws from botany, gardening, cooking, biodiversity and political science to create a new theoretical fabric.


Ray then illuminated how the “Food Studies” department at New York University owes its origins to four sources - three acknowledged and one hidden. First the path-breaking work of founding chair Marion Nestle in nutrition and public health laid out in her seminal book “Food Politics” (2002). Second critiques in rural sociology of agro-industrial development as can be seen in the books by Carson and Lappé. Third the emergence and dominance of food media (eg. Food Network led by Erica Gruen), food columns and reviews (Marian Burros in NY Times), socially conscious celebrity chefs (Alice Waters) and changing consumer preferences (consultant Clark Wolf). And lastly the decline of “Home Economics” as a discipline due to an inability to keep up with changing demographics and second wave feminism.


He concluded his talk by urging us to examine not only the “roots” of food, but the “routes” of food as well - the role played by the continuous movement of cultures, people, animals and plants.



"History of Food Studies" Lecture part of online Studying Foods Workshop with Dr. Krishnendu Ray conducted on March 18, 2022


Further Reading by Dr. Krishnendu Ray

Abbott, Andrew. Chaos of Disciplines. University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Bray, Francesca. The rice economies : technology and development in Asian societies. University of California Press, 1994.

Bray, Francesca, et al., editors. Rice: Global Networks and New Histories. Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Carney, Judith A. Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas. Harvard University Press, 2009.

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring (Penguin Modern Classics). Penguin Books, 2000.

Lappé, Frances Moore. Diet for a Small Planet (Revised and Updated). Random House Publishing Group, 2021.

Mol, Annemarie. Eating in Theory. Duke University Press, 2021.

Nazarea, Virginia D., and Terese Gagnon, editors. Moveable Gardens: Itineraries and Sanctuaries of Memory. University of Arizona Press, 2021.

Nestle, Marion. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. University of California Press, 2013.

Pelluchon, Corine. Nourishment: A Philosophy of the Political Body. Translated by Justin E. H. Smith, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019.

Ray, Krishnendu. The Ethnic Restaurateur. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.

Ray, Krishnendu. The Migrants Table: Meals And Memories In. Temple University Press, 2004.

Warde, Alan. The Practice of Eating. Polity Press, 2016.

Waters, Alice, et al. We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto. Penguin Publishing Group, 2021.

Waters, Alice, and Daniel Duane. Edible Schoolyard. Chronicle Books, 2008.



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