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Food as Heritage: Uses and Consequences of Food as an Object of Cultural Value

Changes in Heritage (New Manifestations)Notions of HeritageIntangible HeritageTourism
Simultaneous translation - Traduction simultanée
Session with simultaneous translation / Session avec traduction simultanée
9:00, Lundi 6 Juin 2016 (3 heures 30 minutes)

This session is committed to extending previous research collaborations on food and culinary systems as objects of political mobilization – ICA 52, 2006 (Seville); Mexico DF, 2009; ICA 54, 2012 (Vienna); Uqam, 2014 (Montreal). On this occasion, we will deepen and develop ongoing debates about the growing place of food in the cultural politics of heritage and its impacts on society, about which there is still scarce documentation. 

How are food and culinary heritages constructed and how do they contribute to the consolidation of identities and economies? Its implementation shows food heritage as the result of a complex process: it combines objectives fostered by civil society and those promoted by political instances, to different degrees and for various reasons, as it engages identity, development, and markets in their relations with a diversity of food practices, produces, and crops. Within this constellation of actors and goals, food heritage can be stretched into many directions between the poles of multiple opportunities of commodification and the enhancement of the human activities that constitute it, and thus can bring both positive and negative effects on society. Against this background many questions arise:

Why should food be considered as heritage? Which are the criterion of food and culinary practices to be selected as heritage? What does food heritagization reveal about the relations between food and nation, food and region, food and community? Which approaches are suitable for studying the foundations and aims of culinary nationalisms, including the possible shifts and tensions between institutional and everyday identity politics? To what extent does food heritagization create consensus? Or, at the contrary, could it be at the center of social and economic tensions? 

The session aims to foster critical reflection on the consequences and social implications of the uses of food as a resource that both shapes collective identities and supports ideologies and social claims. In other words, the transformational potential of food heritagization will be questioned.

Of particular interest is to address the relations between food heritage and local development policies, the encounter between economic requirements and opportunities (for example, through gastronomic tourism) and the safeguarding of local and “traditional” food biodiversity and practices.      

Food heritage-making and innovation-through-heritagization at the local level will be as critical as the wider effects of the globalization of heritage policies and programs. The presentations will highlight the trans-regional dimensions of food heritagization and develop examinations taking into account those excluded from heritage-making processes. Similarly, the circulation, transformation, exchange, and (re-)appropriation processes of food and culinary forms, knowledge, and policies across the world will be addressed. Finally, critical and contesting initiatives relying on food heritage-making as well as studies on the role of food in contemporary identity formation will be discussed. 

The very idea of this session is to show how focusing on the particularity of food heritage – tangible and intangible at the same time, and containing a broad and flexible range in which culture, identity and markets meet to varying degrees –, allows for the rethinking of cultural heritage policies and initiatives.

University of Göttingen, KAEE
Research Fellow
Full-time researcher

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