Why We Eat, How We Eat: Contemporary Encounters between Foods and Bodies, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Why We Eat, How We Eat

Contemporary Encounters between Foods and Bodies, 1st Edition

Edited by Emma-Jayne Abbots, Anna Lavis


326 pages

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Why We Eat, How We Eat maps new terrains in thinking about relations between bodies and foods. With the central premise that food is both symbolic and material, the volume explores the intersections of current critical debates regarding how individuals eat and why they eat. Through a wide-ranging series of case studies it examines how foods and bodies both haphazardly encounter, and actively engage with, one another in ways that are simultaneously material, social, and political. The aim and uniqueness of this volume is therefore the creation of a multidisciplinary dialogue through which to produce new understandings of these encounters that may be invisible to more established paradigms. In so doing, Why We Eat, How We Eat concomitantly employs eating as a tool - a novel way of looking - while also drawing attention to the term 'eating' itself, and to the multiple ways in which it can be constituted. The volume asks what eating is - what it performs and silences, what it produces and destroys, and what it makes present and absent. It thereby traces the webs of relations and multiple scales in which eating bodies are entangled; in diverse and innovative ways, contributors demonstrate that eating draws into relationships people, places and objects that may never tangibly meet, and show how these relations are made and unmade with every mouthful. By illuminating these contemporary encounters, Why We Eat, How We Eat offers an empirically grounded richness that extends previous approaches to foods and bodies.


’Eating is a bundle of activities and experiences, and involves both destruction and creation. While an everyday practice for everyone, it is both complicated and complex. This book is a masterful examination of the multidimensional nature of eating in symbolic, economic, political, material and nutritional terms, and it is a must-read for anyone interested in food and eating.’ Stanley Ulijaszek, University of Oxford, UK ’This fascinating book is such a timely and welcome addition to the field of food studies. It sets out to destabilise and challenge what we think we know about food and eating by bringing once separate categories into intimate proximity, to touch each other and produce a sensous map of the contours of eating. Spaces between meaning and materiality, commensality and viscerality, and knowledge and bodily practices are oiled and moved into provocative conceptual hinges�, revealing complex and layered relations of eating. This work will undoubtedly shift theoretical and applied debates about food and eating to a new level, and will have significance to those many disciplines that have a vested interest in why we eat, and how we eat.’ Megan Warin, University of Adelaide, Australia 'This fascinating book would be of interest not only to scholars in the social sciences and humanities interested in critical food studies, but to any reader interested in the social, cultural and political dimensions of food and eating practices.' LSE Review of Books

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: contours of eating: mapping the terrain of body/food encounters, Emma-Jayne Abbots and Anna Lavis; Part I Absences and Presences: How We (Do Not) Eat What (We Think) We Eat: Invisible foodscapes: into the blue, Kaori O’Connor; The substance of absence: exploring eating and anorexia, Anna Lavis; Home and heart, hand and eye: unseen links between pigmen and pigs in industrial farming, Kim Baker; Interlude: Eating practices and health behaviour, Simon Cohn. Part II Intimacies, Estrangements and Ambivalences: How Eating Comforts and Disquiets: Advancing critical dietetics: theorizing health at every size, Lucy Aphramor, Jennifer Brady and Jacqui Gingras; Eating and drinking kefraya: the karam in the vineyards, Elizabeth Saleh; Negotiating foreign bodies: migration, trust and the risky business of eating in highland Ecuador, Emma-Jayne Abbots; Interlude: Reflections on fraught food, Jon Holtzman. Part III Contradictions and Co-Existences: What We Should and Should Not Eat: Chewing on choice, Sally Brooks, Duika Burges Watson, Alizon Draper, Michael Goodman, Heidi Kvalvaag and Wendy Wills; ’It is the bacillus that makes our milk’: ethnocentric perceptions of yogurt in postsocialist Bulgaria, Maria Yatova; The transition to low carbon milk: dairy consumption and the changing politics of human-animal relations, Jim Ormond; Interlude: Reflections on the elusiveness of eating, Anne Murcott. Part IV Entanglements and Mobilizations: The Multiple Sites of Eating Encounters: Confessions of a vegan anthropologist: exploring the trans-biopolitics of eating in the field, Samantha Hurn; Metabolism as strategy: agency, evolution and biological hinterlands, Rachael Kendrick; Ingesting places: embodied geographies of coffee, Benjamin Coles; Complex carbohydrates: on the relevance of ethnography in nutrition education, Emily Yates-Doerr; Interlude: Entanglements: fish, guts, and bio-cultural sustainability, Elspeth Probyn; Index.

About the Editors

Emma-Jayne Abbots is Lecturer in Social/Cultural Anthropology and Heritage at the University of Wales Trinity St David and Research Associate at the Food Studies Centre, SOAS, University of London, UK. Anna Lavis is Research Fellow at the School of Health and Population Sciences, University of Birmingham and Research Associate at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK.

About the Series

Critical Food Studies

Critical Food Studies
The study of food has seldom been more pressing or prescient. From the intensifying globalization of food, a world-wide food crisis and the continuing inequalities of its production and consumption, to food's exploding media presence, and its growing re-connections to places and people through 'alternative food movements', this series promotes critical explorations of contemporary food cultures and politics. Building on previous but disparate scholarship, its overall aims are to develop innovative and theoretical lenses and empirical material in order to contribute to - but also begin to more fully delineate - the confines and confluences of an agenda of critical food research and writing. Of particular concern are original theoretical and empirical treatments of the materialisations of food politics, meanings and representations, the shifting political economies and ecologies of food production and consumption and the growing transgressions between alternative and corporatist food networks.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Environmental Science