Article

Food

Michaela DeSoucey

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online November 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0072
Food

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  • Sociology
  • Comparative and Historical Sociology
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  • Social Movements and Social Change
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Food is a relatively new empirically distinct area within sociology. Previously, studies of food production and consumption typically fell under the purview of research on health, agrarian studies, development sociology, agricultural economy, or social anthropology. Rural and natural resource sociologists especially have long emphasized the management and impacts of food production systems in their work. In classical tomes food was typically mentioned as an example of social classification or of social problems rather than a distinct object of study. Since the 1980s sociologists’ attention to how food strengthens social ties; marks social differences; and is integrated into social organizational forms, ranging from households to empires, has grown. Early-21st-century interest in food by both researchers and the larger public follows heightened awareness of the global character of markets and politics, concerns with health and safety, and the ways cooking and dining out have become fodder for media spectacle. Today sociologists of food display considerable diversity in their theoretical approaches, research methods, and empirical foci. Sociologists draw upon both classic and contemporary sociological theorists to study food’s production, distribution, and consumption as well as how food and eating are integrated into social institutions, systems, and networks. Topically, sociologists contribute to research on inequality and stratification, culture, family, markets, politics and power, identity, status, migration, labor and work, health, the environment, and globalization. Late-20th- and early-21st-century sociological work on food is characterized by two overlapping threads: food systems (derived in part from scholarship on agricultural production and applied extension as well as environmental, developmental, and rural sociology) and food politics, identity, and culture (which reveals social anthropological and cultural-historical undertones). Both are nested in the emerging interdisciplinary research field of food studies, which has gained greater institutional footholds at universities in Europe and Australia than in the United States and Canada. Sociologists working across the two threads examine issues of food and inequality, trade, labor, power, capital, culture, and technological innovation. This article maps out social science research and theorizing on what we eat, how we produce and procure food, who benefits, with whom we eat, what we think about food, and how food fits with contemporary social life.

Article.  9684 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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