Anthropology of Food

R. Kenji Tierney and Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney

in The Oxford Handbook of Food History

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199729937
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Anthropology of Food


Food is an important indicator of social differentiation, which defines the boundaries between social groups, and social hierarchy, which entails class, status, and power inequality. Because food is a basic element of material culture and social life, it has occupied a central place in the discipline of anthropology from its earliest days. Anthropologists view food and foodways as tools with which to understand individual cultures and societies, especially when they are situated in the context of global and historical flows and connections. Ethnography, the methodology used by anthropologists and by some other social scientists, relies on a holistic and empathetic approach based on lived experience among the people being studied. Anthropologists have long been interested in commensality as both a source and an expression of group identities. Another way to probe sociality is to analyze gifts and manners.

Keywords: food; anthropology; social differentiation; commensality; gifts; manners; sociality; ethnography; social hierarchy; material culture

Article.  8485 words. 

Subjects: History ; World History

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