MA Anthropology of Food: a lightning tour


SOAS is the only institution to offer the unique degree, MA Anthropology of Food. Taught by experts within our Department of Anthropology and Sociology – which is ranked 5th in the UK and 16th in the world (QS World University Rankings 2021) – this programme offers the opportunity to study the passage of food from plant to palate, and examine who benefits, and who suffers, from contemporary modes of production, exchange, preparation, and consumption.

Whether you’re thinking of studying MA Anthropology of Food and want to read up before you start the course, or just fancy dipping your toes into the subject, we’ve put together a reading list to give you a lightning tour of this fascinating discipline. Time to hit the library – your menu is as follows.

A good place to start is the Handbook of Food and Anthropology, put together by SOAS’s own Jakob Klein, together with James L. Watson – this is the first handbook to provide a detailed overview of all major areas of the field. Featuring 20 original essays by leading figures within the discipline, the handbook is divided into three parts: Food, Self and Others; Food Security, Nutrition and Food Safety; and Food as Craft, Industry and Ethics.

Once you’ve got your head around this, move on to Food and Culture: A Reader (4th edition), or the new Why Food Matters: Critical Debates in Food Studies, only published last month.

Introducing discussions about nomadism, commercialisation, food security, and ethical consumption – including the long-term environmental and health consequences of eating meat – Gillian Crowther’s Eating Culture: An Anthropological Guide to Food should be next on your list.

food anthropology
You can find these books in the SOAS Library.

Zoom in on specific food groups and items and their contexts within anthropology: explore sugar in Sidney Mintz’s magisterial Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, or dive into the discussions around tea in Steeped in Heritage: The Racial Politics of South African Rooibos Tea by Sarah Ives.

Other notable titles include Food Between the Country and the City: Ethnographies of a Changing Global Foodscape, Ethical Eating in the Postsocialist and Socialist World, and Digital Food Activism.

All this reading may make you hungry. So grab a snack, settle in, and devour these texts to gain an understanding of just what the MA Anthropology of Food is all about.

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