Course Syllabus


Anthropology of Food D

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2019 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Food Politics

Faculty Members:

Camilla Hoff-Jørgensen - 

Program Director:

Neringa B. Vendelbo,

Time & Place:

Tuesdays & Fridays, 11.40 - 13.00, N7-B13

Description of Course

“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are”.  Quite possibly the most famous words in the entire history of food-writing, that phrase,  issued by 19th-century epicure, politician, layer and gastronome, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, has never been truer than it is today. Food has always been closely linked to identity, but in the past three decades, it has also become the focus of a host of issues - everything from the industrialization of farming to the integration of immigrants - that reflect cultural, social, and even political values.  

In this course, we will look at the nexus between what you eat and who you are by focusing on food culture across the world, but by using most case studies from North Europa, South Europe and in the United States. Europe has a deeply-rooted culinary tradition that was shaped by geography, religion, and demographics. But in recent years each has also shot to the forefront of the gastronomic world, producing a distinctive kind of cutting-edge cuisine (‘molecular gastronomy’; ‘new Nordic’ in Denmark) that has turned its chefs into celebrities and its restaurants into the object of international pilgrimage. We’ll investigate how those transformations have come about, and what they have meant - culturally, economically, and even artistically - for the societies that produced them.

But we will not just be exploring the world of fine dining; we will also focus on other aspects of food culture. Eating is more than sustenance and enjoying the taste of it. When we consume we communicate meaning that creates identities, maintains social bonds and sustains cultures. This makes eating not only a nutritional act but also a social and cultural act. Why is it that men who prepare food are called chefs while women are called cooks? How is it that Thanksgiving is not the same without a turkey? Why do some choose to buy a Hendricks Gin and not a Bombay Gin?

Intangled in the social and cultural activities of eating is also an agricultural, environmental, ethical and political act which we will discuss from an anthropological and sociological point of view, by discussing the impact of industrial agriculture and the rise of alternatives; growing concerns about the relationship between diet and public health; and the impact of immigration on cuisine (and vice versa).

During our classes, we’ll expand that exploration by talking to chefs, farmers, public health officials, artisans, and food historians about what Danes eat, and what it reveals about their respective cultures.

In this course, you will get acquainted with the anthropological and sociological perspectives on the topic of food, get immersed deeply into the Scandinavian eating culture and the Nordic culinary revival and investigate the role of the city in rethinking our food systems. In between, we will go out and explore Copenhagen and conduct food tastings.


Learning Objectives

The overall objective of the course is to enable students to understand the disparate social and cultural meanings of food. The course aims to endow them with a strong sense that food is more than what is served on a plate and provide them with a valuable tool-kit filled with impressions, experiences, approaches, and concepts with which they would be able to better understand the practice of eating.  

By the end of the course, students should have:

  • developed a sense of the culinary cultures of Denmark and other countries and how these relate to broader cultures;
  • enhanced understanding of food culture in their home country and other countries after using Denmark as a case model
  • an understanding of how to analyze the role of food in forging an identity on an individual and collective levels;  
  • developed a sense of how to think critically about food as a reflection of social, political, and economic phenomena;
    • enhanced their understanding of the evolving role of gastronomy and the role of culture in reshaping a cultural identity;
    • greater knowledge of the fields of anthropology and sociology and how these disciplines approach the study of food 
    • the ability to use anthropological methods of inquiry to critically reflect on the role of food in culture in cultural practice;



    There is no textbook for this course and most readings are found exclusively on Canvas.

    Anthropological Theory

    • Ariel, A. (2012). The Hummus Wars. Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. 12. 34-42. 
    • Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
    • Swinbank, V. A. (2002). "The Sexual Politics of Cooking: A Feminist Analysis of Culinary Hierarchy", in Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. 15 No. 4 December 2002
    • Tjørnhøj-Thomsen T. and Ploug Hansen H. (2015). "Managing Uncertainties, Gaining Control: The Magic of Foods and Words" in Steffen, V., Jöhncke, S., & Raahauge, K. M. (red.) (2015). Between Magic and Rationality (eds. Jöhncke, Steffen, Vibeke Steffen & Kirsten Marie Raahauge): On the limits of reason in the modern world. (Critical Anthropology udg.) København: Museum Tusculanum. (Critical Anthropology, Vol. 4).

    This is a selection of the course readings. The complete readings will be available on Canvas.


    Field Studies

    During the semester the two field studies will provide the possibility to explore and taste. The field studies are on:

    • 13 March 13.00 - 17.00
    • 10 April 8.30 - 12.30


    Guest Lectures

    During the course, we will go out and visit locations or have speakers come and visit us. Among others, 

    • Jonathan Leer, Lector
    • Signe Nipper Nielsen, Lector


    Expectations of the Students

    I expect you to attend all class sessions unless prevented by an emergency. If you are not in class, you cannot participate. I expect you to complete all the assigned reading and come to class prepared to discuss it in depth. I expect you to turn in assignments on time.

    Students are not allowed to use a laptop or smartphone in class. Considerations will, of course, be taken if you have special needs for a computer for note-taking. Please speak to the Office of Academic Support to request accommodations.

    All students are expected to have completed the course readings before class so that we can discuss the material at the right level. It is important to be well prepared for class because I may randomly select students to give key points on the readings for that day.

    Students are expected to participate actively in all classes and field studies and be open-minded to your fellow student’s contribution to the class. The aim is to establish an environment where we can learn from each other as well as from the texts and cases we engage with, and you are expected to actively support this approach.


    Approach to Teaching

    The methods used to cover class materials include lectures, video, discussions, individual and group presentations, guest lectures, and field trips. Periodically we will split up into smaller groups to review and analyze the material more thoroughly. The course will have several out-of-the-class-room sessions on location to experience the different facets of food first hand. Students are expected to be able to find and be at the external locations on time. The external locations will not be far from DIS's location and maps and addresses will be given in advance. Office hours are held after class or by appointment. 



    Page-01.jpegCamilla Hoff-Jørgensen holds a BA. in Nutrition and Health (2006) and a BA. and cand. in Anthropology (2012). She worked as a cultural informant in Hiroshima, Japan educating and arranging events about Danish and Scandinavian food culture. Camilla has also been a text writer on a monthly article for the Japanese, SHUN magazine, about Danish eating culture and traditions. At DIS Camilla has led study tours to Barcelona for the course, Food & Identity. In her role as Public Health Living and Learning Community Coordinator, she often takes her students to visit new food trends and food entrepreneurs. Camilla has done various small research within the field of Medical Anthropology and is well equipped with classic and modern qualitative research methods tool (journey mapping, co-creation, cards of association). With these tools, she has solved tasks for the Danish Cancer Society and Hillerød Hospital.



    Students will be evaluated on their ability to understand, discuss and communicate theories within Anthropology of Food as well as interpret them meaningfully. These skills will be the primary focuses in evaluations. Group work in class and in the field as well as the student's ability to contribute to a group effort will be taken into account for the grade.


    Your grade consists of the following three elements:
    1. Class engagement (10%). Engagement entails among others: active participation in class discussions, preparation for each class, reading of assigned texts, reflection on reading, active participation in field studies and present a Taste from Europe

    2. Written Analysis (20%). Group Assignment. This assignment shows the students ability to understand the methods of participant observation and the ability to use the concept, Cultural/Economic Capital by Bourdieu.  

    3. Anthropological Food Reflections (40%) The anthropological food reflections consist of 3 reflections about foods and food practices that you encounter (cuisine, ingredient, dish, cultural habit, taboo etc). This demands that you go out and explore Copenhagen. Students are not required to buy expensive food goods, but through their daily meals and meeting with the food offers in Denmark (hot dog stand, café latte, products in the supermarket), students are required to reflect on the cultural constellation of what they eat and consume. Strong posts will not only describe those foods and practices, but analyze them, and the reflection itself will be evaluated for the quality of its insights, references to readings, interpretations, and writing. You may include photos, videos, or any other media you see fit, but a reflection that is only images, or images with very short captions will not receive a high grade. 

    3. Food Essay (based on an interview) (30%) topic of own choice.



    Class Engagement


    Written Analysis


    Food Essay


    Anthropological Food Reflections


    To be eligible for a passing grade in this class you must complete all of the assigned work.

    Academic Regulations  

    Use of Electronic Devices in the Classroom - Electronic devices such as laptop computers, mobile phones, tablet devices etc. are NOT allowed in class. Please be sure that all cell phones are put away and are set to “off” prior to the beginning of the class or a meeting. However, in some specific cases, I may request you to use your computer or tablet for quick/ad-hoc research on the Internet. Any misuse of trust will be reflected in your engagement grade. Students who violate this policy can be requested to leave.

    Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:


    DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -

    Course Summary:

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