Course Syllabus

Food and Identity 

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Semester & Location:

Summer 2019, Session 2 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Study Tour:


Major Disciplines:

Food Studies, History, Sociology

Faculty Member:

Camilla Hoff-Jørgensen

DIS Contact:

Sanne Rasmussen - 


Monday through Friday; see detailed schedule below



About the 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 Brillat-Savarin - has never been truer than it is today. Food has always been closely linked to identity, but in the past two 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 in two countries: Denmark and Spain. Each 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’ in Spain; ‘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 in both countries, such as 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). In Copenhagen, and then during a field study in Barcelona, we’ll expand that exploration by talking to chefs, farmers, public health officials, artisans, and food historians about what Danes and Spaniards eat, and what it reveals about their respective cultures.



  • To learn how to think critically about food as a reflection of social, political, and economic phenomena
  • To develop a sense of the culinary cultures of Spain and Denmark and how these relate to broader cultures
  • To analyze the role of food in forging identity at the individual and collective levels  



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 course, we will go on various field studies to explore and taste. We will spend the first couple of hours in the classroom and then explore Copenhagen in class or in groups in the afternoon. 

  • In week 1 and 3 we will be out of the class room in the second part of each day between 12.30  - 2.00 PM approximately. We will meet in our class room ( ST2-21) each morening from 10-11.30.
  • Tuesday 26th of June we will be cooking with chef, Nikolaj Juel-Christiansen in a location in Copenhagen


Study Tour

We will go on a 5-day study tour to Barcelona from June 17 till June 21. During the study tour, you will further explore the relationships between food, culture, and identity by focusing on how these arenas come together in Barcelona: a city that sits at the pinnacle of food culture today. You will learn about both traditional and contemporary styles of cuisine, and how they reflect and shape competing (regional, national, and international) identities. You will also investigate what goes into producing that cuisine by visiting farms, markets, artisanal producers, and restaurant kitchens. With the quest to get a better concept of what food means to Catalans, you will discover how it helps both unite and distinguish themselves among other culinary cultures in Europe.


Guest Lectures

Nikolaj Juel- Christiansen


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.

You 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 on 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. 

Class hours may vary, but will not begin before 10.05 am at the earliest.



Students will be evaluated on their ability to understand, discuss and communicate theories within how we recreate our identity through food, as well as interpret readings and cases 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.


  • 20% Group analysis of food market. 2-3 pages. Due Sunday, Jun 16 by 11.59 pm 
  • 35% Food Reflections blog. Please set up and maintain a food reflection blog for the duration of this course. In it, you must post regularly (3 times during the summer semester) about foods and food practices that you encounter. (You will have time in class to prepare some of these blog posts). Strong posts will not only describe those foods and practices but analyze them, and the blog itself will be evaluated for the quality of its insights, interpretations, reflection level, use of readings and writing. You may include photos, videos, or any other media you see fit, but a blog that is only images, or images with very short captions and description will not receive a high grade. Due Jun 28 by 11.59 pm 
  • 30% Presentation and Analysis that analyzes a Danish food phenomenon. A presentation should be no longer than 10 minutes; essay should be at least four pages. Must include an interview. Due Jul 1 by 11.59 pm
  • 15Participation. Participation includes attendance, participation in class discussions, completing the reading, and doing in-class writing exercises.



Camilla Hoff-Jørgensen holds a Cand. in Anthropology (2012) besides being a nutritionist (2006). She has worked as a cultural informant in Japan educating and arranging events about Danish and Scandinavian food culture. She was a text writer for the Japanese magazine, SHUN, writing about Scandinavian eating culture and traditions. At DIS Camilla has led study tours and taught the course, Anthropology of Food, Medical Anthropology, Food & Identity and Health Care Strategies for At-Risk Populations. 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 Anthropology of Food and Medical Anthropology and is well equipped with classic and modern qualitative research methods tool (interviews, journey mapping, co-creation, cards of association). With these tools, she has solved tasks for among other the Danish Cancer Society, Hillerød Hospital, and municipalities. 


Academic Regulations  

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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