CFP: Less Palatable, Still Valuable

CFP for annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association
December 3-7, 2014, Washington, D.C.

Panel Title: Less Palatable, Still Valuable: Taste, Agro-biodiversity, and Culinary Heritage

Panel Organizers: Theresa Miller (University of Oxford) and Greg de St. Maurice (University of Pittsburgh)

People across the world eat many things that they would readily admit are not particularly tasty. Contexts might include economic boycotts, dietary restrictions, ritual meals, and hunger. Research on the cross-cultural classification of “tastes” reveals significant variation, as societies experience taste in fundamentally distinct ways. Anthropological studies on disgust, neophobia, and avoidance have been productive (Douglas
1966, Wilk 1997), as have studies of food crops that have gained worldwide significance, such as sugarcane, wheat, and maize (Mintz 1985, Pilcher 1998, Laudan 2013). Taking into consideration that taste and palatability are culturally conditioned, this panel explores the relationship between taste and value by focusing upon distinct flavors, acquired tastes, and the less delicious, even the bland. The panel welcomes papers that bring attention to cases in which edible plants and animals, food dishes, cooking techniques, and even cuisines considered less palatable are valued because they contribute to agro-biodiversity, healthfulness or well-being, symbolism, ritual use, or for other socio-culturally relevant reasons. Ethnographic papers on underrepresented crops or foods that emphasize the diversity of social conceptions of “taste” and deliciousness are particularly welcomed, as are those that examine the links between the cultural constructions of taste and biodiversity maintenance or loss.

This panel will be broad in its geographic scope, exploring the social significance of “less delicious” foods that include yam, manioc, and maize for the Canela indigenous community of Brazil and the Shishigatani squash and other heirloom vegetables for residents of Kyoto, Japan. Papers that complement these case studies will be considered. We ask: How do taste and value intersect and affect each other? When do societies savor less appealing flavors? What do social patterns, semiotics, and historical changes tell us about the place of distinctly less appealing, sometimes even unappealing, flavors? When are they snubbed and excluded, when might they be relegated to a cherished but limited cultural role, and when might they be celebrated and included in spite of–or because of–the flavors they possess, even becoming an “acquired taste”? How do sociocultural factors, including environmental conservation, healthfulness, and the maintenance of tradition, shape the valuation of taste? In pondering these questions, the papers on this panel will suggest ways of incorporating the “less delicious” into the safeguarding of agro-biodiversity and culinary heritage. In this way, the papers will contribute a new dimension to conservation and heritage studies through exploring when and why people eat what their taste buds do not find most delicious.

To propose a paper for this panel, please send a 250 word abstract to Greg de St. Maurice at grd11@pitt.edu and Theresa Miller at theresa.miller@anthro.ox.ac.uk as soon as possible. We will respond within one week of receipt and highly encourage early submissions. If the panel fills up quickly, we may submit for Executive Status (Febrary 15th deadline). Otherwise, we will aim for Invited status and will consider submissions up to March 15th or until all of our slots are filled.

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Filed under AAA 2014 Washington DC, anthropology, Call for Papers, culture, Food Studies

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