Humanities Approaches to Food and Food Systems

Food studies focuses on human relationships to food. Interdisciplinary humanities-driven work is therefore vital to understanding what food means to various groups and how its preparation can be ritualized; how food is represented and understood in changing cultural configurations and social exchanges; and social and ideological struggles around the meanings, control over and access to food. By focusing primarily on food cultures and politics in South Africa, this project seeks to strengthen analysis of food, society and culture in the global South and the global North. Recognizing that current globalization requires this transnational attention, the Project is committed to creating and strengthening a research community across disciplinary and geographical boundaries.


This research capacity-building project, based in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape, is funded by the Mellon Foundation and located in the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security at the University of the Western Cape. The project is rooted in critiques of neo-liberal knowledge as described by South African scholars such as John Higgins, Njabulo Ndebele and Premesh Lalu, and globally, by critics including Terry Eagleton, Cornel West and Stuart Hall. The project focuses on critiquing our existing knowledge and research environment: it draws together established academics, emerging researchers’ and postgraduates students’ knowledge-making that straddles the humanities, critical social sciences and radical strands within the natural sciences; at the same time, it interrogates how research in the natural sciences, aspects of the social sciences and agro-food is impoverished without attention to humanities scholarship, intellectual traditions and teaching.


Through postgraduate supervision, colloquiua, workshops, seminars, publications and national and global partnerships, the project seeks to build a vibrant research culture around interdisciplinary understandings of human experiences of food and eating in particular ways, at particular historical moments, and under certain social, environmental and cultural conditions.

As an integrated platform for this Project, the website includes the following:

Articles and opinion pieces

Lectures and reports

Emerging researchers’ and students’ work:

Visual Gallery and Videos