Food is a fundamental human necessity, essential to the sustenance of the human body. At the same time, food may be associated with pleasure, passion, even luxury. Food is also essential to the social body. Who eats what, who eats with whom, and whose appetites are satisfied and whose denied, are all profoundly social dynamics through which identities, relationships, and hierarchies are created and reproduced.
The SOAS MA programme in the Anthropology of Food offers students the opportunity to explore historically and culturally variable foodways, from foraging to industrial agriculture, from Europe and North America to Africa, Asia and South America. The programme asks students to trace the passage of food from plant to palate, and to examine who benefits, and who suffers, from contemporary modes of food production, exchange, preparation, and consumption. Students examine food policy at national and international levels, as well as the role played in its formation by the food industry.
Focus is given to the study of famine and the controversial role of food aid in securing food supplies. Debates over the impact of agricultural biotechnology on agrarian livelihoods and knowledge systems, as well as on the natural environment, are assessed. Movements toward organic agriculture, fair trade, and slow food are also analysed.
An anthropological approach to the study of food draws upon and challenges the perspectives of other disciplines, whether agronomy or nutritional science, economics or law, history or literature. Dependent upon individual interests and experiences, graduates of the programme may pursue research degrees in any number of academic disciplines, or find employment in food-related government ministries, international organizations, development agencies, or non-governmental associations, as well as in the fields of public health, education, and media, or in the catering industry.
Course teachers Johan Pottier, Harry G. West, and Jakob Klein were awarded the 2009 Excellence in Instruction Award by the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society. West was named joint runner-up for the SOAS Director’s Teaching Prize in 2011-2012. The SOAS MA in the Anthropology of Food was named a Finalist in the Best Food Initiative category in the BBC Food & Farming Awards in 2015.
The programme consists of four units in total: three units of examined courses and a one unit dissertation of 10,000 words.
Core Courses: - The Anthropology of Food - 15PANC013 (1.0 unit).
- Dissertation in Anthropology and Sociology - 15PANC999 (1.0 unit). This is a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic agreed with the Programme Convenor of the MA Anthropology of Food and the candidate’s supervisor.
- Additionally all MA Anthropology students 'audit' the course Ethnographic Research Methods during term 1 - this will not count towards your 4 units.
Foundation Course: - Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology - 15PANC008 (1.0 unit). This is compulsory only for students without a previous anthropology degree.
Option Courses: - The remaining unit(s) of your programme, either 1 unit of option courses (if taking Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology) or 2 units (if exempted from Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology), may then be selected from the Option Courses list below.
- Your 1 or 2 total units may be made up of any combination of 0.5 or 1 unit option courses.
- However, courses without a "15PANxxxx" course code are taught outside of the Anthropology Department. No more than 1 unit in total of these courses may be selected.
- Alternatively, one language course may be taken from the Faculty of Languages and Cultures.