The Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food is an annual point of assembly and an exchange of knowledge in the field of the food history. It intends to stimulate debate and research that bridges the gap between different disciplines. Another aim is to transfer academic research to a wider public and stimulate research using the Special Collection of the University of Amsterdam. The symposium is therefore targeted at both an academic and a professional audience.
The Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food is the result of a collaborative partnership between the Special Collections, University of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam School of Historical Studies, University of Amsterdam and the research unit Social & Cultural Food Studies (FOST) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
Friday, 16 November – Saturday 17 November 2018
Venue: Aula of the University of Amsterdam
Singel 411, 1012 XM Amsterdam.
Body and Soul
Examining the historical relation between nutrition, health and culture
The act of ingestion ensures our intimate relationship with food. This literal ‘incorporation’ has implications that go far beyond basic physicality: it is precisely in the corporeal sphere that the cultural significance of our food habits is on display. Crucial to the connection between food and body is the concept of control. State institutions, medical professionals, and spiritual teachers have prescribed and proscribed dietary behaviour, exercising what Michel Foucault has termed ‘biopower’, in an attempt to regulate the nourishment of populations. Such nutritional advice has often been a form of moral guidance: to authorities like doctors and religious leaders, public health was a medical and an ethical issue. Corporations have made similar persuasion efforts, often aided by health gurus and sportspersons – from 19th-century fruitarians to 21st-century Instagram influencers advertising their ‘killer’ bodies. By conceptualizing the body as a machine in need of ‘input’, they increasingly sold consumers the prospect of total control over their health and wellbeing.
Yet the public has the agency to modify and contest existing food regimes. By narrativizing the fundamental everyday practice of food consumption, individuals fashion eating – and not-eating – into a performance, thereby inextricably linking these acts to personal identity. Their pursuit for healthy and inspiring lifestyles can lead to greater self-care, but can also encourage problematic body/food mindsets, such as anorexia or orthorexia. No wonder that, since ancient times, the notion of a powerful connection between psychological and physical health has been deployed by spiritual leaders to promise audiences control over their desires and appetites. Hence it is especially in the context of the body that the cultural relevance of food can be explored.
This year’s symposium aims at drawing into dialogue scholars exploring the historical complexities of the relationship between body and nutrition. We invite abstracts for papers covering any topic related to the study of this relationship including, but not limited to, the following:
- Nutritional science, dietetics, and medicine
- Popularization and mediatisation of nutritional knowledge
- Dieting, body images, and physical culture
- Food, spirituality and morality
- Public health and nutritional policy
Guidelines for Paper Proposals
The symposium program consists of plenary keynote lectures, paper presentations and panel discussions. If you are interested in presenting a paper at the symposium, please submit an abstract before 5 March 2018. Please expect to be presenting to a large audience of up to 250 people, including academic as well as professional participants. The symposium language is English. Presenters of accepted papers are asked to speak 20 minutes, as lively and engaging as possible, followed by a discussion with the panel and the audience under the supervision of a session chair.
Applications should include:
- title of proposed paper
- abstract (maximum 500 words)
- biographical information (short CV)
- contact information (e-mail, telephone and postal address)
Applications should be sent by the deadline of 5 March 2018 to:
Notification of acceptance:
Registration will open in July 2018.
The programme will be published in June 2018.
Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam
The Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam preserve and maintain the academic heritage of the university. There are over a thousand sub-collections, comprising rare and valuable books, manuscripts, prints, photographs and much, much more. The collections serve educational and research purposes but are also there for the general public.
Amsterdam School of Historical Studies, University of Amsterdam
The Amsterdam School of Historical Studies (ASH) is a research institute of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam. The institute focuses on culture and history. Research is organized both along thematic lines (religion, the city, theatre, conflict, medicine), and in terms of periods in time (e.g. the classical period, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Golden Age, the contemporary period), which are studied from an interdisciplinary perspective (art, history, literature, music, theatre, etc.).
Social & Cultural Food Studies (FOST) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel
FOST is a research group for social and cultural food studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. The research group, founded in April 2003, works in collaboration with the Vlaams Centrum voor Volkscultuur, the Institut Européen de l’Histoire de l’Alimentation and the Institut National de Recherche Agronomique.
FOST aims at consolidating the expertise on foodstudies by inviting (foreign) specialists to workshops and colloquia, by operating within networks, by publishing and contemplating about food studies, and by performing new (multidisciplinary) food research.
For the details on the topics and the programme of the Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food of the past years please click on the titles:
The Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food has been made possible with the generous support of Amsterdam University Fund, Amsterdam School of Historical Studies of the University of Amsterdam, the Social & Cultural Food Studies (FOST) research unit of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Doctoral School of Human Sciences of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.