Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food

The Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food is the annual international point of assembly and an exchange of knowledge in the field of the food history in the Netherlands. 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.

Organizing Committee
IJsbrand van Dijk;  Antonia Mazel; Joke Mammen; Jon VerrietIngrid de Zwarte

Advisory Board
Prof. Dr. Ir. Louise O. Fresco; Mrs. Claudia Roden; Prof. Dr. Peter Scholliers; Prof. Dr. Irene E. Zwiep.

Friday, 16 November – Saturday 17 November 2018
Venue: Aula of the University of Amsterdam
Singel 411, 1012 XM Amsterdam.


Registration is closed.
For an update on the Symposium please sign in here.


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.



Friday, 16 November 2018

09:00 – 10:00 Registration and coffee
10:00 – 10:05 Welcome Marike van Roon

10:05 – 10:30 Professor J.M. van Winter Stipendium

10:30 – 11.00 Keynote lecture by David Gentilcore

11:00 – 12.30 Panel 1 – Nutritional Science and its Applications

12.30 – 13.30 Lunch break

13.30 – 14.00 Intermezzo – The Four Humours in Early Modern Art

14.00 – 15.30 Panel 2 – (Not) in Control: Diets and Bodily Discipline

15.30 – 16:45  Coffee & Tea break

16:45 – 17:30 Prize-giving Ceremony of the 2017 Johannes van Dam Prize
Drinks at Special Collections UvA.


Saturday, 17 November 2018

09:00 – 09:30 Registration

09.30 – 10.30 Panel 3 – Prescriptions and Proscriptions: Nutrition and Public Health

10.30 – 11.00 Coffee & Tea break

11.00 – 12.00 Panel 4 – The Mediatization and Popularization of Healty Eating

12.00 – 12.20 Wrap-up by Irene Zwiep

12.20 – 12.30 Closing remarks and topic for 2019

Afternoon Programme of the Foodie Festival at Special Collections of the UvA (festival starts at 13.00)



Participants are free to make their own accommodation booking. Many hotels are situated in the vicinity of the conference venue in the Amsterdam historic city centre. The following website can be useful:


Call for Papers

Abstract submission is closed.
Please look here for the CfP: Call for Papers 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.

Past years:

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:

2017 – Making Sense of Taste

2016 – Fire, Knives and Fridges

2015 – Food, Hunger and Conflict

2014 – Cooking up the Low Countries : Textual and Visual Representations of Culinary Culture in Belgium and the Netherlands (16th-21st century)


The Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food has been made possible with the generous support of Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam School for Historical Studies – University of Amsterdam, Bibliotheken Eemland, Carrera Culinair, Cormet, CPNB, Fontaine Uitgeverij, Huizinga Instituut, Hotel De l’Europe, Pitch PR, Nieuw Amsterdam Publishers, Nijgh Cuisine, Slow Food Amsterdam and Stichting Gastronomische Bibliotheek.