In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Food Studies and Communication

  • Introduction

Communication Food Studies and Communication
Fabio Parasecoli
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 February 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 February 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0255


Food is much more than fuel for our bodies. It is an essential part of human cultures, and as such it carries meanings that shape and reflect individual and communal identities in terms of race, ethnicity, class, age, social class, and status, among others. It is both deeply physical and highly symbolic. Challenging the fundamental opposition between inside and outside, eating requires ingestion, bringing the outside inside, which is both exciting and terrifying. For this reason, food is both a source of pleasure and comfort and a cause for anxieties and concerns ranging from purity to propriety, heath, and wellness, just to mention a few. All food communicates meaning. We are implicitly trained to get cues from the world that surrounds us, and food is not excluded from these dynamics. We can obtain information from products and ingredients; from dishes and recipes; from the material objects that surround the act of eating, from tableware to furniture, interior design, built environments such as markets, stores, and supermarkets; from urban design and landscapes; from performative acts that include selling, cooking, serving, and eating food, as well as even disposing of leftovers; from every component of food systems, from agricultural production to manufacturing, packaging, transportation, distribution, trade, retail, and consumption; invisible infrastructures such as supply chains, cold chains, and more recently electronic traceability and blockchain. This bibliographical article focuses on the study of the intentional forms of communication that revolve around material, visual, and textual representations of food, and how they reflect, shape, or at times even problematize the explicit and implicit meanings food is able to generate. Research on these matters has grown in recent years with the emergence and growth of food studies as an interdisciplinary academic field. However, scholars from other disciplines, from literary studies to art history, media studies, gender studies, and politics, have engaged with the role of food in communication, often embracing multidisciplinary approaches in dialogue with food studies. The article is divided in two parts. The first part examines publications that look at food in different means of communication, from TV to fine arts and digital media, investigating the specificities of each means in its relationship with food discourse and practices. The second part instead explores research on food representations in the communication that involves different aspects of cultural and social life, from gender to politics. Some overlapping between the two sections is inevitable, but nevertheless the organization of the bibliographical entries in these two large sections can help the reader better navigate the content of the article and the rapidly expanding literature.

Means of Communication

The growing visibility of food in media and the relevance of mediation and mediatization on how we experience and think of food are the object of growing attention not only in food studies, but also in other disciplines. Such attention reflects the visible presence of food in contemporary communication, which is in turn the result of its increased centrality in cultural, social, and political debates, particularly in post-industrial societies. However, food has been a subject of media and communication since the inception of visual and textual cultures. This section explores representations across different media, looking at food in ancient literature and fine arts, its appearance in print, film, and TV, and its ubiquity in the most recent digital means of communication.

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