Monday, October 27, 2008

Column: Deep Culture: Ivo Furman

I often find introductions difficult to write, as they must introduce a body of work that has not been written let alone defined. When Max Holtz contacted me about the possibility of writing a column for his blog, I tried to conceptualize how my vocation and my hobby would coalesce. Being a PhD researcher in the UK, I felt that I had to combine my study of sociology with the themes Max wanted to explore. I hope to do this without being too pedantic as most academicians are when it comes to writing popular articles. So, I'll try writing jargon free and using personal references suitable for an international audience.

This column will essentially deal with the sociology of food, with how food is a medium of identification. When we talk about food as a conversation topic, it often serves an indicator of our lifestyles, ethnic background and even our political identity. In doing so, food is an individualized act of consumption in which every possible combination has a particular rationality and order. On the other hand, food is universal; it is the collective act of feeding for subsistence. I will be using the latter of the two definitions for this column. Among the topics will be covering will be issues such as how societies and cultures create the "myth" of cuisine around food, how ideas of nationalism categorize food and how the fetishization of cuisine leads to a transformation from necessity to commodity in urban environments. Lastly, I will also be exploring the relation between sexuality and cuisine in national cultures.

Next week, I will be writing a short article about coffee nationalism(s) in South Eastern Europe. In this area of the world, the same cup of coffee is either a Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, Greek or Turkish coffee depending on your political perspective. Therefore in a political context, coffee is a metaphor for the problematic of Balkan identity and nationalisms.

I hope that this article serves as a delineation of the issues I wish to address in this column. I will finish off this short introduction with a Korean proverb I often like to quote as a toast to the culture of food: "the deeper the culture the tastier the food."


No comments: