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Food as a cultural heritage: challenges, processes and perspectives

Conference organised by the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food (IEHCA, Tours, France)
15-16 November 2018 – Tours (France)

(Download the pdf file with the french version)

For several years now, many scientists have taken an interest in the relationship between food and heritage: from historians to anthropologists, sociologists to geographers, experts in the field of tourism science, and more. This interest has spawned a host of new publications, and with it a number of mono-disciplinary case studies.

There is a need to review these actions and this work. With the European Council and Parliament deciding that 2018 will be “European Cultural Heritage Year”, there is now a drive to “raise awareness of European history and values and to strengthen a sense of European identity”, while also “drawing attention to the opportunities offered by our cultural heritage, but also to the challenges it faces”. Viewing food in all its aspects as a cultural heritage clearly follows from the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. This includes “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity”. The terms of this definition inspired the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food to initiate and carry through the Repas gastronomique des Français (Gastronomic meal of the French) nomination project. Furthermore, UNESCO has added 14 “food” elements to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and many other applications are being prepared. The time has come for a comprehensive and coordinated process of reflection.

Lines of enquiry

The first objective of the conference will be to advocate a multidisciplinary approach to the various aspects covered by food heritage. The second innovative trajectory will be to take a European and international standpoint, with a particular reference to countries that have successfully added food elements to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Finally, we will focus particular attention on the differing time frames, including those that are more long-term in nature.

This comprehensive approach will first focus on challenges: providing a precise definition of concepts such as intangible and food heritage, identifying the scientific and professional communities concerned by these concepts, while also taking the fragile nature of food heritage into account.

Understanding processes is key, in terms of developing the concept of intangible heritage or the historic development of food heritage (compared to concepts such as terroir), and preparing applications for inclusion on UNESCO’s Representative List. The national inventories are essential tools in this regard.

And finally, perspectives consider the fact that, as with any other intangible cultural heritage, food heritage is covered by safeguarding measures. The establishment of a global network of intangible cultural heritage food elements can, clearly, provide robust support for any collective action. We intend to lay the foundations for this network with the 2018 symposium.

Topics (non-exhaustive)

  • Typicality, in terms of the link between the product (and the know-how it takes to produce and transform it) and its place of origin, is a value whose characteristics change based on place and time. Typicality and tradition both contribute to shaping the concept of heritage. Here, too, recent case studies are available.

  • It is now impossible to discuss the notion of food heritage without due consideration of the UNESCO Convention and the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. Strictly speaking, the Urgent Safeguarding List still contains neither food nor gastronomic elements. Nevertheless, food does play a significant role in, for example, the Yaokwa ritual of the Enawene Nawe people of Brazil (2011), and Guatemala’s Nan Pa’ch ceremony (2013). While studies have already been published, this phenomenon calls for more in-depth research.

  • The notion of food heritage (or culinary, or gastronomic) is a recent development, but its roots stretch back in time. A preliminary work on the French case was published recently, and The French Culinary Model: dissemination, adaption, transformation and opposition worldwide (17th–21st centuries) was chosen as the topic of the IEHCA’s 2014 Conference. But here again, much remains to be done, particularly in a global and comparative sense.

  • Where heritage exists, there is also a need to understand, safeguard and transfer this heritage. This requirement is explicit in the UNESCO Convention, but its roots can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages. Such a need explains both the existence of inventories and political action taken by public authorities at a national, regional and local level.

  • Food heritage appreciation and interpretation was also the subject of an innovative museological and museographical project using virtual technologies. However, areas remain to be explored, and the use of certain techniques has often generated discrepancies or impossibilities that are yet to be identified to improve public information.

  • The process of heritage designation loads the standard product (and its cuisine) with added values derived from history and mythology; mythology often merges with history, to the point at which it acts as a substitute. The fact that sociologists have developed the expression “nostalgia marketing”, which refers to these aspects, is no coincidence; the consumer is reassured, and recognises a reminder of “the good old days” in the product, a guarantee of quality. There is also a clear economic aspect inherent in this example.

Submission guidelines

If you would like to present a paper at this conference, please send a proposal including an abstract and a CV (1 page maximum, in total) in French or English to be submitted to loic.bienassis@iehca.eu by 15 December 2017.

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Ce colloque est organisé par l’Institut Européen d’Histoire de l’Alimentation (IEHCA, Tours) qui a porté la candidature du « Repas gastronomique des Français » au patrimoine culturel immatériel de l’humanité établi par l’UNESCO.

The conference is being organised by the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food (IEHCA, Tours), which supported the nomination of the ‘Gastronomic meal of the French’ for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, established by UNESCO.

En partenariat avec / in partnership with

L’Association France PCI

Le Ministère de la Culture

La Mission Française des Patrimoines et des Cultures Alimentaires

Le Réseau des Cités de la Gastronomie

L’Université de Tours

Comité de Pilotage (provisoire) / Steering committee (provisional)

Loïc Bienassis (Chargé de mission scientifique, Institut Européen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation, Tours)

Francis Chevrier (Directeur de l’Institut Européen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation, Tours)

Denis Feignier (Inspecteur général de l’agriculture, ministère de l’Agriculture et de l’Alimentation)

Bruno Laurioux (Professeur d’histoire du Moyen Âge et de l’alimentation, Université de Tours)

Pascal Liévaux (Chef du département du pilotage de la recherche et de la politique scientifique, ministère de la Culture)

Jean-Robert Pitte (Professeur émérite de géographie, Université Paris-Sorbonne)

Françoise Sabban (Directrice d’études, anthropologie, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris)

Laurent Stéfanini (Ambassadeur, Délégué permanent de la France auprès de l’UNESCO)

Comité scientifique (provisoire) / Scientific committee (provisional)

Chiara Bortolotto (Chercheuse associée au laboratoire d’anthropologie et d’histoire de l’institution de la culture (LAHIC), Paris)

Antonella Campanini (Enseignante/chercheuse en histoire médiévale, University of Gastronomic Sciences, Pollenzo, Italie)

Allen J. Grieco (Chercheur associé, Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence, Italie)

Jean-Robert Pitte (Professeur émérite de géographie, Université Paris-Sorbonne)

Françoise Sabban (Directrice d’études, anthropologie, É0cole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris)

Sylvie Sagnes (Chargée de recherche, CNRS, Institut interdisciplinaire d’anthropologie du contemporain, Paris)

 

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