Food Studies Interdisciplinary Research Group

Globally, there is growing interest and concern around questions relating to food and culinary culture, both within academic and popular circles. Much of this derives from questions about the current Anthropocene moment and human impact on ecosystems and sustainability, yet it draws simultaneously upon issues around food and culture, including such questions as the expansion of food television and the rise of a focus on food within social media. Internationally, Food Studies is a burgeoning discipline, with an increasing number of programmes globally.

A number of research interests and pursuits across the disciplines at Roehampton are coalescing around issues pertaining to food and the Food Studies Research Group has been initiated first to highlight and draw together these increasing strengths, and in the longer term to consider possible development of interdisciplinary programmes of study. The FSRG responds to the clear interdisciplinary nature of work in Food Studies, which draws upon scientific experimentation alongside cultural analysis. A number of recent events and projects have motivated the development of the group, as a clear critical mass of interests has emerged at the University of Roehampton and will benefit significantly from coordinating research strengths and allied interests across departments.

The events include to Memory Banquet, supported by external AHRC funding through the Being Human Festival, organised primarily by Humanities, with participants contributing content from across English and Creative Writing; Drama, Theatre and Performance; Dance; Psychology and Life Sciences, as well as participants from other departments including Media, Culture and Language and Education. Additional recent events have been hosted by departments and other research groups—including an October 2014 public lecture by culinary reenactor Michael Twitty, a lecture on ancient Roman eating habits presented by the Classical Association at Roehampton in September 2014, and a 2013 conference on Food and Children’s Literature to name a few.

Current individual projects undertaken by staff members include Professor Nicola Humble’s award-winning book Culinary Pleasures (Best Food Book of the Year 2006), her current monograph project on the literature of food and her many television appearances on such programmes as Great British Bake Off; Dr Leigh Gibson’s work on appetite and as a consultant within the food industry (including for Unilever and the National Hydration Council); Dr Josh Abrams’s forthcoming monograph on the restaurant as a performance space and his current AHRC Funded project with Ben Spalding and CreativeBelly UK, the Decade Dinners; Dr Ulla Gustafson’s work on food policy and everyday practices, including a Food Standards Agency funded project on hard-to-reach populations; and Dr Sara Pennell’s 2013 edited collection Reading and Writing Recipe Books, 1550-1800 among a number of research projects and funded work across these departments.