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Children’s food heritage

Anthropological approaches
Charles-Édouard de Suremain and Clarice Cohn

Abstract

This issue intends to examine children’s food heritage which, in an anthropological perspective, is a specific and little studied area of material and immaterial heritage. The child is placed at the heart of the issue, which aims at studying the shapes and functions of such particular food heritages in order to understand better the processes of construction and transmission of children’s identities.

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Call for papers

The notion of “food heritage” is a specific division of the notion of “Cultural Heritage” (UNESCO 2003). Similarly food heritage refers to “material” and “immaterial” dimensions, which are difficult to define (Cerisy Conference, 2012; Csergo 2011). Material dimensions refer, within a given cultural and geographic area, to a clearly defined group of dishes, ingredients, production and distribution modes, culinary techniques, preparation modes, preservation, waste disposal and food consumption which are passed from one generation to the next.

  • 1 This is why the « repas gastronomique des français » (French gastronomic meal) is listed in the UNE (...)

Immaterial dimensions include hospitality, conviviality, know-how, training and learning, “table manners”, representations, discourse, imagination or symbolical ritualisation which take place with the transmission of food practices. Irreducible to tangible products, the immaterial food heritage expresses the identity of a community or a social group1.

  • 2 Observatoire Ocha, Jeudy ed. (1990), Ethnologie Française (1997), Techniques & Culture (1998), Anth (...)
  • 3 Cros (1992), Lancy (1997), Suremain (2000), Cohn (2002), Mignot (2002), Razy (2007). In sociology, (...)

The issue of food heritage is frequently discussed from an anthropological perspective2. However, the issue of “children’s food heritage” has been very little studied, with the exception of works by Annie Hubert (1994)3. Studies concerning children have in fact rather dealt with games (Griaule 1938; Rabain 1979; Augustins 1988), rites (Bonnet et Pourchez 2007; Duchesne 2007; Jonckers 2007; Tonda 2008; Yengo 2008), children as actors (De Boeck 2000), children’s upbringing in general (Anthropologie et Sociétés 1980; Journal des Africanistes 2002; Terrain 2003) – the production of specific “children’s cultures” (Delalande 2000; Ethnologie Française 2007; Arléo & Delalande 2011).

  • 4 Notions such as « childhood » and « child », just like the modes of transition between childhood in (...)
  • 5 The French term for Heritage is Patrimoine (what is passed from pater, fathers). The notion of « ma (...)

In this issue of Anthropology of Food, we wish to examine whether the notion of food heritage - material as well as immaterial - is meaningful as regards children, and therefore what does it mean to them?4 What characterizes children’s food heritage and how is it made up? What does it include? How does it change? How is it disseminated among children? What are the differences between adult and children’s food heritages? To what extent may the former shape the latter ? Is it relevant to use the term “heritage” while children are the main protagonists of a construction which is mainly passed on “horizontally”?5

Such questions tackle diverse anthropological issues: the dynamics of heritage, through the place assigned to food changes and transformations within the framework of what appears at first glace to be immutable and in the realm of conservation. They feed the reflection on the way food (preparation, offer, consumption, etc.) and values attached to commensality, are in fact specific modes for the construction of the body, person, social relations and social roles from an early age, according to societies. Similarly such thoughts enlighten children’s anthropological issues: the diversity of child-related notions and social significance, gender relations, task division, the relationship to the body, body techniques, social differences among children and the acquisition of cultural and identity values (individual or collective). More largely, this issue aims at revealing the transmission modes of representations, of practices and discourse in relation to children food, a process to which different categories of persons take part (parents, peers, neighbours, institutional actors, media).

Eventually the aim of this issue is to show that food cannot solely be approached by what it conveys in terms of models or norms (of consumption, of behaviour). Food is here considered as a major vector for children’s social construction; it is also a valuable aid, a unique medium, the primary medium, for the reappropriation by children of the adult world; lastly, food is one of the major tools for children to shape their own world, right at the heart of their daily lives.

Deadline

Thank you for sending your abstract in answer to this call before February 20th 2013, to clacohn@ufscar.br and Suremain@ird.fr

Bibliography

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ARLEO, A., & DELALANDE, J. (Eds.). (2011). Cultures enfantines. Universalité et diversité. Paris: Presses Universitaires de Rennes.

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Notes

1 This is why the « repas gastronomique des français » (French gastronomic meal) is listed in the UNESCO Inventory for immaterial cultural heritage.

2 Observatoire Ocha, Jeudy ed. (1990), Ethnologie Française (1997), Techniques & Culture (1998), Anthropology of Food (2011).

3 Cros (1992), Lancy (1997), Suremain (2000), Cohn (2002), Mignot (2002), Razy (2007). In sociology, cf. among others Fischler (1982), Diasio (2004) and the Children and Culture Conference (2010).

4 Notions such as « childhood » and « child », just like the modes of transition between childhood into adulthood vary a lot according to societies. There may be initiation rites, ceremonies or experiences (spiritual, sexual, involving foods,…). Cf. among others Glowczewski (1995), L’Homme 2003, Culture & Sociétés (2011).

5 The French term for Heritage is Patrimoine (what is passed from pater, fathers). The notion of « matrimoine » (from mater, mother) is sometimes used for transmissions from mothers to their children. But ther is no specific notion expressing the transmission from child to child, except for « horizontal transmission » (Suremain 2010).

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