NEW DIRECTIONS IN THE HISTORY OF FOOD SYSTEMS
A roundtable in the Rural History 2023 Conference
(Cluj, Romania, 11-14 September 2023)
Organizers: FERNANDO COLLANTES (University of Oviedo, Spain) and ERNST LANGTHALER (Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria)
The aim of this roundtable is to discuss the state of the art in the history of food systems, assess recent developments, and identify new directions that may be fruitful for the future. The notion of food system alludes to a set of interrelated actors and processes that go from farm to fork, comprising everything from processing plants and supermarket chains to science laboratories, policymakers’ offices, and consumers’ waste bins. In this session, we want to focus on the food systems of the modern and contemporary periods, that is, from the nineteenth century to the present day.
One of the major trends in the evolution of the history of food systems is the incorporation of conceptual and theoretical frameworks in a more explicit way than in the past. How is that trend to be assessed? What have been its pros and cons? Which are the most promising theoretical avenues for further historical research in food systems? A focal point of the session may be “food regime theory”, a framework that originated in sociology in the 1980s and has become increasingly influential among historians of the food system over the last couple of decades. However, we are more than willing to bring in other perspectives, ranging from the economics of agribusiness to the “commodity frontiers” approach, French traditions of economics of conventions and “models of food production/consumption”, or any other approaches that may illuminate our understanding of food system dynamics. Of course, we are also open to contributions that are sceptical about these theoretical directions and instead stress the need for the historian to remain considerably autonomous from other social sciences. It also seems worth it to position developments in the history of food systems within broader trends in the so-called “new history of capitalism”, which uses a loosely defined approach of political economy to re-embed the social, the political and the cultural in the economic. What can the history of food systems learn from the contributions and controversies surrounding the new history of capitalism?
Reflections of a purely theoretical or historiographical nature are welcome, but we would be equally happy to receive more empirical contributions that address one or more theoretical concept(s) through the lens of a particular food system. Rather than a formal session, we favour a roundtable format in which diverse panellists present their reflections and arguments in an informal way, as a starting point for a general discussion.
If you want to participate in the roundtable, please register your proposal at: http://hiphi.ubbcluj.ro/rural/call-for-papers/. The deadline is 31 January.