Call for Presentations

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Meaning of Food Call for Presentations  (pdf version)

Building on a 16 year tradition…1

The Meaning of Food: Interdisciplinary Conference on Representations of Food in the Arts & Humanities

Monday, March 26 to Wednesday, March 28, 2018
downtown Greensboro, NC

Call for Presentations: NOW CLOSED
All proposals are due October 20th, 2017
(11:59 pm EST) at

Submit a Proposal Form

Sponsored by Elon University, High Point University and Wake Forest University

The study of food—what we do or do not eat as well as how, when, where, why and with whom we eat—is strongly linked to anthropological, cultural, social, political, and economic concerns. Once regarded as mundane and not worthy of scholarly study, food has become a valuable lens to explore pressing social issues. Indeed, Roland Barthes has said that “an entire ‘world’ (social environment) is present in and signified by food.” 2 Food is never just food, and its representation in the arts and humanities is replete with meaning—whether realistic, narrative, or figurative—adding depth and richness to cultural productions. Furthermore, the complex function of food in the arts and humanities is often strengthened by food’s material and metaphorical link to language and to narration since we both speak and eat with our mouths, communicating and tasting with our tongues. The etymology of the word table, often the site of both food consumption and storytelling, is revealing on this count: “table” comes from the Latin tabula meaning a board or slab “intended to receive an inscription or an account.”3 The “stories” we tell about food construct its meaning, while the food practices we engage in equally shape the narratives we create.

This conference welcomes studies from any discipline in the arts and humanities that consider food as a productive lens to analyze socio-cultural constructions of meaning.

This conference is intended to be dialogue driven.  Therefore, we expect 15 minute presentations (not read papers), with the inclusion of at least 2 discussion questions to facilitate a 10 minute prompted conversation among the participants following the presentation.  We invite submission of both individual and panel proposals connected to any of the following, though not limited to, topics:

  1. Food and identity (national, regional, local, etc.)
  2. Food, the body, and gender
  3. Food images and visualizations
  4. Nature vs/and Culture (taboos, etc.)
  5. Consumer vs Global cultures
  6. Food, memory, and the stories we tell
  7. Food and status
  8. Local(e) and spaces
  9. Culinary aesthetics
  10. Food and ethical approaches or practices
  11. Teaching food; food and innovative pedagogies

In addition, we welcome submission proposals for 45-minute interactive pedagogy-focused roundtable discussions or workshops to help share innovative ideas regarding teaching food-related matters.  Roundtables or workshops can include discussions and methods related to: syllabi creation, food-related activities to enhance analysis, incorporating theory into food courses, analyzing food-related texts, harnessing students’ writing/ideas about food so that they are more critical/demonstrate deep thinking, balancing the personal and analytical with student responses to food, etc.

We will also provide many more opportunities during the conference for engaging in idea-driven dialogue—via planned cultural events, movies, and tasty/delectable meals.  We are pleased that philosopher Dr. Lisa Heldke has accepted our invitation to be our keynote speaker.  We are equally excited that Dr. Cynthia Belliveau has agreed to lead a workshop to help us teach the topic of food in more integrated, experiential and engaging ways.

Submit a Proposal 

Any questions?  Contact us at meaningoffoodconf@elon.edu.

  1. We are indebted to Santiago Daydí-Tolson for organizing the eight Interdisciplinary and Multicultural Food Representation in Literature, Film, and the Other Arts conferences at University of Texas San Antonio from 1998 to 2014 from which this conference stems.
  2. Barthes, Roland. “Toward a Psychosociology of Contemporary Food Consumption.” Food and Culture: A Reader (3rd edition). Edited by Caroline Counihan and Penny Van Esterik. NYC: Routledge, 2013. p. 26.
  3. Kessler, Brad. “One Reader’s Digest: Toward a Gastronomic Theory of Literature.” Kenyon Review 27.2 (2005). p. 152.