Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food 2016

The third Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food will take place on 15 and 16 January 2016.

The topic for the Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food 2016 is ‘Fire, Knives and Fridges’, focusing on the material culture of cooking tools and techniques.

The Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food is the result of a collaborative partnership between Special Collections (UvA), the Amsterdam School for Culture and History (UvA) and the research unit Social & Cultural Food Studies (FOST) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

The symposium has the aspiration to become an annual point of assembly and an exchange of knowledge in the field of food history. It intends to stimulate debate and research that bridges the gap between different disciplines. Submissions are encouraged to use an interdisciplinary approach, in which theory and methods from diverse (social) sciences are appropriated or from other disciplines that take a historical stance. Another aim is to transfer academic research to a wider public and stimulate research using the Special Collection of the University of Amsterdam. The symposium is therefore targeted at both an academic and a professional audience.

Call for Papers

This year’s topic is inspired by the renewed interest in traditional cooking and preservation techniques, such as baking and fermenting, but also by innovations like sous-vide cooking and molecular gastronomy. Since prehistoric times humans have used tools, such as fire, grindstones, and knives to transform raw ingredients into edible food. Anthropologists such as Claude Lévi-Strauss and Richard Wrangham have suggested that it is the discovery of cooking which sets humans apart from apes and makes us a “cooking animal”. In their view, advancements in the technology of cooking mark the human transformation of (raw) nature into (cooked) culture.

From the control of fire onward, technology defines the way we eat: what we eat and cook depends on how we cook it. Tools and techniques are first adopted because they meet a certain need or solve a particular problem, but over time they become an integral part of food culture. Yet, they do not emerge in isolation, but through interaction with local resources, cultural preferences, technological innovations, prosperity levels, and beliefs. The symposium aims to explore how cooking techniques, skills and tools as a form of material culture have shaped food cultures and eating habits – and vice versa.

In her highly praised book Consider the Fork (2012) Bee Wilson, for instance, reveals how culinary tools such as forks and chopsticks, but also devices like the stove, the fridge and the microwave have fundamentally shaped our daily life, cuisines and food cultures. She demonstrates, for example, how the introduction of the refrigerator changed the way food was preserved, cooked and eaten. Refrigeration liberated cooks from preserving food through pickling, salting or canning. As a preservation device the fridge removed the seasonality from our diet and transformed what people ate: fresh dairy and produce all year-round, but also processed convenience food. Furthermore, fridges changed the way people shopped for food, for instance, by time-saving weekly shopping at the supermarket.

Technological changes, though, are never a top-down story. Even in the age of mass media and production, consumers and users matter. Collectively we determine products’ success and change their meaning through tinkering and adapting its usage. Ruth Oldenziel and Adri Albert de la Bruhèze, for instance, have focused on such processes of mediation and negotiation during technological changes.

Suggested topics for papers:

-Technological history/archaeology/material culture
-Social history/anthropology
-Cultural history

Applications should include:

  • Title of proposed paper
  • Abstract (maximum 500 words)
  • Biographical information (short CV)
  • Contact information (e-mail, telephone and postal address)

Deadline: Applications should be submitted no later than 30 April 2015 to

For further information see the Symposium's webpage here

The above content was sourced from

SUBMITTED BY: admin admin AUTHOR: Amsterdam School for Culture and History ORIGINAL PUBLISHED DATE: 3/23/2015


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