HUMN 210 ERAU WK 3 Culture Food as A Means of Communication Discussion

I need an explanation for this Writing question to help me study.

For this activity, compose two paragraphs. In your first paragraph, discuss one idea that you learned about and liked from this module’s readings and resources. Be sure to list the title, author, and year of your chosen resource.

In your second paragraph, reflect on your own relationship to food. Discuss how this relationship reflects your cultural background, worldwide belief system, relationship to the community, and/or lifestyle.

Food is an essential part of people’s lives, and as such is much more than just a means of survival. It is also the main factor in how we view ourselves and others. It plays a big role in all social and political issues, and is a bastion of popular media. Over the past few decades, we have witnessed a rise in food-focused media and culture. A “food explosion” surrounds us everywhere we look, from TV shows such as 24 Kitchen, Kitchen Confidential, Floyd On, and Jamie Oliver to organic products, healthy diet magazines and food festivals. There is an increased awareness of food’s significance within contemporary society and culture, and therefore there is a need to explore it.

Keywords: communication, culture, Japanese food, Serbian cuisine.

With our gastronomical growth will come, inevitably, knowledge and perception of a hundred other things, but mainly ourselves.

M.F.K. Fisher

The role of food in everyday life was until recently more that of a necessity rather than the subject of observation and academic interest. It was not until the twentieth century that food industry arose. The new-found interest and enchantment with food has created an entirely new meaning to food culture. The myriad of published cookbooks and food magazines, culinary festivals, TV shows, celebrity chefs, blogs has completely changed the meaning of food.

The Meaning of Food is an exploration of culture through food. What we consume, how we acquire it, who prepares it, who’s at the table, and who eats first is a form of communication that is rich with meaning. Beyond merely nourishing the body, what we eat and with whom we eat can inspire and strengthen the bonds between individuals, communities, and even countries. There is no closer relationship than the one with the family, and food plays a large part in defining family roles, rules, and traditions. It helps us to discover attitudes, practices, and rituals surrounding food, it sheds light on our most basic beliefs about ourselves and others.

The aim of this paper is to try to give answers to the questions of what food communication is, and how we understand food communication. Firstly, some examples of communication and the relationship between communication and culture will be given. Secondly, the different relationships between communication and food, and how these relationships negotiate our identities, cultures and environments will be described. Finally, Japanese food culture and its effect on Serbian cuisine will be mentioned.

The subject of food has been widely studied within the fields of anthropology, sociology and cultural studies. It has not, however, been much addressed in communication studies. When someone thinks of, or mentions food, the first thing that usually comes to mind is: where does it come from and how does it taste, and what is the story behind it? Giving the answers to these questions, people usually refer to the cultural context.

The term ‘culture’ refers to the set of values, knowledge, language, rituals, habits, lifestyles, attitudes, beliefs, folklore, rules and customs that identify a particular group of people at a specific point in time.

Some authors define culture as “the values, symbols, interpretations, and perspectives that distinguish one people from another in modernized societies; it is not material objects and other tangible aspects of human societies. People within a culture usually interpret the meaning of symbols, artifacts, and behaviors in the same or in similar ways”.1

The relationship between communication and culture is a complex and intimate one. Culture is created, shaped, transmitted and learned through communication, and communication practices are largely created, shaped and transmitted by culture.

As we already know, there are different definitions of communication. For some, communication is a process that attempts to create and achieve shared meaning – a process that is influenced by countless factors such as social and cultural context, participants, motivations, purposes and goals. Others consider communication as a process by which a culture or society comes into being. In other words, communication has constitutive power, and is not just a process of creating something external.

There are different levels and types of communication in communication studies. These distinctions are somewhat artificial, since types of communication more realistically fit on a continuum rather than in separate categories. Nevertheless, to understand the various types of communication, it is helpful to consider various factors. These distinctions are somewhat artificial, since types of communication more realistically fit on a continuum rather than in separate categories. Nevertheless, to understand the various types of communication, it is helpful to consider various factors. The distinguishing characteristics include the following:

* The number of communicators (one through many). The physical proximity of the communicators in relation to each other (close or distant). The immediacy of the exchange, whether it is taking place either (1) live or in apparently real time or on a delayed basis. The number of sensory channels (including visual, auditory, tactile and so on).

* The context of the communication (whether face-to-face or mediated).

Each level of communication may be formal or informal, personal or impersonal. Also that the purposes of communication may vary and overlap, giving a communicator a potentially wide list of choices for communication channels.

Broadly speaking, the levels of communication can be categorized in a four-fold pattern as intrapersonal, direct interpersonal, mediated interpersonal, and mass communication.

Communication is the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, visuals, signals, writing or behavior. It is the meaningful exchange of information between two or more persons.

One definition of communication is “any act by which one person gives to or receives from another person information about that person’s needs, desires, perceptions, knowledge, or affective states”. Communication may be intentional or unintentional, may involve conventional or unconventional signals, may take linguistic or non-linguistic forms, and may occur through spoken or other modes.

Communication requires a sender, a message, and a recipient, although the receiver does not have to be present or aware of the sender’s intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast distances in time and space. The communication process is complete once the receiver has understood the message of the sender.

Broadly defined, communication is the process by which we understand the world and our attempts to convey that understanding to others through both verbal and nonverbal language. We can consider food as a form of communication because it is a nonverbal means of sharing meanings with others. Scholars like Roland Barthes, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Eivind Jacobsen provided us with theoretical tools to understand and analyze how food is communicated, how food communicates and how we communicate about food.

Barthes uses semiotics to put the role and function of food into context. He claims that food functions as a sign, a sign communicating something in addition to itself, perhaps something other than itself.2 With food, we are not just buying or consuming a product but a whole system or chain of meanings. An apple is not just the red sweet object that you ingest for nutrition; it is the whole system that contributed to growing the apple: the sun, water, animals, human farmers. Also potentially in the apple is pesticide, transportation issues, Snow White, Macintosh and much more. You are not eating an apple, you are experiencing a system or grammar of food. Advertising is a tool, identified by Barthes, with which we can trace and analyze the signification of food.

In ‘Toward a Psychosociology of Contemporary Food Consumption’, Roland Barthes discusses how food should not be seen as insignificant. He says that psychosociology focuses indirectly on eating habits, and should be paid more attention.3 In fact, food and culture are very closely related. For example, sugar in America. It has become common to have sugar in almost all American food and is so popular there are even songs about it. Yet in other cultures such as that of France, sugar does not play a large part. Barthes describes how culture influences tastes and so does class, and talks of how food is a ‘situation’. Coffee, for example, became associated more with the idea of taking a break than with its effect on the nervous system, which ties in with his claim about food and advertising. Advertising has become a huge part of culture, and Barthes states that because of this advertising, people have become loyal to the brand more than the food. He claims food makes its own statement, and discusses how it affects culture and culture affects food.

Scholars such as Claude Lévi-Strauss and Mary Douglas have asserted that we can view food as adhering to the same practices as language because food is a codeA that can express patterns about social relationships.5

On the other hand, Jacobsen’s piece on ‘The Rhetoric of Food’ advances a basic, fundamental but no less important claim. Just like in anything, the definition one uses sets forth a whole range of meaning, histories, actions and questions that a different definition might foreclose. More than a defining role, how we frame or deploy food in language also matters. And it is these definitions or ways of thinking (or really, not-thinking) about food that should be unsettled, so that we can be mindful of our relationships to food.

Metaphor, metonymy and synecdoche are all tropes that shape how we hear, understand and (re)act to our food relationships. Jacobsen provides a couple that are fruitful for demonstrating the point, “fuel for the body” and “grazing” come to mind. Even the use of “fruitful” to describe an example or analysis calls forth a chain of meanings and emotions that affect us. Tropes are also used to describe three dominant frames of food; food as nature, food as commodity and food as culture. Jacobsen does a fairly good job of detailing the different actors, senses of time, spaces, concepts, etc. that are highlighted when each trope is used.6 For example, food as nature can be seen in environmental NGOs, in relevant spaces such as the Farm, Kitchen, or the Earth, where nature is its own subject. Food as commodity is related to industry and consumption, whereas, food as culture is related to tradition and nostalgia, with the rhetorical repertoire of aesthetics, identity, uniqueness.

The similarity between the definition of food as a sign and food as a trope is that both Barthes and Jacobsen have provided ways to see food as more than just a means of survival. Both of them have provided ways to look at food as multidimensional, as something that shapes us, our identities, our cultures and in the end, our society. Just as different clothes signify different things (the white coat a doctor, the blue uniform a police officer), food also can transmit meaning. Naturally, that meaning varies from culture to culture. Furthermore, food could not be viewed as a trope if it did not signify a meaning of something to begin with, for example: tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese on a pizza Napolitana signify a taste of Italy, while frozen pizza in a supermarket signifies a fast and cheap home meal. In addition, various food tropes are used in everyday life: ‘Don’t sugar coat it’, ‘Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs’, ‘Cherry picking’, ‘Being in a pickle’, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’, ‘Good as bread’ (the later often used in Serbia).Many scholars have analyzed the relationships between food, identity and communication. One of the most common ways we use food is in the construction of our personal identities. But can food operate as a sole factor in the identification of a group or an entire nation? Does food have its place within a broader set of values linked to age, religion, social status, of which some are closely linked to diet, while others have no link to food? Is the position of food flexible, or is it central (or trivial) in the formation of one’s identity?

“Identities are constructed through differences with others with the aim of achieving collective self-esteem and group solidarity”.7 The social theorists Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher and Wetherell argue that identity is crucial to all people, because it allows one to situate oneself and the other, to give a sense to existence, and to order the world. Identity contributes to how individuals and groups perceive and construct society, how they give meaning, how they (re)act, think, buy, work, socialize, eat, judge, relax. They do so by referring to economic, social, cultural and political conditions, events and expectations, and by doing so, they affect the economic, the social, the cultural and the political.8 Greene and Parasecoli argue that identity is best understood as performative. The performance of identity happens in the everyday; each action, decision, speech act, act of signification and whatever it is that we do, with intent or not, communicates or says something about who we are, or at least, who we think ourselves to be, want ourselves to be, or think we want ourselves to be etc. And of course, our identity’s performance is constituted not just of what we do but also importantly what we do not do, say, signify, communicate, etc. And it is here where food becomes such a critical piece of our performance.

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