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Food and Culture: Home

This guide for Sociology 2020 points you to the many ways food and culture intersect with each other.

A Research Model

In order to understand a group or society, one must examine all aspects of their culture:


topographical features 

seasonal round

Technology, Economy

subsistence activities

methods of production


Social Organization

division of labor

kinship groups

political organization





Food Habits or Foodways: 

what, how and when a society eats


those items that a society views as food; foods in one society may not be foods in another


the consumable foods and drinks of a person, animals, and culture area

Core Foods:

Foodstuffs and prepared items that are eaten daily by a group or society, which change little over time, are not gender or age-specific, and cut across socio-economic boundaries


Type of culture and society developed by a particular people, region or nation at a particular epoch.

Hunting/Gathering:  Groups or societies dependent upon the availability of foodstuffs during the seasonal round; activities may be gender-specific, with women responsible for plant gathering, digging and nutting.

Agricultural:  Groups or societies organized around the domestication of plants and animals, activities that allowed for the development of larger settlements and cities, centered around the production and distribution of foods for consumption.

Industrial: Groups or societies with an economy based upon the manufacturing of goods, consisting largely of urban populations engaging in manufacturing, commerce and service.

Technological: Groups or societies based upon the exchange of information, in which knowledge is a commodity or service.



Cultural Anthropologists

Meet the Players:

Cultural Anthropology Overview:

Introductory Teminology


·         The social and religious structures and intellectual and artistic manifestations that characterize a society.

·         “Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”  -- Edward Tylor


·         A group within the broader society that has values, norms, and a lifestyle distinct from the majority.


·         Adapting to the needs of society.  A lifetime process through which humans develop an awareness of social norms and values and achieve a distinct sense of self.


·         The process through which human infants learn their culture.  The socialization of children within the norms of their culture.

·         “Enculturation is the process by which we learn the beliefs, attitudes, behavioral standards, and even body movements of a particular culture.”


·         Adapting or learning a second culture, usually resulting in an increased similarity between cultures.  Cultural change occurs as two cultures interact; sometimes this process is asymmetrical (i.e., one is more dominant and influences the other), sometimes reciprocal.


·         The process in which individuals enter the social position, as well as acquire the political, economic and educational standards of the dominant culture.  The conformity of ethnic groups to the dominant group’s culture.

Components of Culture


·         Items used to meaningfully represent another; object, words and gestures that represent more than themselves


·         A collection of symbols (words) and rules for their usage


·         Culturally-defined standards help by individuals and groups about what is desirable, proper, beautiful, good or bad, which serve as guidelines for social life


·         Rules and expectations of conduct the prescribe or forbid a type of behavior; the most frequent behavior that members of a group will show in a specific situation

Material Culture:

·         The buildings, tools and other artifacts that have cultural meaning ascribed to them

Cultural Materialism:

·         Accounting for similarities and differences in groups or societies by focusing upon the environmental constraints to which human activities is subject; ideas, values and religious beliefs are the products of adaptation to the environment


·         Belief in the superiority of one’s own ethnic group; seeing the world through the eyes of only one culture

Cultural Relativity:

·         Culture can only be evaluated by its own standards; an attempt to understand the cultural development of societies and social groups on their own terms, without imposing absolute one’s own ideas of moral value


·         The study of how signs and symbols relate to the things they represent.  The meaning of a sign is not fixed, but varies over time, in different contexts, and by the intent of the speaker.