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Food and Society: Principles and Paradoxes

Food and Society: Principles and Paradoxes

Amy E. Guptill, Denise A. Copelton, Betsy Lucal

ISBN: 978-0-745-66390-6

Apr 2013, Polity

256 pages


This timely and engaging text offers students a social perspective on food, food practices, and the modern food system. It engages readers’ curiosity by highlighting several paradoxes: how food is both mundane and sacred, reveals both distinction and conformity, and, in the contemporary global era, comes from everywhere but nowhere in particular. With a social constructionist framework, the book provides an empirically rich, multi-faceted, and coherent introduction to this fascinating field.

Each chapter begins with a vivid case study, proceeds through a rich discussion of research insights, and ends with discussion questions and suggested resources. Chapter topics include food’s role in socialization, identity, work, health and social change, as well as food marketing and the changing global food system. In synthesizing insights from diverse fields of social inquiry, the book addresses issues of culture, structure, and social inequality throughout.

Written in a lively style, this book will be both accessible and revealing to beginning and intermediate students alike.

Acknowledgments vi

1 Principles and Paradoxes in the Study of Food 1

2 Food and Identity: Fitting In and Standing Out 16

3 Food as Spectacle: The Hard Work of Leisure 40

4 Nutrition and Health: Good to Eat, Hard to Stomach 59

5 Branding and Marketing: Governing the Sovereign Consumer 82

6 Industrialization: The High Costs of Cheap Food 102

7 Global Food: From Everywhere and Nowhere 122

8 Food Access: Surplus and Scarcity 141

9 Food and Social Change: The Value of Values 160

References 182

Glossary 208

Index 220

The authors thread together a captivating sociological investigation of food [and] provide students with a practical foundation and critical approach upon entering the field. As an introductory text to the sociology of food, this book hits the mark.
Rural Sociology

“Far ranging in scope and hitting on the essential issues most likely to interest students, this book gives readers plenty to think about. It’s well written, clear, has a point of view (sociology matters!), and thoroughly integrates social science concepts with the meaning of food in people’s lives. An excellent introduction to courses in food studies, food and society, and food and culture.”
Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University, and co-author, most recently, of Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics

“Guptill, Copelton, and Lucal have written a fine introduction both to contemporary food system politics, and to the sociological thinking necessary to change it. With examples that run from competitive eating, to ‘food porn,’ to a terrific discussion of the political economy of restaurants, this is a lively and engaging undergraduate textbook.”
Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: From Farm to Fork, The Hidden Battle for the World Food System

“This book is a clear and appealing introduction to the sociological study of food. It will serve as a useful text in undergraduate courses due to its intriguing case studies and articulate delineation of key issues in contemporary foodways.”
Carole Counihan, Millersville University, and co-editor of Food and Culture: A Reader

  • Timely exploration of social perspectives on food, food practices, and the modern food system
  • Engages readers’ curiosity through a selection of intriguing and insightful case studies
  • Covers topics such as food’s role in socialization, identity, work, health and social change, as well as food marketing and the changing global food system
  • Broad-ranging perspective makes the book ideal for courses on the sociology of food, anthropology of food, food studies, and food and culture