The Visual Anthropology of Food

Symposium Programme


Programme for the Visual Anthropology of Food Symposium

Forming part of NAFA2017

22-24 August, Main Auditorium, Moesgaard Museum, Aarhus


Tuesday, 22 August 2017


Peter I. Crawford
(NAFA2017 organiser, Department of Anthropology, Aarhus University)

Welcome to overall event and short presentation


Keynote address A

Chaired by Susanne Højlund
(Symposium co-organiser, Department of Anthropology, Aarhus University)

This is a double keynote about the same research project on the cultural significance of the Iberian so-called blackfoot pig (pata negra)

Jan Ketil Simonsen is an Associate Professor and past Head (2004-2008) of the Department of Social Anthropology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. He is the co-editor of the Norwegian Journal of Anthropology. His research interests include migration, kinship, ritual studies, childhood studies, and visual anthropology. He has co-edited two books in the NAFA series published by Intervention Press:  Beyond the visual: Sound and image in ethnographic and documentary film (2010, with Gunnar Iversen), and Ethnographic film, aesthetics, and narrative traditions (1992, with Peter I. Crawford).

Branding pork: Re-imagining the dehesa forest pastures

The forest was the original habitat and pastures of livestock. In Europe, most forest pastures were abandoned in the 20th century during the industrialization of food production. Today, forest pastures are exploited for small-scale, high quality, organic food production, and for rural tourism. In the past thirty years, oak grove pastures, called dehesa, in the mountain slopes and hilly areas of the southwestern part of the Iberian Peninsula, have been revitalized in connection with industrialization and global marketing of products from the Iberian pig. The dehesa is a co-habitat of cattle, sheep and pigs, and just a tiny fraction of the total stock of Iberian pigs feed in the forest. These pigs are selected for the production of the highest quality of ham. Before being slaughtered, the pigs roam for a couple of months in the oak groves to fatten on acorn. The food industry uses videos and still images of the pigs feeding on acorn in the marketing of all industrially produced Iberian pork products. I argue that the industry re-imagine and stereotype dehesa as the natural habitat primarily of the Iberian pig, and mythologize and brand the Iberian pork products and production as traditional, authentic and natural.

Lorenzo Cañás Bottos is an Associate Professor of the Department of Social Anthropology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. He previously held the first Chair in Social and Cultural Anthropology at Tallinn University.  He has done research on identity, nation-making and the relationship between religion and politics in the Irish border area and among Old Colony Mennonites in Argentina and Bolivia as well as on immigration integration and food among descendants of Syrian and Lebanese migrants in Argentina. His publications include Old Colony Mennonites in Argentina and Bolivia: Nation Making, Religious Conflict and Imagination of the Future (Brill, 2008); Christenvolk: Historia y Etnografía de una Colonia Menonita (Antropofagia, 2005); and (as co-editor) Political Transformation and National Identity Change (Routledge, 2008).

The Classificatory world of the Iberian Pig

Anthropology has a debt to pigs, beyond all the ham and ribs we consume. From Mary Douglas’ exemplar into the cultural logic of classifications and the distinction between purity and impurity, to Marvin Harris’ emphasis on the material conditions of existence of pigs and humans, to Roy Rappaport’s linkage between domestic life, rituals and our ancestors. Here I will focus on the Iberian pig in the Spanish dehesa as a means to explore classificatory human activity. In a context of global market oriented commodity production, the pig today undergoes several processes of classification, certification and standardization; governmental as well as from the private sector. It is through these processes that these animals are rendered simultaneously “commodities”, “Iberian”, “traditional” and “local”. Here I will also pay particular attention to the role of visuality, and the usage of the visual sense throughout these processes. The empirical material comes from our on-going cooperative fieldwork in Extremadura, Spain, and locally produced printed material produced by the producers association: a producer´s handbook, a guide to the genealogical registry, and a trade journal.


Coffee break

11.30-12.15 :
Symposium film screenings and presentation I

Chaired by Peter I. Crawford

Beate Engelbrecht
Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Beate Engelbrecht studied anthropology, sociology and economics at Basel University. 1985-2015 she worked as an anthropologist, ethnographic filmmaker and producer at IWF (Institut für den Wissenschaftlichen Film). She has undertaken multiple trips to film in Mexico, Burkina Faso, India, and Indonesia. 1993 she co-founded the Göttingen International Ethnographic Film Festival (GIEFF). She is Senior Research Partner at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Coordinator of the Visual Anthropology Network of the EASA and Director of the online journal AnthroVision.

Celebrating the Last Supper in a Transnational Context

In a Mexican village a feast for Jesús Nazareno is held every year commemorating the last supper. Preparations last several weeks as the central event consists in serving the whole community special dishes. The figure of Jesús Nazareno has been copied several times to be taken to the U.S.A., where the same feast has been initiated recently. Being held in a completely different setting, the organization of the feast demands a lot of creativity among the migrants. Here the last supper is also central. The special dishes are cooked jointly, special bread is baked by migrants at home, and a special sweet dish is brought in from the home village by plane. Not only that the event brings together the migrants, the audio-visual documentation by videographers and visitors, and online communication, is central for the members of the transnational community. Having witnessed and filmed the feast in the home village as well as in Florida various times I could see how food remains a central part of the feast and serves as important means of socialising.

Mónica Toledo Fraginals
Filmmaker and Visual Artist

Mónica Toledo Fraginals was born in Oaxaca, México and received her BFA in Design and MA in Media Studies at The New School in New York City. Influenced by her heritage, her background, and a love for discovering and telling stories, she decided to become a documentary filmmaker. Now she lives in Berlin where she works as a filmmaker whose work is informed by her interests in anthropology and ethnology. In her work she combines a talent for cinema and graphic art with a scholarly approach to investigative research. 

For the Love of Mole
(Por Amor al Mole), 18 mins.

For the Love of Mole is a short film that attempts to document the process of making mole (a time-honoured Mexican dish that consists of a thickened sauce made from a variety of ingredients including chillies, tomatoes, spices, grains and seeds), and to invite audiences into Doña Yola's kitchen, to experience all the hard work, the love and the meanings that accompany this dish. In doing so, the film uses food as a vehicle for examining large and varied problems of theory and research methods within the field of visual anthropology. 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Keynote address B


Chaired by Susanne Højlund

Jonatan Leer
PhD, postdoc, Aarhus University.

Jonatan Leer is a part of the research project on taste He has published widely on food culture, notably on food and masculinity: What’s Cooking, Man? Masculinity in European Cooking shows (Feminist Review) and Carnivorous Heteropopias: Gender, Meat and Nostalgia on the Copenhagen Meat Scene (NORMA: International Journal of Masculinity Studies) with Linda Lapina. Jonatan is also the editor of the book Food and Media: Practices, Distinctions and Heterotopias (Routledge, 2016) with Karen Klitgaard Povlsen. He has also contributed to the anthologies Food, Masculinities and Home (Bloomsbury, 2017) and The Bloomsbury Handbook on Food and Popular Culture (2017).

Spectacular Steaks and Male Gazes
How Masculinity is Produced and Negotiated through Meat Consumption in the Media and in Meat Restaurants

This talks deals with the ways meat works to produce and negotiate masculinity in contemporary food culture. While it has been argued that meat production and the slaughter of animals has been hidden away from the public space in many years, lately we have witnessed ‘new carnivorism’ where meat and slaughter are glorified and put back in the public sphere through controversial imagery. This movement is closely connected to traditional ideas of masculinity and virility. More specifically the paper investigates the phenomenon through the documentary Jamie’s Italian Escape and the visual narratives in Copenhagen meat restaurants.

Coffee break

11.00-12.15 :
Symposium film presentations II

Chaired by Peter I. Crawford

Edurne Urrestarazu
Aarhus University

Edurne Urrestarazu (1993) is an anthropologist who did her BA in Social Anthropology at the University of the Basque Country, and is now completing her MA in Visual Anthropology at the Department of Anthropology at Aarhus University. She is conducting a research project on wines of an area of the Basque Country (Spain) together with fellow anthropologist, Josu Ozaita.  They have received a grant from the Barandiaran Foundation for the project.

An ethnological net of wine in Rioja Alavesa.
Materiality, agency and heritage

Beyond being a simple beverage, wine is intention, history, society, culture, and gender relations. It has a body, as it embodies its materiality. By giving voice to the wine, it has gained agency. It is alive, and people in Rioja Alavesa know it. It is the central axis of the social network of this Spanish region, where along Sierra de Cantabria, vineyards, tractors and inhabitants among others, creates the culture of wine. During eighteen months of fieldwork we will collect and analyse different discourses immersed in the presented network and create space to talk about the movements arising from these relations, as a new designation of origin, representative for the wines of Rioja Alavesa, is being considered. A possible audio-visual project in the future might be the result of this written research. For the moment, words are in process.

Orsolya and Ralph Veraart

Orsolya Veraart is Hungarian from Transylvania, Romania. She has a master’s degree in ethnography from Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, and a master’s degree in Visual Cultural Studies from UiT - The Arctic University of Norway. She has served as member of the NAFA film selection committee for several years. Orsolya provides introductory lectures in visual anthropology at workshops and summer schools. She is a co-founder of CinéTrans (

Ralph Veraart is from The Netherlands. He has a master´s degree in International Development Studies from Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and a master’s degree in Visual Cultural Studies from UiT - The Arctic University of Norway. He has over ten years of experience in project development and implementation. He is the main developer of the latest NAFA website ( and serves as assistant general secretary of NAFA. He is co-founder of CinéTrans (

Polenta Transylvanica 

Our ongoing project in Romania is focusing on food and uses ´food events´ as a magnifying glass on social issues in Transylvanian rural life. When we visit Romania we film daily life situations, often in our own family setting.  The films help us understand and reflect upon for example expressions of gender inequalities and power relations within the family. The film Polenta Transylvanica has this as an under-layer.  The project is being developed as an initiative of our organisation CinéTrans. We hope to continue with this project in coming years, and to build up a collection of short films around these ´food events´ in Transylvania. 

Töhötöm Szabó
PhD, Babeş-Bolyai University

Töhötöm Szabó works as an assistant professor at the Department of Hungarian Ethnography and Anthropology, Babeş–Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca. He holds a PhD in ethnology and cultural anthropology from the University of Debrecen. His main research interests are economic anthropology, peasant studies and rural studies. He published three books in Hungarian and several articles in Hungarian and English.

Morality of post-peasant households and self-sufficiency in global contexts:
From food to commodity and cultural heritage

Peasant households have always struggled to keep a distance from the market and followed the patterns of a household mode of production. Means to reach this so-called autonomy had a strong focus on food self-sufficiency. Post-peasant households in Transylvania, or at least part of them, can also be characterized through this kind of struggle for autonomy that has at its base a sort of peasant morality. The presentation investigates the role of traditions and experiences but also the role of present-day, global discourses on food in the formation of these patterns. A special focus will be given to bread: records of peasant history and ethnographic descriptions reveal the importance of wheat (called often ‘life’ in Hungarian) and bread in this struggle. On the other hand the presentation offers an outline of the way the homemade bread became a commodity and at the same time part of cultural heritage. Besides interviews and participant observation the research uses the camera as a tool of inquiry in order to examine the role of the homemade, traditional bread and its baking as a symbol of the peasant autonomy and morality in local and global contexts.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Keynote address C

Chaired by Peter I. Crawford

Karen Klitgaard Povlsen
Associate professor, PhD Media Studies, School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University, and FOCUS

Karen Klitgaard Povlsen has published five books and ten anthologies on gender, food and fashion, body ideals, travelogues, popular fictions and films, media use and trust. Currently working on a project on how children are cooked for in schools by professionals; and on how children perform cooking in a school setting with Jonatan Leer and others.

Cooking fine food as a negotiation of gender, ambition and love:
Cross-cultural and cross-media traveling of food and femininity.

Food and cooking have been recurrent themes in many films in the years after 2000. Not least in films made by women directors with strong female protagonists. The presentation discusses how cooking, femininity and food are constructed as a way of doing contemporary cultural analysis in three important films:

Bella Martha (2001), made by Sandra Nettelbeck on a female Francophile and perfectionist Michelin-chef in Hamburg, who is contested by an Italian chef and an orphan niece.

Julie and Julia (2007) by Nora Ephron on Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as it is cooked and blogged about by young Julie in Queens, NY. 

The Lunch Box (2013) by Ritesh Batra, on clever cooking with traditional spices and ingredients as an untraditional way out of an unhappy marriage and an overcrowded Indian city.

All three films are preoccupied with the constructions of femininity, with good eating and sex, with ambitions, and with food and cooking as an obsession that offers room for cultural negotiations and life changes. All three films are produced as mainstream fiction films but with strong realistic locations and plots. In contrast to e.g. Fellini’s and Greenaway’s dystopian films on cooking and eating, these films are negotiating sense and sensibility in ‘natural settings’ offered by cooking, and meals as a way to perform existential and deeply political discussions in everyday settings.

Coffee break

Symposium presentations III and film screening

Chaired by Susanne Højlund

Inês Mestre
CRIA – Nova University of Lisbon and University Institute of Lisbon.

Inês Mestre studied Anthropology and Documentary Film, and is currently finishing her PhD in Anthropology about confectionery in Portugal, working in the areas of food, heritage, memory, body, senses, visual anthropology and cinema. The research includes the production of visual and audiovisual media. Inês works regularly in documentary films and other visual projects, in the areas of direction, research, production, direct sound, editing, distribution and programming.

“Gluttony islands”
Reflections on an audiovisual project about confectionery in Portugal

For the last years I have been doing a set of films in the frame of anthropological research in different contexts of sweets production, distribution and consumption in Portugal. The free adoption of different cinematic forms proved essential to explore important dimensions of human experience related to food, namely sensory. Focusing on these works I will reflect on the importance of audiovisual media in the deepening of human knowledge in food studies and in anthropology in general. Excerpts from the films will be shown as part of the presentation.

Blake Paul Kendall
Free University Berlin

Blake Paul Kendall is Australian according to passport, Berlin-based (by choice). Working across multiple mediums, the past was dedicated to collaborating with Indigenous communities in language preservation projects, including an ongoing commitment with Penan communities. More interested in dialogue than in answers, aspiring to the ‘Open Ended’. A student to life, and more formally in Visual & Media Anthropology. In 2011 he learnt to listen…


This practice-led (re)search, exploring Karl Marx’s (1973) ‘alienation of nature’ and Nicholas Mirzoeff’s (2014) notions of ’visualisation of the anthropocene’, examines the field site of Penan villages in the post-logged forests in Sarawak (Malaysia). The onset of deforestation and village settlement marks the transition from a 'hunter-gatherer' to a 'horticultural' society. The linear nature of moving-image assemblage, and the narrative structures of source (hunting / gathering / farming / ‘buying’) to consumption of food, are explored with the examination of Laura U. Newmark's (2000) haptic and multisensory distinctions. The sensual potentials of the visual and audible are analyzed under the prisms of evocation, experience and memory. Methodological experimentation tracks food within the context of (re)search collaborators’ lives. A response…

Peter I. Crawford
Camera as Cultural Critique, Anthropology, Aarhus University.

Peter I. Crawford has been an active member the Nordic Anthropological Film Association (NAFA) since the late 1970s, and chaired its annual film selection committee for many years. He has written extensively on visual anthropology and ethnographic filmmaking and has wide experience in teaching the subject both theoretically and practically. He has been in charge of the long-term Reef Islands Ethnographic Film Project (Solomon Islands) since 1994. Otherwise Peter has mainly worked as a publisher/editor for Intervention Press ( and as a socio-economic consultant on development issues. He has until recently been part of the Camera as Cultural Critique Research Programme at Aarhus University but will shortly after this event be professor in visual anthropology at UiT - The Arctic University of Norway.

Pileni paualala
Dried giant clam in the Reef Islands

This presentation consists of a 17-minute film exploring the harvesting and use of giant clams on the coral atoll of Pileni, forming one of the five so-called Polynesian outliers constituting the area of Vaiakau of the Reef Islands in Temotu Province in the far eastern part of the Solomon Islands. In the early days of the Reef Islands Ethnographic Film Project, in the 1990s, harvesting and local consumption of giant clams was still relatively common, and we had filmed how they were produced and mainly served as part of ritual festivities on the main Reef Islands. A decade later it was a practice that seemed to be dying out, due to overexploitation, and it was a long time since we had had a chance to film it. During fieldwork in 2015, however, we discovered not only that there was an abundance of giant clams on the fringe of the Reef Islands, but that an ingenious young man, John Knoxson, son of the Pileni island chief, had found a way of drying the meat of the clams so that it could be exported to the market in the national capital of Honiara, bringing in cash, without which it was becoming increasingly difficult to survive.