The news feed from the Centre for Culture and the Creative Industries at City, University of London

Aysegul Kesimoglu presents on Modernisation & Taste at the ‘Food in Society and Culture’ Conference

Aysegul was away last week at a conference in Helsinki (4 – 6 May 2015). The conference, which had a specific focus on food, culture and society, was called ‘Food in Society and Culture – Research across the Social Sciences and the Humanities‘. The interdisciplinary conference was a perfect opportunity to meet researchers from across the world and different disciplines, who research about food production and consumption with a focus on contemporary debates on culture and society. The core themes explored at the conference included food traditions, gender and identity, social and cultural meanings food, food practices, theoretical implications and conditions of food production in relation to welfare and sustainability. Scholars approached all of these issues from the macro and micro levels, considering both the implications of food in society and culture at national, local and individual levels.


Aysegul’s presentation was from her PhD research and focused on her recent findings during her fieldwork. She presented on ‘Modernisation and Taste’ and focused on Istanbul’s dining scene as her case study. She presented two narratives that are well-known in sociology (modernisation and distinction) in a combined narrative of symbolic value and operationalisation of cultural capital in Turkey.

Her case study focused on the dynamic foodsphere of Turkish society – in particular that of its most cosmopolitan city, Istanbul. Aysegul discussed the dynamic ‘café’ culture in Istanbul, together with the emergence of modern culinary formats more recently. She considered these next to individuals’ eating out preferences, and discussed competing culture values that may be in effect, preventing a standard formation of taste hierarchy in Turkish society. Aysegul’s research is informed by Bourdieu, Alan Warde and Giddens’ theories on culture and society. She uses a structurationalist  approach as she interprets what meaning individuals assign to their eating practices.

Aysegul presented during a parallel session on Media, Design and Urban Space. Most other presentations in this session shared similar themes with her research. Although each researcher in the session shared different theoretical approaches and empirical methods of analyses, there was a thread of connectivity around imagined communities and belonging, and individual and collective identities. Fruitful debates have happened during the session, which have well carried into the coffee break and lunchtime during the conference.

Keynote speeches were also informative and exciting. Professor of Sociology, Alan Warde presented on theories of practice and eating; Darra Goldsteing (Founding Editor of Gastronomica) spoke about artwork that depicts food, becoming a metaphor with multilayered meanings across cultures; finally, Johanna Makela presented on the concept of pure food and how the framing of food in this way might be related to our notion of national identity.

It was ultimately a fruitful and thought-provoking conference with a lot of great research and opportunity to move the field forward. • May 14, 2015

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