Project Co-leader: Dr Emma-Jayne Abbots (with A. Lavis, Universities of Birmingham and Oxford)

For more details or to join the ‘Consuming Materialities’ research network, contact Dr Emma-Jayne Abbots,

This innovative theoretical project brings together political economy and medical anthropological approaches to explore the ways in which bodies and objects – and the networks of relations in which they are embedded – are assembled, disassembled and reassembled through acts of consumption and ingestion.

Building on a supposition that each act of consumption both generates and ruptures networks of social relations, the project draws on, but goes beyond, phenomenological approaches, technologies of the self and discussions of the post-human. It looks to map out and better understand ways in which encounters between diverse materialities, agencies and socialities are made manifest through everyday processes of drawing objects, ideas and relations into bodies; a process that, in turn, constitutes bodies, objects and relations.

The project’s initial focus was eating, but this has now broadened to explore other ways in which the body’s boundaries are ruptured, established and made (de)material as it moves through, and consumes, the world around it. To date, outputs include an edited collection, an international conference and an established research network.

Why We Eat, How We Eat: Contemporary Encounters Between Foods and Bodies

Jennifer Brady
PhD Candidate
Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Jennifer Brady’s interests are broad and bring together a variety of fields including, women's/gender studies and feminist theory, food studies, fat studies, sociology of the professions, qualitative methods especially embodied methods, and oral history.

Sally Brooks
Researcher and Associate Tutor, Department of Social Policy and Social Work.
University of York.

Sally Brook’s research interests centre on international development, socio-technical change in agriculture, and food policy, particularly biofortification.

Karin Eli

Postdoctoral Researcher and James Martin Fellow,
Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and Oxford Martin School

Keywords: Eating disorders; obesity; narrative; embodiment; subjective experience; processes of meaning- and decision-making; consumer and patient advocacy; psychiatric genetic research; history of psychiatry.

Michael Goodman
Senior Lecturer in Geography
King’s College London

Michael Goodman has current research interests in the cultural politics of 'alternative' foods, environment and development, celebrity politics and the shifting geographies, moralities and politics of consumer cultures. Other interests include affect theory and the geographies of embodiment.

Christopher E. Forth
Howard Professor of Humanities & Western Civilization
Professor of History
University of Kansas

Cultural history; materiality; gender; fat; semen; blood.

Elizabeth Hull
Lecturer in Anthropology
SOAS Food Studies Centre
Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health

Elizabeth Hull’s current research examines the interactions between diverse livelihoods, the procurement, preparation and consumption of food, and the implications of these for health in the Makhathini agricultural region of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She investigates how livelihoods and food practices are intercepted variously by government programmes, private initiatives and public narratives, and how these intersect to influence food security and agricultural systems. She has further interests in the gendered dimensions of these processes.

Rachel Hurdley
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow
Cardiff University School of Social Sciences

Rachel’s interests are in how people make sense of the world with and through everyday things and spaces as cultural processes rather than fixed spatio-material culture. Her current research includes a focus on catering on a university campus: packed lunches, coffee shops, vending machines, restaurants, kitchens and 'outside' cafes.

Elspeth Probyn

Prof Elspeth Probyn FAHA, FASSA| Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies

Sustainable consumption; tacit knowledge & embodied research ; entanglements of ocean-fish-humans; food security.

Emilia Sanabria
Current position: Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (France) and Research Fellow at INSERM, Executive Committee Member of the World Public Health Nutrition Association (WPHNA)

Emilia Sanabria’s research builds on my sustained interest in anthropological theories of the body and materiality to examine how the relationships between foods and eaters are conceptualised in a range of interconnected contexts. I am currently carrying out ethnographic research on taste and sensorial education in France. This research traces the boundaries where foods and eaters, matter and subjects, merge and transform one another. I examine

how the appetite control systems of eaters are understood to be undermined by an environment of irresistibly hyperpalatable foods. I am also involved in an ERC advanced grant program entitled Chemical Youth.

Research areas: Anthropology of health and the body; eating; health education; public health nutrition; biopolitics and health inequalities; sexual and reproductive health

Louise Steel
Senior Lecturer in Mediterranean Archaeology
University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Steel’s primary research interest is material engagements in the ancient East Mediterranean. My work has focused on the consumption of pottery and the renegotiation of meaning encoded in material culture through cross-cultural exchange. One aspect of this work has been a re-assessment of feasting practices in Cyprus during the Bronze Age. I am also interested in the application of anthropological studies of art to ancient representations.

Megan Warin
Megan Warin is an associate professor and medical anthropologist in the Discipline of Gender Studies and Social Analysis, The University of Adelaide, Australia.

Megan Warin collaborates with colleagues in the cross-disciplinary Lifecourse and Intergenerational Health Research Group, and is a an international Fellow of the Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity in Oxford. Her research interests coalesce around gender and class differences in obesity, phenomenology of desire and denial in eating disorders, and public understandings of obesity science (fetal origins of obesity and epigenetics). She is also interested in new theoretical developments that encompass both material and social bodies

Harry G. West
Professor of Anthropology
Chair, SOAS Food Studies Centre, University of London

Professor West’s more recent research is in the anthropology of food. His current work, funded by the British Academy, focuses on artisan cheese, the discourse of “terroir,” and the global market niche in “heritage foods.” He is particularly interested in how cheesemakers have preserved and/or transformed cheesemaking techniques while navigating a changing marketplace, as well as how they have presented themselves, their locales of production, and their productive traditions to consumers new and old.

Richard R. Wilk
Provost Professor in Anthropology
Indiana University

Richard Wilk’s initial research on the cultural ecology of farming and family organization was followed by work on consumer culture and sustainable consumption, energy consumption, globalization, television, beauty pageants and food. Much of his recent work has turned towards the history of food, the linkages between tourism and sustainable development, and the origin of modern masculinity.

Emily Yates-Doerr
Postdoc, University of Amsterdam

Yates-Doerr’s research addresses the ethnography of science; care practices; global/indigenous health; environment and agriculture; translational research; markets and exchange; Latin America, Guatemala, and The Netherlands

Maria Yotova
Visiting Researcher at the National Museum of Ethnology, Japan

Maria Yotova’s interests lie at the intersection of food and business anthropology, with a focus on post-socialist contexts, especially Bulgaria, and Japan. Her work further explores the interplays between consumption and nationalism, particularly in the diary sector.

Tanya Zivkovic
Senior Research Fellow in the Discipline of Gender Studies and Social Analysis, University of Adelaide.

Tanya Zivkovic is a is a social anthropologist whose research explores the body and cultural trajectories of the life course. Tanya's research interests include work on death, relics, and reincarnation among Tibetan Buddhist lamas, 'the child', gender and obesity, and more recently Tibetan healing and biomedicine., and her forthcoming book Death and Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism will be published by Routledge in late 2013.