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Book reviews

Critical Perspectives in Food Studies, Edited by Mustafa Koc, Jennifer Sumner, and Anthony Winson, Oxford University Press, 2012, 416 pages[Notice]

  • Amy Trubek

The decision to use a “big tent” to provide a critical perspective on an emerging field and a textbook creates both strengths and weaknesses. Many important topics, such as food consumption and social relations, the nutrition transition, global governance, and localized agriculture production, are covered. As promised by the editors, key concepts and controversies of the contemporary food system are addressed. The authors’ use of original research to illustrate broader topics allows each essay to provide a glimpse of the innovative food scholarship being produced in Canada. Each essay concludes with annotated suggestions for further reading. The authors clearly followed a general template for their essays, but disciplinary conventions lead to wide variations in both form and content, including research strategies, forms of argumentation and interpretation, and writing styles. In a sense, Critical Perspectives in Food Studies accurately reflects this particular moment in the emergence of a scholarly field: this offering is a true potluck, with dishes of all types, served in vessels large and small, made using a family recipe or an invented tradition, with no unifying set of rules or conventions. For an advanced scholar or teacher interested in developing a broad, interdisciplinary introductory course in food studies or food systems, Critical Perspectives in Food Studies brings together excellent overviews that can provide a map of the territory for course development. The perspectives of a variety of disciplines on topics that intersect with food, especially gender, hunger, industrialization, and capitalism, will help broaden understandings of the food system. Important new research and publications will be readily accessible. The concern of most of the authors revolves around inequity or injustice in the systems and structures that shape Canadians’ everyday experience of food – from the farm to the plate. These concerns will help identify important topics requiring critical thinking in both teaching and scholarship.

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