HomeCooking as a Ritual

HomeCooking as a Ritual

Cooking as a Ritual

Le rituel culinaire

Cuisine and culture in the globalized XXIst Century World

Cuisine et culture dans le monde globalisé du XXIe siècle

*  *  *

Published on Friday, March 31, 2017


The symposium “Cooking as ritual” is thought to be a collective reflection on the approaches of cooking by the social sciences. By broaching the subject through the concept of “ritual”, the aim is to underline the fact that cooking associate people, gestures and social representations within specific frameworks posed collectively.


Lyon (France), June 29th 2017


Although the field of food studies has taken a long time to interest the humanities, it has become a domain in its own right in the last 20 years. Numerous publications have been generated in various disciplines (Albala, 2012; Murcott et al., 2013), including in the social sciences which were long reluctant to consider food studies serious enough to be worthy of interest. However, among the broad spectrum of practices and representations encompassed by food, studies into cooking practices remain relatively uncommon. In sociology and anthropology, despite some early works, research on cooking practices remain rare and disparate (Sutton, 2016).

It is true that it is difficult to approach this topic, especially because of the difficulty in defining it. What, in fact, does cooking mean? From the dish prepared for several hours to the mixture of a packed salad and canned corn, the type of operation and the level of investment differ very widely according to the context and the actors. Moreover, the link between the type of practice and its definition as a "cooking practice" is highly dependent on the cultural area concerned (Fischler & Masson, 2008). Beyond the problem of definition, there is also the question of how to approach this topic, as it mobilizes at the same time the material, functional, technical, social and cultural dimensions. Finally, cooking practices, and more broadly food practices, are strongly influenced by globalization, and are experiencing rapid and complex changes.

In order to account for the social and cultural dimensions of cooking practices (whether professional or domestic), it is interesting to consider them as rituals – in an approach of the term including  "Secular rituals" (Moore & Myerhoff, 1977) or “les rites profanes” (Rivière, 1995) – considering the following arguments:

  • The cooking practices are carried out in a dedicated space, with a specific material and according to a precise sequence of gestures.
  • In many societies, the persons authorized to prepare the meal belong to particular social groups.
  • This set of practices is repeated regularly (daily) and varies according to the type of meal considered (daily meal, reception of guests, festive meal, etc.).
  • These gestures respond to a set of symbolic functions, the first of which is to bring in a set of basic ingredients in what Jean-Pierre Poulain names "the space of the eatable" (“l’espace du mangeable”), namely all the elements that are selected by a specific human group, according to pragmatic and symbolic criteria, as being acceptable to be ingested (Poulain, 2002, pp. 228-229). Cooking practices may also have other functions, such as the affirmation of a specific cultural identity or the creation of group cohesion.
  • The effectiveness of practices depends not only on technical parameters related to physico-chemical and sensorial dimensions, but also on a set of social representations linked to both products and processes.

Communications should not necessarily explore each of these dimensions, but should help to clarify some of these aspects of rituals. In so doing, they will be able to address (if possible by linking different aspects):

  • The spatial dimensions of cooking practices.
  • The material dimensions (modality of choice, equipment with symbolic scope or identity, etc.).
  • The physical investment involved in cooking practice.
  • Social norms and customs determining the identity of cooks.
  • Identity claims associated with certain cooking practices.
  • The festive, seasonal and calendar characteristics of cooking practices.
  • The social representations associated with food, conditioning cooking practices.
  • The evolutions and transformations of the practices associated with the globalized exchanges.

The papers will come from researchers in human and social sciences, but also from other sectors (agro-food industries, NGOs, public policies, etc.) dealing with these themes.

How to send proposals?

The proposals are to be sent before April 30th 2017

by e-mail to symposium@institutpaulbocuse.com with the object “Call Symposium Cooking 2017”.

These proposals (in english or in french) must contain:

  • A presentation of the author(s)
  • An abstract (300 words max.), mentioning the object of the work, the methods and the main results.
  • The author’s preference for a poster or an oral presentation.

The authors will be informed of the acceptance or refusal of their proposal by 12 May 2017 at the latest.

Selection committee

The selection committee is headed by Maxime Michaud and composed by the researchers of the Center for Food and Hospitality Research, Institut Paul Bocuse (Anestis Dougkas, Agnès Giboreau, Jérémie Lafraire, Maxime Michaud, Laure Saulais).

Practical information

The symposium will take place on June 29th 2017 at the Institut Paul Bocuse, Chemin de Calabert, Ecully (France) (access plan).

The symposium attendance fee is 100€ (full rate) or 50€ (student rate) and covers registration, meals and refreshments throughout the day.

For more information on this event, see http://research.institutpaulbocuse.com/en/events/ or send an e-mail to symposium@institutpaulbocuse.com.


Albala, K. (Éd.). (2012). Routledge International Handbook of Food Studies. London ; New York: Routledge.

Fischler, C., & Masson, E. (2008). Manger: Français, Européens et Américains face à l’alimentation. Odile Jacob.

Moore, S. F., & Myerhoff, B. G. (1977). Secular Ritual. Uitgeverij Van Gorcum.

Murcott, A., Belasco, W., & Jackson, P. (2013). The Handbook of Food Research. A&C Black.

Poulain, J.-P. (2002). Sociologies de l’alimentation : les mangeurs et l’espace social alimentaire. Paris: Presses universitaires de France.

Rivière, C. (1995). Les rites profanes. Presses universitaires de France.

Sutton, D. (2016). The Anthropology of Cooking. In J. A. Klein & J. L. Watson (Éd.), The Handbook of Food and Anthropology (p. 349‑369). New York: Bloomsbury Academic.


  • Château du Vivier, Chemin de Calabert
    Écully, France (69130)


  • Sunday, April 30, 2017

Attached files


  • cuisine, culinaire, cooking, rituel, ritual, mondialisation, culture, globalization


  • Maxime Michaud
    courriel : symposium [at] institutpaulbocuse [dot] com

Information source

  • Maxime Michaud
    courriel : symposium [at] institutpaulbocuse [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Cooking as a Ritual », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, March 31, 2017, https://calenda.org/400895

Archive this announcement

  • Google Agenda
  • iCal
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search