The Workshop will take place on 8.3.22 - 10.3.22, in Room 530, the Mandel Building
The habitual practice of commensality – of feasting and eating in the company of others – makes for a dense social realm, rife with socio-political tensions. Eating together can be an everyday practice, bound to the domestic sphere, but it can also be ceremonial and festive. Diners may join the King's high table, dine at a Roman banquet, go out for a romantic dinner or hold a family BBQ in the park alongside many others. Yet, in all of these (and other) instances, eating together is bound to comply with a widely accepted set of rules and regulations, themselves the result of minute processes of intercultural contacts. Each and every aspect of the communal meal – from what to eat and when, and in the company of whom, to the roles specific participants play in the meal – determines how the meal functions as a public social interaction that delineates and reproduces a range of social identities and distinctions (class, gender, religious, ethnic, and other), both connects people and sets them apart. This international workshop aims to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines and places in order to identify and reflect upon state-of-the-art developments in food studies and, more specifically, to offer better understandings of practices of shared eating, historical as well as contemporary. We shall unpack the social tensions, political forces, and cultural processes around commensality as a meaningful social interaction, and historically contextualize the normative functions of the meal in marking hierarchies and social boundaries, as well as ordering cultural exchange. We also seek to touch upon the connections between the material aspects of the meal, what is being eaten, in what order courses are being served, which dinnerware is being used, etc. At the same time, the conference will also seek to critically reflect on the methods and assumptions of this scholarly field. What are the analytical advantages of taking commensality and eating practices as our object of study?
The workshop concludes the work of the “Setting Tables” research group, hosted by the Mandel Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center in the Humanities and Jewish Studies. The papers presented at the workshop will be published as an edited volume in Hebrew through an Israeli academic press. Papers originally written in English will be professionally translated. This volume will provide a much-desired gateway for Hebrew readership, for scholars, students as well as the general public, into the multidisciplinary and exciting field of food studies.