Environment2. Food problems in relation to ecosystem and environmentOverview of the Project

Project Title

Human and natural history on system of food production
Environment 2. Food problems in relation to ecosystem and environment NOBAYASHI AtsushiCenter for Cultural Resource Studies・Professor April 2017-March 2020
Objectives and contents
For humankind, food increasingly functions to satisfy ecological and nutritional needs. In other words, food is the most primitive form of wealth, serving as a trigger to structure larger activities through actions such as production (including collecting and hunting), preservation, and exchange. At the same time, food that is closely associated with each local environment has functioned as a tool for local residents to express their social and cultural identities and to communicate with others mainly through eating together and as gift exchange. With the applicable scope enlarged, their activities have been regarded as composite elements of principles unifying nations and communities. In recent years, food has drawn attention as a diplomatic tool to deepen politico-economic relations among nations, as represented by “gastro-diplomacy”

Fundamentally, food is an element that enables an individual to maintain its own life, which functions in ecological circulation. Consequently, modern society’s ways of treating food resources in mass production and disposal might be regarded as a new dark aspect of the civilization, previously inexperienced by human societies. This study’s main objective is consideration of the mechanism by which real aspects of food in modern societies are generated in alienation from ecological adaptation in a politico-economic context, from the viewpoint of cultural anthropology, instead of the conventional macro approaches applied to food-related problems.

This study is a critical examination of the acts of humankind to manipulate food production and availability. We would like to review how food production will be regarded as a cultural device that has been supporting civilized societies, concretely by setting the following core themes: how food production systems are connecting households, communities, nations and economic blocks; relations between economic gaps that occur on individual levels and food production, supply, and consumption; and inconsistency between the maintenance of traditional culture or dietary culture and food production systems.
Anticipated results
The number of hungry people of the world, although decreasing, is now estimated as greater than about 800 million, suggesting that the food imbalance as represented by the term unequal society has remained unrectified. To elucidate the real aspects of food in modern societies alienated from ecological adaptation in a politico-economic context and to explore the location of food as a key of healthy continued existence of civilized societies is necessary to obtain foresight to understand humankind living on the Earth of the future. Earlier problem consciousness has already drawn attention in international academic circles mainly in Europe and the United States. Specialized books are not infrequently being published. Under the circumstances, this project implementation is expected to collaborate with research institutes abroad, to enhance research capabilities for the themes concerned, and to visualize the international results of this international symposium.