In Africa food is a social jelly that at once brings people together and separates them. It is the indicator of religious affiliation and social stature, of sameness and difference. Food is a theme that glues the different topics together and eating is one of the most fundamental practices of everyday life. Senegalese writer Aminata Sow Fall suggests that the culinary language is like a universal code, which could be used to express everything. She quotes a Senegalese proverb that says “life is not a couscous, but it needs some laalo, that is some binding substance”.
For exploring food practices Africa is a setting par excellence. While on the one hand the media presents the continent as a place of constant famine, on the other it is portrayed as a setting for exotic eating practices. For researchers in social sciences and humanities Africa has long been a source of inspiration for food studies. Audrey Richards' seminal work on the anthropology of food was based in Africa, followed by Meyer Fortes and later Jack Goody. Many African novelists have used food as a medium for exploring topics as diverse as the conflict between tradition and modernity, religion, travel, gender relations. In recent years, food studies in Africa have entered a productive new phase, with many new publications in history, anthropology, nutrition and more. This panel will bring together contributions on African studies from various disciplines (including history, anthropology, sociology, geography, literature, and development studies) to present the latest achievements in this area of Africanist research.