The Asian Institute’s 2011 Asian Foodprints builds on the success of its earlier renditions and continues to raise the standards of our Foodprints series, this year with the topic Exploring Korea Through Its Foods and Foodways. In our previous two conferences – the first on China and Hong Kong in 2009, and the second on Japan in 2010 – we have learned about national discourses surrounding food, and explored the processes of historical retrieval and forward-looking invention and construction that inform the always-contested notion of authenticity as it applies to foods of a given geographical region. We continue to see examples of how foods and the practices surrounding them – foodways – are mediated through processes of globalization and social stratification. This year’s conference takes a step further to examine how food production, presentation and consumption are shaped by nutritional imperatives and consumer tastes, as well as larger social, economic and political forces – the consequences of which are significant enough to warrant Professor Michael Pettid’s provocative question in the introductory section: More Important Than Sex?
Exploring Korea Through Its Foods and Foodways interrogates these fascinating dynamics in the context of Korea. Over the past several years, the South Korean government has attempted to globalize Korean cuisine as a cultural commodity and as a model for nutrition and healthy food consumption. From the purported medicinal effects of kimchi during the SARS epidemic of 2003 to the multi-dish presentation and consumption of formal meals and the many Korean food festivals appearing in major cities around the world, Korean cuisine has indeed “gone global.” But what does this mean, and how has globalization in turn shaped Korean food? The first panel, Social Changes and Cultural Discourses on Food, features leading experts on the cultural evolution of Korean food and foodways, touching on the nation’s colonial past as well as its more contemporary encounters with other cultural imports. The second panel, Food, Health and Market Forces, provides a comparative view of nutrition and food consumption. Animated by observations from outside of Korea, along with a view from within, experts will discuss the intersection of food consumption and tastes, nutritional imperatives, socio-economic stratification and health outcomes. The third panel, Korean Food: Cooking and Eating Practices, centres squarely on food practices, and their social and economic underpinnings. Experts will engage a range of topics from the business of Korean cuisine to its representations in popular culture.
We expect Exploring Korea to be our best Foodprints yet. The conference is hosted by the Asian Institute, Canada’s largest Asia-focused research and teaching centre, and the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Toronto. However, this conference is a collaborative endeavour, with significant contributions and support from the Dr. David Chu Distinguished Leaders Program and Community Network in Asia Pacific Studies, and the Centre for the Study of Korea at the University of Toronto.