CfP Food and Body in Colonial Contexts in Pre-modern Times (1600-1900)

Olga Trufanova's picture
Call for Papers
November 15, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Early Modern History and Period Studies, Eastern Europe History / Studies, Indigenous Studies, Russian or Soviet History / Studies

Call for Papers for the international workshop

"Food and Body in Colonial Contexts in Pre-modern Times (1600-1900)”

Regensburg, Germany

May 4-6, 2023

Deadline: November 15

Colonization and exploration of the non-European territories was an inherently bodily experience. Arrival to new lands meant encountering strange climates, nature, and bodies. Those physical differences had to be given a theoretical footing. Food and diet became central arguments to underscore and explain the physical and cultural differences between Europeans and indigenous people, as well as to claim Europeans’ supremacy over the inhabitants of the conquered lands. Indigenous foodways have typically been depicted as inedible, unclean, disgusting, uncivilized and improper for a European body, the maintenance of which became one of the primary imperial concerns. Thus, the physical survival of Europeans on colonial frontiers was tightly intertwined with the preservation of their cultural and religious (most often Christian) identities. Failure to keep colonial difference in place produced concerns about “barbarization”, “going native” and “hybridization” that were believed to endanger colonial regimes and the legitimacy of their claims of physical, cultural and racial supremacy over the colonized bodies.

Notwithstanding the efforts to maintain a dietary distance between newcomers and indigenous people, colonialism inevitably resulted in alteration in diets on both sides. While European foodways were often used as instruments of cultivating untamed lands as well as “civilizing” the manners of its inhabitants, many indigenous plants and recipes were adopted into European diets, opening a path to what subsequently became called the Columbian exchange and colonial food chains. In addition to foodstuffs and products, indigenous knowledge about the nourishing environment has been expropriated and integrated into the European body of knowledge. 

Much research has been done on the entanglements of food and colonialism, usually with a focus on Western Empires and their overseas colonies in Americas, Africa and Asia. Those colonized regions with warm tropical or subtropical climates produced associations with Eden, abundance and fertility, while remaining dangerous and challenging for many European bodies. However, less attention has been paid to the meaning of food in colder colonized regions of the world, such as Siberia, Alaska, or Greenland, or to empires such as the Ottoman Empire or the Russian Empire.

The workshop aims to bring into dialogue scholars of colonialism and food focused on different regions of the world. The task is to enable exchange and development of methodologies and concepts of dietary cultural encounters in colonial/frontier settings, as well as to broaden the scope of existing research to incorporate less studied colonial regions.

The topics encompass, but are not limited to, the following aspects of research:

  • Food and representation of colonial Others
  • Food provisioning in the conquered lands
  • Colonial origins of dietary theories 
  • Food and the making of empires (outer European empires, Russia, Ottoman Empire) 
  • Food in Northern/Arctic colonial settings 
  • Indigenous food knowledge(s)
  • Environmental effects of colonial food transformations
  • Gender, food and colonialism 
  • Decolonizing methodologies of food and colonialism

The call for papers is addressed to historians, religious scholars, anthropologists, sociologists, and researchers in related disciplines. To apply, please submit an abstract (300 words) and a short CV by 15 November 2022. Abstracts should be submitted to the following address: Preference will be given to applications focused on regions that are underrepresented in the research of food and colonialism, such as Russia, the Ottoman Empire, Eastern Europe. Applicants will be notified about the decision by mid-December 2022. 

The workshop will be based on the discussion of pre-circulated contributions. These should be between 6,000 and 8,000 words (incl. footnotes) and must be submitted by 15 April 2023. To allow for ample discussion time, presentations should not exceed twenty minutes. Selected contributions will be published in a thematic issue of a journal. The workshop “Food and Body in Colonial Contexts in Premodern Times, (1600-1900)” will take place on May 4-6 at IOS Regensburg in cooperation with the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies (UR). Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the DFG project “Food and food-related knowledge in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Siberia” of the professorship for the History of Russia and East Central Europe in Pre-Modern Times at LMU Munich and the University of Regensburg.

Conference organizers:
Olga Trufanova, Prof. Dr. Julia Herzberg

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Historisches Seminar der LMU
Geschichte Ost- und Südosteuropas
Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
D-80539 Munich

Abstracts should be submitted to the following address:

Contact Info: 

Olga Trufanova, MA

Doctoral researcher
Historisches Seminar
Lüdwig-Maximilians-Universität München


Affiliated PhD student
Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies
University of Regensburg