Kulturen des Essens zwischen Arbeits- und Erlebnisgesellschaft : das „Was“ und das „Wie“ des Essens: Sinn und Form von Gemeinschaft

Kulturen des Essens sind immer auch Zeichen unserer Lebensäußerungen. Eckart Pankoke reflektiert hier über die soziologischen Voraussetzungen und Implikationen des Essens insbesondere aus kulturgeschichtlicher Perspektive.

Social forms of eating and drinking raise not only the fundamental issues of human nutrition and survival. The socialised sharing and distribution of food are bound up with the politics of health and welfare. From a sociological perspective, social forms of common eating are considered some of the chief means of representing forms of human community and society. Through observation of the social semiotics visible in the forms of eating habits and table manners, we can identify the criteria of social distinction, symbolizing the bonds and bounds of common solidarity.

Conclusions can be drawn both from looking at everyday forms of eating, as well as from observing the more artificial rituals and habits present in the consumption of festival and banquet fare. The pioneering ethnographer Georg Forster documented Captain Cook’s global circumnavigation, including anthropological descriptions of the rich variety and diversity of tastes and food preferences. Later, the revolutionary theorist Karl Marx observed that the cultural patterns of common eating and drinking symbolized radical solidarity in workers movement. Therefore, the customs of eating are related to the pressures of labour organisation. Open forms of public eating also symbolize a political culture of “open society” – combining freedom and solidarity. The great world religions such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity attach a special meaning to the celebration of common meals in their religious culture: “ The Lord’s table” and “round table” form a core element to the construction of identity in a faith community and a practical consequence of world-wide solidarity.

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