Off the Menu: Appetites, Culture, and Environment

How food is not only pro­duced but also con­sumed is inti­mate­ly linked to the cli­mate crisis. Spot­light­ing the rela­tion­ship be­tween hu­man appe­tites and envi­ron­men­tal change, this re­search group brings to­gether the fields of food stud­ies and the envi­ron­men­tal hu­mani­ties to intro­duce what it calls the culi­nary envi­ron­men­tal hu­mani­ties.

The Junior Research Group at a glance

Place of researchUniversity of Augsburg
AssociationInternational Doctoral Program “(Um)WeltDenken: Rethinking Environment”
Project duration2023 to 2029
Group leaderDr. des. L. Sasha Gora
Further informationWebsite Off the Menu

Rethinking environments through a culinary lens

Eating is one of the most direct ways peo­ple inter­act with envi­ron­ments by literal­ly di­gest­ing them. Food is also how peo­ple expe­rience cli­mate change and con­front the ques­tion of how to feed a grow­ing popu­lation on a planet with lim­ited re­sources. Food con­nects the micro with the macro and cui­sine is, thus, a unique en­try point for con­textu­aliz­ing the sixth mass ex­tinc­tion and the future of plane­tary health.

Culinary Sustainability

The “Off the Menu” re­search group takes an inter­disci­pli­nary, envi­ron­men­tal hu­mani­ties ap­proach to con­textu­alize the plane­tary emer­gency by high­light­ing the inter­sec­tion be­tween cul­ture and the envi­ron­ment with a focus on sea­food. Three global case stud­ies ad­dress how hu­man appe­tites trans­form envi­ron­ments and, in turn, how appe­tites re­spond to trans­formed en­vi­ron­ments: The New­foundland “Cod Rush” and the envi­ron­men­tal crisis; culi­nary ex­tinc­tion and the ethics of en­dan­gered foods; and how cui­sines adopt or reject “inva­sive” spe­cies. Tak­ing these ex­am­ples to­geth­er, the group also inves­ti­gates the emer­gence of clima­te-con­scious eating prac­tices.

Cuisine re­flects how cul­tures cate­gorise and medi­ate hu­man rela­tion­ships to plants and ani­mals. Its study yields an un­der­stand­ing of how peo­ple trans­form the worlds around them. “Off the Menu” seeks to histor­icise the inti­mate rela­tion­ship be­tween cui­sine and envi­ron­men­tal change and the histo­ry of culi­nary sus­taina­bil­ity.

portrait picture of Dr. des. L. Sasha Gora

Con­tem­porary envi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges do not ad­here to disci­pli­nary boundaries and, in re­sponse, the Junior Re­search Group for­mat pro­vides the ideal condi­tions for inno­vative and trans­disci­pli­nary think­ing.

Dr. des. L. Sasha Gora

The Junior Research Group cooperates with the International Doctorate Program “(Um)WeltDenken: Rethinking Environment” at the University of Augsburg and the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich.