Slow Food for thought: food as cultural heritage expressed in the Slow Food movement’s external communication

University essay from Malmö högskola/Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS)

Abstract: This thesis investigates the Slow Food movement which started in Italy in the late80’s and today is an internationally spread organization with around 100 000 participants in 160 countries. The core aim within the Slow Food movement is combining everyone’s “right to pleasure” with social responsibility, summed up in their motto: “Good, Clean and Fair”. The movement is interesting from a global development perspective, since it looks at food in relation to the cultural, physical, social, environmental and political aspects of our lives, and relates to sustainability in a wide sense. In 2003, UNESCO started acknowledging so called ”Intangible cultural heritage” as a part of the common heritage of humanity, and a few years later some culinary traditions were inserted to the list. Departing from a social constructivist approach in how knowledge is constructed, combined with Pieterse’s ideas of the relation between culture and power, the key research question for the thesis is: How is the concept of Food as cultural heritage being expressed within the external communication channels of the Slow Food movement? Followed by the sub-question: How do these expressions relate to power dynamicsand to socially constructed assumptions of reality? Through a semiotic analysis, visual and textual material from Slow Food’s official websites have been analysed, using the UNESCO definition of Intangible cultural heritage as an analytical tool. The findings are that many fundamental ideas within the UNESCO definition are expressed in Slow Food’s external communication, but at the same time, that some aspects could be more highlighted in order to put a higher emphasis on the producer and the community. It is evident that Slow Food need to continuously address the critique directed towards them regarding issues of privilege and elitism, and keep a self-reflexive approach in their communication work.

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