MASTERCLASS > Summer School

Asian Food: History, Anthropology, Sociology

Leiden University enjoys a world-wide reputation for its expertise on Asia and for its Asian collections. To coincide with the offcial opening of The Asian Library in September 2017, the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), LeidenAsiaCentre (LAC) and the Shared Taste Project at Leiden University hosted a Summer School devoted to the academic study of Asian Food for MA/PhD students and early career scholars. 


    This unique occasion provided wide ranging coverage of this growing interdisciplinary field with contributions from international experts with at least one of whom each student had an individual consultation about their own work. 

    The aim was to highlight the wide range of resources for the academic study of Asian Food, available in Leiden and to present advanced methodological approaches and research techniques, together with the hands-on experience necessary for the analysis of historical documents and artefacts.

    Via a combination of expert lectures, student-led discussions, individual supervision, and local field trips, this Summer School provided participants with an insight into the growing interdisciplinary field of Asian Food Studies, which included sessions in history, anthropology, sociology, and material culture studies.

    The four senior academic leaders provided guidance to help students navigate the burgeoning literature on food, establishing in dialogue with the students a good sense of the necessary anthropological, sociological and historical tools for the analysis of all aspects of food: from preparation to consumption, from shared dining and banqueting to individual eating practices, from visual representations of food practices to the material culture that is inextricably connected to food practices, today as in the past.

    The lectures, discussion groups and individual research supervision were combined with: hands-on research training; undertaking exercises in participant observation; handling objects in museums and private collections.  All this was supported by visits to the Special Collections of Leiden University and the National Museum of Ethnology.

    The international experts who contributed include: Nir Avieli (Ben Gurion University, Israel), Anne Murcott (SOAS, University of London), Katarzyna Cwiertka (Leiden University), and Anne Gerritsen (Warwick University / Leiden University).

    Get an impression of the Summer School on Asian Food here

    General information

    For whom

    The Summer School on Asian Food: History, Anthropology, Sociology is intended for MA/PhD students and early career scholars (up to 3 years after the completion of the PhD). All applicants must be committed to or actively working on original research projects that engage with the Summer School theme.


    Closed. Selected applicants have been notified.

    Selection procedure

    The programme allows a maximum of 15 participants. All who applied by the deadline have been informed about the selection results before 1 May 2017.

    Participation requirements

    Selected participants agree to attend and participate in all events from 25-29 September 2017, including lectures, fieldtrips, and group presentations. Participants also agree to read pre-circulated background materials as generated by the Conveners (as relevant).

    Language requirements

    A working language of English is required and presentations will be in English. No translation/interpretation services will be available at the Summer School.


    Half-board shared accommodation (breakfast and lunch) for four nights is included for the selected participants (arrival 25, departure 29 September).

    Travel costs

    Selected participants are expected to fund their own travel expenses.


    Participants can receive a certificate for the Summer School.


    The 2017 Summer School on Asian Food: History, Anthropology, Sociology  is co-organized by the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), the LeidenAsiaCentre (LAC), and the Shared Taste Project at Leiden University.  

    International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS)

    IIAS is a global humanities and social sciences research institute and knowledge exchange platform that supports programmes which engage Asian and other international partners. Aiming to contribute to a more integrated understanding of present-day Asian realities as well as to rethink 'Asian Studies' in a changing global context, IIAS works to encourage dialogue and link expertise, involving scholars and other experts from all around the world in its activities. IIAS thus acts as a global mediator, bringing together academic and non-academic institutes in Asia and other parts of the world, including cultural, societal and policy organisations. IIAS adopts a thematic approach to the study of Asia, fostering research that, by its nature, transcends disciplinary and regional boundaries. The three research foci of IIAS are Asian cities; the uses of culture and cultural heritage; and Asia’s projection into the world and intra-Asian connections. In addition, IIAS remains open to other possibly interesting areas of investigation.

    In addition to supporting international research networks and programmes, IIAS organises different types of academic events throughout the year, many of them in Asia. These include conferences, workshops and seminars, as well as thematic roundtables and Summer/Summer Schools for PhD students. IIAS runs an international fellowship programme and a publication and publishes ‘The Newsletter’, its free periodical on Asian Studies which enjoys a worldwide readership of 50,000. IIAS hosts the secretariat of various networks, including the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS) and the European Alliance for Asian Studies. All of these activities are based on international cooperation. It is this fundamentally collaborative and inclusive nature that has allowed IIAS to become the most global research-led meeting ground in the field of Asian Studies. 


    The LeidenAsiaCentre is the Netherlands’ expertise centre for socially relevant and applicable knowledge on modern East Asia, including Singapore.

    The LeidenAsiaCentre actively aims to expand its expertise and to use this in collaboration with a growing number of  societal partners, in particular the business sector, civil society, the media, government and academic and non-academic knowledge centres.

    The LeidenAsiaCentre achieves this by:

    • Consulting with non-academic partners in identifying research questions;
    • Conducting original academic research, taking into account the needs of partners in society;
    • Building and expanding a broad network within the Dutch government, the media, educational institutions, the business sector and civil society;
    • Disseminating knowledge by means of lectures, conferences, intensive training courses and publications, including web publications.

    The LeidenAsiaCentre organizes its research projects within wider core themes. This allows projects to deal with specific questions in context with related projects. Our three core themes are: ‘Europe and Asia’, ‘People, rights and human rights’ and ‘Lifestyle and culture’.

    See for more information

    Shared Taste

    This multi-facetted research project explores the emergence and development of shared tastes as food and material culture were exchanged throughout the world between 1500 and the present. Food, material culture and social life are inextricably connected, in today’s world as much as in the remote past. From 1500 onwards, those connections gained global dimensions: food and material culture began to be exchanged not merely within cultural zones as they had always done, but across vast distances encompassing the globe: from Africa to the Americas, from the Americas to Europe, from Europe to Asia, from Asia to Africa and the Americas. Modes of connection, such as gift-giving, long-distance trade, and the transmission of ideas also intensified during this period. This raises questions about how food, material culture and social life were transformed in the context of these growing global connections. Precisely because the experience of food and its meanings are embedded in contexts and embodied in ideas about self and other, they form meaningful topics to study through the lens of intercultural dynamics.

    The Shared Taste project seeks to explore how global connections changed food, material culture and social life through a series of research-based activities. It is based at the University of Leiden, and carried out under the aegis of the Kikkoman Chair for the study of Asia-Europe Intercultural Dynamics, generously funded by the Kikkoman Foundation and the Vereniging Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst.

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