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Film Catalog » Subject Areas » Ethnic Studies (Minority Americans) » Multiculturalism/General Ethnic Studies » A World of Food: Tastes and Taboos in Different Cultures

A World of Food: Tastes and Taboos in Different Cultures

A World of Food: Tastes and Taboos in Different Cultures - Image Produced by Dane Archer.
34 min. Color. 2000.
Available as: VHS and DVD
Captioned: Yes
Catalog #: 0009
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Sale Price: $295.00 Buy VHS Buy DVD

What's delicious? What's disgusting? What's even edible in the first place? These questions may seem simple, but they tap into powerful cultural, religious, and individual differences. This delectably engaging video explores the extraordinary variety of food likes, food dislikes, food taboos, and food rules around the world. It features frequently humorous and always compelling testimony from people representing a wide array of cultures. In discussing their own experiences, conflicts, and confrontations over food, they bring real substance and drama to the otherwise abstract notion of "cultural differences."

From vegans to cannibals, human beings consume an infinite variety of foods. They also form fiercely emotional views about people who follow food practices unlike their own. Many Americans, for example, are horrified by the consumption of dog meat in certain Asian countries. But staples of the American diet may be equally horrifying to others. For instance, the simple American hamburger can deeply offend Hindus and others who regard cows as sacred creatures. When they visit an American supermarket, many Hindus try to avoid the meat counter, where the "dead animals" are kept.

Among the many issues and questions covered in the video are: What are the prohibitions against certain foods in the major religions of the world? What are the reasons for these food rules, and what happens when the rules are violated? What is the "hierarchy of eligible foods?" Why are dogs near-sacred pets in some cultures, and just another food item in others?

What is the "part/whole" problem, and how does it influence whether a food strikes us as delicious or disgusting? What common American foods are regarded as inedible or disgusting in other cultures? In turn, what foods and food behaviors do Americans find disturbing in other cultures? What are the important but unwritten food etiquette rules in other countries, and what happens if an unwary visitor violates them?

"A World of Food" is the perfect "antidote" to ethnocentrism, the all-too-common assumption that one's own culture is superior to others. Students cannot see the video without learning the critical lesson that all cultures (including American culture) consume foods that people in other cultures see as highly debatable, inherently disgusting, or simply too bizarre to eat at all.

All who view this funny, fascinating, and illuminating video will emerge with an enhanced understanding of food practices in other cultures and -- no less important -- a deeper awareness of the need for cross-cultural understanding in an increasingly interconnected world.

"A World of Food" was produced by Prof. Dane Archer, of UC Santa Cruz, and is filled with the same characteristic zest, vibrancy, and instructional savvy that have brought widespread acclaim to all of his best-selling videos on nonverbal behavior and communication.


"We could all use an extra helping of this outstanding video, which is full of nourishment for both the brain and the heart. In it, food practices and preferences around the world are used to stimulate thinking about tolerance, understanding, and culture. Viewers may be surprised at the many ways food can reflect values which cut to the heart of our individual, cultural, and religious identities. This discussion of food, told engagingly by students from different countries, is a unique and provocative way of encouraging viewers (high school or college) to think about issues of ethnocentrism and effective communication across cultures." -- Mark L. Knapp, Jones Centennial Prof. in Communication and Distinguished Teaching Prof., Univ. of Texas, author of Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction

"Dane Archer's new video manages to bring an intellectual idea to life, right in the pit of one's stomach! The use of food preferences and food taboos is a brilliant means of communicating the profound impact that one's shared experiences within a given culture can have, not only on one's beliefs, values, and norms but also on one's own gag reflex. Discussions following the viewing of this video will undoubtedly be energetic and emotionally evocative given that they will almost necessarily center on one another's visceral responses to the examples shown within. I will most certainly incorporate this video in my course on social psychology! -- Frank Bernieri, Prof of Psychology, Univ. of Toledo, Co-Editor, Interpersonal Sensitivity: Theory, Measurement, and Applications

"Students will be engaged, amused, and occasionally disgusted by this unique video. The examination of how culture shapes our tastes and appetites will stimulate students to rethink their own assumptions about which foods are sickening and which foods are savory. This is a terrific tool for combating dietary ethnocentrism." -- Mark Costanzo, Prof. of Psychology, Claremont College

"An entertaining look at some of the unwritten rules that govern the use of foods in different cultures. Students will sometimes laugh and sometimes cringe as they listen to people's personal accounts of what they have eaten or not eaten on certain occasions. The video will be useful as a discussion-starter or as part of an orientation for students about to travel overseas, but its real power is as an antidote to ethnocentrism. Viewers, especially American viewers, will discover that what is delicious, disgusting, or even edible is very much in the cultural eye of the beholder." -- Lawrence T. White, Prof. of Psychology, Beloit College

"This video is going to become a regular feature in my introductory course in cultural anthropology. The succession of examples and brief interviews are an invitation to contemplate the reasons we find each other's food practices humorous, engaging, or revolting. It also is an exercise in thinking through, with understanding and humor, the personal expression of cultural beliefs about food. Reflections, many of them by college students, invite further discussion and comment. Dane Archer's film is not only original and engaging, but his own commentary presents a clear and comprehensible framework for exploring the rich collection of examples. While considering such possibilities as the consumption of various cow parts, crunchy caterpillars, and one's own spit, the film leads to an exploration of cultural differences and touches gently on the significance of tolerance and the enjoyment of such differences. I am looking forward to watching and discussing the video with my own undergraduate students." -- Laura Lein, Prof. of Anthropology, Univ. of Texas, Austin

"I believe I've seen all of Prof. Archer's videos in his extraordinary series on nonverbal communication. Having now seen his latest, I can say with confidence: Dane Archer has done it again! Here is a video dealing with an issue rarely considered explicitly, yet important to all our lives and on a daily basis. And, as is so typical of the Archer Touch, here is a video that entertains and enlivens discussion even as it informs and provokes." -- Robert Rosenthal, Edgar Pierce Prof. of Psychology, Emeritus, Harvard University, and Distinguished Prof., University of California, Riverside


  • American Psychological Assn. honoree
  • Western Psychological Assn. honoree

Additional Material

For additional information, please visit http://nonverbal.ucsc.edu



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