Food as a daily art: ideas for its use as a method in development practice

Author(s): Haider, L. J., and F. J. W. van Oudenhoven
In: Ecology and Society 23(3):14.
Year: 2018
Type: Journal / article
Theme affiliation: Landscapes, Stewardship
Link to centre authors: Haider, Jamila
Full reference: Haider, L. J., and F. J. W. van Oudenhoven. 2018. Food as a daily art: ideas for its use as a method in development practice. Ecology and Society 23(3):14.


Food is the only art form that is also a basic need. It requires knowledge and labor for cultivation and cooking and offers a space where tastes, hospitality, and other cultural values are expressed and created. As a daily practice in agricultural societies, food is a holistic concept that incorporates ideas of health, spirituality, community, technology, and trade, and connects the most marginalized with the most powerful. Conventional international development aid is dominated by a limited number of relatively narrow ideas informed by scientific processes: progress, economic growth, market development, and agricultural production. Such ideas are often at odds with endogenous ideas about development and often work against biological and cultural diversity. Here, we reflect on our experiences documenting the food culture of the Pamiri people of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. We trace the trajectory of ideas about development, local and foreign, and explore how at different stages in those trajectories, the qualities of food can help promote local perspectives, challenge dominant power relationships, and challenge scientific practices to incorporate these perspectives better. We show how, as a method and a daily art form, food helps nurture an “ecology of ideas” in which traditional knowledge and science can come together to create locally meaningful solutions toward development and sustainability.


Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Stockholm Resilience Centre
Stockholm University, Kräftriket 2B
Phone: +46 8 674 70 70

Organisation number: 202100-3062
VAT No: SE202100306201