CFP: Eating Like Orientals in the Medieval Western Imagination, International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo 2021, deadline 15 September 2020

In the early stage of the COVID-19 outbreak, a common practice for many western media was to revisit an old orientalist habit to equate eastern culinary customs to primitiveness, eagerly reporting on Chinese “omnivorous markets” and “culinary adventurism” as a likely cause of the pandemic. Western disdain for extremely omnivorous eastern eating habits is not new to medievalists, nor is it a distinctively modern phenomenon. Such disdain for “oriental” eating habits focuses on the purportedly unclean, unethical, underdeveloped ways of eating *everything*, including whatever is tabooed for a Latin Christian to eat. As Kim Phillips observes, many European traveller-narrators contemptuously comment on the unusual and extreme eating habits of eastern people, being disturbed while yet somewhat fascinated by such exotic eccentricity, whose viewpoints resonate closely with the popular modern perspective on Chinese people as “unnervingly omnivorous.”

This session invites reflections on medieval representations of “exotic” eating habits and their resonance in our time of pandemic, taking into consideration the recent epidemic of orientalist sentiments, assumptions, judgments against *not* “eating like white people,” in today’s terms.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Representations of ‘exotic’ food culture
  • Medieval discourses of consumption and edibility
  • Christian food ethics and regulations
  • Religious food practices
  • Biopolitics of race and food
  • Food as medicine, medicine as food

Please submit a 250-word abstract for a 15-20 minute paper by September 15, 2020, using the submission portal ( For further information and questions, please email the contact person for the session, Soojung Choe (

Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

%d bloggers like this: