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Connaught Seminar 2016

The Culinaria Research Centre is proud to host the 2016 Connaught Cross-Divisional/Cross-Cultural Seminar, City Food: Lessons From People on the Move. UTSC will host speakers, workshops, and public events every two weeks throughout the year. Please consult our events page for seminars and events that are open to the public. Digital research notes, data, and publications as well as video talks, demonstrations, and conferences will be posted regularly on the Culinaria webpage.

The City Food international collaborative research project offers a comparative answer to the question: How do mobile people help cities to eat better? The importance of migrants in feeding cities—from itinerant farm labour to urban vendors, and from domestic servants to restaurant cooks—is at once obvious and yet often overlooked, despite the fact that it is a feature of all global cities, whether in the global north or global south. Through comparative research in multicultural metropolises including Toronto, Delhi, Johannesburg, New York City, São Paulo, and Singapore, we seek to document and analyze the social networks and cultural expectations that shape urban provisioning. We can identify three basic patterns of migrant participation in urban provisioning: as domestic servants in private homes; as restaurant employees, ranging from fast food to fine dining; or through immigrant entrepreneurship such as street vendors or hawker courts. Our research seeks to identify why particular patterns appear in different cities and the consequences of those patterns for dietary health, equitable access, and social integration.

We introduce the theoretical concept of “culinary infrastructure” to answer those questions. Economists and urban planners have long recognized the crucial importance of infrastructure—the underlying facilities, institutions, technologies, and networks—that enable a city or economy to function. We seek to broaden that concept to examine the ways that infrastructure creates meaning around food, determining not just what foods can be brought to the city, but how people assign social and economic value—including sensory pleasure—to those foods. In addition to the means for producing, transporting, storing, processing, and distributing food, the culinary infrastructure of the modern city comprises labour and real estate markets, professional organizations and media, and the complex regulatory apparatus that states establish to oversee and control complex urban food systems and the people who create them.

The outcomes of the 2016 City Food Connaught Seminar include policy papers, digital presentations, special issues of peer-reviewed journals, and contributions to an eventual City Food edited volume summarizing the findings of our global, comparative research.