Making Meaning through Eating

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As posthumanist thinking gains traction in the arts and sciences, new modes of learning and research are being developed that attempt to make multifaceted meaning of the world. This study explored a sensory and embodied approach to such a mode of learning in an attempt to understand its impact on the possibility of cross-cultural understanding and tolerance in a South African context. The foodways of Kayamandi township in Stellenbosch were examined for their ability to engage people in commensal exchange, specifically as experienced through the senses. The process of the research followed a sensory ethnography methodology and data were collected through individual and group interviews with participants based in Kayamandi. The findings of the study revealed that foodways are implicated in the sensory perceptions and misperceptions of others, as experienced through the bodily acts of sharing food. Sensory disruptions were found to result in bodily transformations, which in turn could lead to empathic understanding and tolerance. These findings point towards the potential for such cross-cultural exchange to be meaningful, should the sensory disruptions arising be positively mediated through affirmative, embodied learning practices that raise an awareness of the entanglement between the self, others, and the sensory environment.