Commensality as peacebuilding in Colombia

By: Sara Lisa Orstavik  

This paper investigates the links between commensality and micro-level peace-building efforts in the context of a protracted internal conflict. It seeks to add to the theoretical framework provided by the nascent field of gastrodiplomacy both theoretically, by drawing on a wider range of interconnected scholarship than previously done, and empirically, through qualitative research conducted in Bogotá, Colombia, in March 2018. Specifically, the field research in March 2018 consisted of the observations from two experiments where strangers of opposite ideological, political, economic, and social poles were gathered to cook a "slow food" meal and eat together, and 36 in-depth interviews conducted with the participants. The interviews were transcribed, coded, and systematically analyzed to answer the question of whether – and in what circumstances – commensality can contribute to empathy, humanization, and a culture of peace between individuals in a society marked by decades of hostility, violence, and distrust.

Gastrodiplomacy, Commensality, Slow Foods
Food, Politics, and Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Sara Lisa Orstavik

Consultant, Nutrition division, World Food Programme, Italy

I am a Norwegian-Italian Fulbright alumna with a multidisciplinary background in food culture (MA, University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy), public policy (MPA, Columbia University in New York), and international law and economics (BA, School of Oriental and African Studies, London). The desire to contribute to fairer, more peaceful, and better fed communities has been the unifying thread in my academic and professional path. I have worked on food and agriculture issues for UN agencies, NGOs, and government bodies in four continents, and in 2015 I founded a sustainable food start-up (BogotáPopUps) focused on increasing social cohesion in Bogotá, Colombia. I am a passionate communicator and researcher, with interests spanning the interlinked fields of gastrodiplomacy, sustainable food systems, comparative food cultures, and gender, food and sexuality. Currently, I conduct research on nutrition (Fill the Nutrient Gap analyses) at the UN World Food Programme.