CFP: ‘The Table of the Senses and the Senses of the Table’, IV Luso-Brazilian DIAITA Conference, Coimbra, Portugal, 25-27 October 2017

The Table of the Senses and the Senses of the Table

The deadline for proposals’ submission is 15th June 2017.
CFP and Conference details here.

In the broadest sense of the word, “table” refers to universes where products, people and ideas interact. It includes food products, whose study takes into consideration all stages that precede food consumption: the growing and harvest of plants, breeding and hunting of animals, production of manufactured goods, distribution and sale, and cooking. By connecting various occupations and arts (agriculture, culinary, dietetics, trade, etiquette, protocol, esthetics and visual arts), the table brings together several agents of production, particularly cooks and both the service and artistic production staff (in charge of the surrounding cultural activities), in the initial stage, as well as the table companions, whose interaction opens up a unique and unrepeatable time and space of communication, in the final stage, also known as the process. As a space of survival but also of enjoyment, learning, cult and sociability, each table depicts mindsets, serves as a metaphor for values and enables the transformation of those who interact and participate in it.

That which is placed on the table, those who serve and are served, what is discussed and silenced, what the table symbolizes and represents, and what is represented there are all subjects of the discussion proposed to the participants of this conference. The guiding principles of this discussion rest on the sensory and cognitive perception of the table. This double perspective of analysis is at the root of the two reflection topics that structure this conference: the Table of the Senses (physiological) and the Senses of the Table (intellective). The papers to be presented must follow one of the lines of analysis established for each of the reflection topics. Namely:


The senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste are present both in the several stages of the production and preparation of food products and in sociability at the table. The proposed lines of analysis include:

a) Senses in food production and distribution: from fields and gardens to street markets, marketplaces, shops and industries

The relation of human beings with food in the production (agricultural cultivation, animal breeding, hunting and industrial processing) and distribution stages (in trading points) also implies a sensory perception of food products, locations and people. This panel analyses the role played by colors, shapes, smells, sounds and physical contact in the presentation/representation of both the growing, harvest, capture and commercialization of food products, and of producers and environments.

b) Senses in the kitchen

The place and the act of cooking are excellent sensory universes: touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste are present in all kitchens where food is prepared – from private ones to those found in commercial establishments (restaurants and canteens). This panel’s proposal for discussion observes the expressions of these sensory experiences within the kitchen.

c) Senses in the pharmacy and in medicine

Used in the development of medicines and identified by sensory analysis (plants, animal and mineral extracts), products with pharmacological properties demand sensory reactions from the chemist/pharmacist and arouse them in the patient. When choosing the diet to prescribe to his patients, the doctor must take into consideration the importance of the look, aroma, consistency and taste of the prescribed meals/preparations.

d) Senses at the table

The food consumption stage combines all senses, both in the act of ingestion, as well as in the relation of the table companion with the surrounding environment and in his interaction with others. From the decoration of the room to table arrangements, including the presentation of the courses, the appearance of the table companions and servants, as well as the incorporation of forms of entertainment (musical, theatrical or other cultural expressions), the table invariably establishes itself as a synesthetic experience.


The meanings attributed to the table depend on the chosen perspective of analysis (politics, religion, economy, science and culture). The proposed lines of analysis include:

a) Tables of political power

Many sources testify to the use of the table as a space and instrument of political power. Tribal chiefs, lords, monarchs, popes, heads of state, government representatives and institutions, all use the table to reflect the dignity of their functions, to flaunt their own reputation and that of their guests, and to seal political decisions. With regards to culinary literature, the nationalist and regionally inclined discourse emerges as an expression of the importance of gastronomic identity in the construction of collective identities driven by ‘political’ purposes (i.e., concerning the interest of the polis/‘community’).

b) Sacred Tables and Profane Tables

As an act of gathering and sharing, commensality plays the role of facilitator of dialogue with the supernatural in various cults. Since this religious meaning is often defined in the contrast with the practices and values of the tables unrelated to the sacred, we propose to report the sacral symbolism behind the table rituals and/or depict profane tables as spaces contrary to those of the sacred tables.

c) Delicacy, survival and economic tables

Delicacies and ostentatious banquets depend mainly on ethical and economic reasons. The frugality of meals and the modesty of sociable environments may be driven by philosophical or religious principles, but they may also result from financial or natural constrictions. Poor agricultural years, armed conflicts and political trade embargos have been mostly responsible for the imposition of “economic tables”. In extreme scenarios (poverty and homelessness resulting from war and natural disasters) or in situations of a shortage of time and money, human beings eat only to stay alive. These are the “survival tables”. On the contrary, there are times when conditions allow for the sensory and intellectual enjoyment of the table. Nevertheless, the understanding of the “delicacy tables”, as well as of the “economic tables” and the “survival tables” varies according to the historical circumstances.

d) Therapeutic, healthy, and unhealthy tables

The realization that food interferes with the patients’ health condition explains the attention that medical literature (from its earliest writings) has paid to the patients’ diet at the table, since their cure could also lie in it. However, in addition to therapeutic tables, the historical sources also comprise information on other types of tables. Preventive medicine, books of practical advice on how to stay healthy and unconventional diets (vegetarianism, macrobiotics, veganism, Paleolithic diet, Mediterranean diet, among others) enable us to learn about and situate historically different answers given to the human search for “healthy tables” and, simultaneously, the rejection of “unhealthy tables”.

e) Civilized tables and wild tables

The table has been and continues to be a space of meetings, discussions and cultural dialog. In the course of history, we have witnessed the contact and interaction between dominating and subalternized cultures. The moral and political “justification” used by some cultures to try to “domesticate” others is rooted in the civilizational prejudice of the Western peoples. The “other” is not only different, he is less evolved – a stage reflected in his life in silva (in and with the ‘forest’). This cultural alterity, understood as the exclusion from life in civitate (in a ‘political community’), is expressed in the construction of the stereotypes of “civilized tables” and “wild tables”. Nevertheless, the assimilating impact of some tables on others does not prevent miscegenation from hiding and revealing itself under the homogenizing cover of a political, economic and cultural civilizing program.

Submitting a proposal:

1. All the proposals must be submitted in the following form and will be evaluated by the Organizing Committee;

2. Each author could submit one proposal with single authorship (20 min. presentation) and two proposals in partnership (max. 40 min. presentation each) in the following languages: PT, ES, FR, IT and EN;

3. The deadline for proposals’ submission is 15th june 2017;

4. The evaluation results will be released on 30th june  2017;

5. After the evaluation results releasing, the select speakers should formalize the registration payment (non-refundable):

                        – full registration: 60 euros (doctorates) || 30 euros (non-doctorates)

(includes congress promotional materials; lunch on the day of the communication, closing dinner and certificate)

                       – parcial registration: 20 euros (doctorates and non- doctorates, exclusively to co-authors and it’s mandatory the full registration of one author)

(includes congress promotional materials e certificate)

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