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Food education as food literacy: privatized and gendered food knowledge in contemporary Japan


  • Aya Kimura



This paper analyzes politics of food education in Japan where food education has become one of the central motifs of food policy in recent years. It describes the emergence of private enterprise institutions that offer credentials for people as “food education experts,” the majority of whom are women. Based on a survey of more than one hundred food education experts, the paper explores motivations of these women and finds that the reasons for the popularity of food education certifications are not so much that women wanted to challenge the dominant food system—as agrofood scholars may have expected or hoped for—but for reasons related more to the gendered career expectations and pressures for women to conform to a culturally-scripted feminine ideal. The paper’s importance beyond Japan lies in the discussion of dynamics and implications of privatization of food education. “Privatization” indicates a shift in the location of control and in what is considered to be “necessary” knowledge about food. Subject to market logic, food education is at risk of becoming an exercise of superficial mastering of “sanitized” information. Furthermore, at the core of privatization of food education is an increasingly pervasive approach to food education that I term “food literacy” approach, based upon a deficiency framework which posits individual knowledge and skills as sole reasons for inappropriate food choices, dietary behaviors, and culinary practices. Not only is the food literacy approach highly individualistic and apolitical, but it also enables and exacerbates the privatization and gendered pressures of food education. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Suggested Citation

  • Aya Kimura, 2011. "Food education as food literacy: privatized and gendered food knowledge in contemporary Japan," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 28(4), pages 465-482, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:28:y:2011:i:4:p:465-482
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-010-9286-6

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. JoAnn Jaffe & Michael Gertler, 2006. "Victual Vicissitudes: Consumer Deskilling and the (Gendered) Transformation of Food Systems," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 23(2), pages 143-162, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yasuo Ohe & Shinichi Kurihara & Shinpei Shimoura, 2014. "Evaluating willingness to become a food education volunteer among urban residents in Japan: toward a participatory food policy," Agricultural and Food Economics, Springer;Italian Society of Agricultural Economics (SIDEA), vol. 2(1), pages 1-19, December.
    2. repec:fan:mesame:v:html10.3280/mesa2016-100004 is not listed on IDEAS


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