About ICAF

What is ICAF?

The International Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (ICAF) is a Commission of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES).

The aims of the Commission are:

  • To foster anthropological research in basic and applied research on food and nutrition. 
  • To encourage a holistic and cross-disciplinary approach to food studies.
  • To promote and support education and training in the anthropology of food.
  • To promote the collaboration of anthropologists with institutions and individual experts from related fields of study.
  • To stimulate indigenous expertise on food problems in developing countries.

ICAF holds at least one international conference per year. The titles of recent conferences have included: Food, Gastronomy and Tourism, Food and Sustainability, Food, the Internet and Social Media, Food and the Economic Crisis, Food and Art, Food and Love, Birds as Food, Coevolution of Humans and their Foods, Foods in Zones of ConflictFood Sharing and Pure Food. 

The 44th ICAF conference was held in May 2017 in Catalonia, Spain, on the topic Food, Gastronomy and Tourism. The theme of the 2016 conference, which was held at the University of Liverpool, UK, was Food and Sustainability. Please see our conference pages for more information.



Anyone with an interest in the anthropology of food can become a member of ICAF. Please see the membership page for instructions on how to join.

Benefits of membership:

  • To be included on the email list for information on forthcoming conferences and other matters of interest;
  • Various discounts at conferences;
  • Copy of the occasional ICAF journal, Alimenta Populorum;
  • Frequent discounts on ICAF’s series of books published by Berghahn Books. 



ICAF History and Structure


The Commission was originally set up to coordinate the work of anthropologists on food studies in a social context, world hunger and malnutrition.  Now, ICAF is giving renewed attention to a cross-disciplinary approach to a wide range of food issues locally and globally

The biological, medical, cultural and social anthropologists involved in ICAF today are interested in a holistic approach to food production, food distribution, food consumption, nutrition and health, in the past, in the present and in estimates for the future. These in turn may be affected by changes in environment, energy systems, market structure, public policies, conflict, cultural and biological evolution, family composition and women's roles, as well as by technological changes. 

The mandate of the Commission calls for basic and applied research on these issues, and encouragement of the topic in tertiary education.  For these objectives liaison with the food industry has become important.  It is also a concern of ICAF to make anthropological and holistic conclusions available to policy and planning agencies, both governmental and international.  Many of these objectives are achieved by and between individual members, linked via ICAF, rather than centrally.  Recently, wider communication has been achieved primarily through ICAF's successful conferences and publications, all of which have been multidisciplinary. New link possibilities are being developed through interactive sections of this website, now that it is being renovated.

ICAF is international. The 'Commissioner' of the IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, known as the 'President' within ICAF (and in this introduction) is Helen Macbeth, the Deputy President Isabel Gonzalez Turmo, the General Secretary Frederic Duhart and the Treasurer Paul Collinson. The organisational structure has become more formal. This structure is one of large regional divisions, within which there are national groups with a national committee or a national representative. Some individuals and some national groups do not currently have a regional group and these liaise directly with the President or the General Secretary. The situation with regard to national committees, representatives and regional sections is always developing.

An annual report is written by the President of ICAF to the Secretary-General of IUAES. For this report each national committee or representative should provide annual information to the Chair of its regional section or directly to the President. The Chair of that regional section, on request from the President, should send a report to the Commissioner for the annual report.

ICAF(Europe) has worked with this system longest and its structure of national committees is most advanced and still developing. This has meant a productive series of conferences, each organised by a different national committee or representative. From these conferences several books (see ICAF Publications) have been published, and the series is continuing. The Chair of ICAF(Europe) is Xavier Medina, the Deputy Chair Wulf Schiefenhövel, the Secretary Ruth Kutalek and the Treasurer Marion Demossier.

ICAF (Latin America) has some very active members among whom a more formal structure is now being developed. We await further information.

ICAF for Australasia and the Pacific was originally convened in May 1980 at the annual meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS). More recently, while some links had been maintained, the structure of ICAF(Australasia) was renewed in July 2011 to be concordant with other regional sections of ICAF, with national groups in Australia and in New Zealand.

The situation in North America needs to be clarified as there are friends of ICAF in the USA and Canada, keen to be included, but there also exist other very active associations and good contact between some individuals.

Some other larger or smaller regional sections have been discussed and further groupings are encouraged and anticipated. To discuss such possibilities or initiate a new grouping contact should be made to the President, Helen Macbeth, or the General Secretary, Frederic Duhart. To initiate a new national committee send an email either to the appropriate regional Chair (if known) or to the General Secretary.

However, all these structures must be based on paid-up membership. National committees are responsible for collecting membership fees. To become a member of ICAF, there are now two routes: (1) contact your national committee or representative (if known) or (2) email the President or the Treasurer who have set up a new PayPal account for ICAF(International) to receive subscriptions from individuals anywhere in the world.  Membership includes access to the interactive parts of the renovated website (when complete) and the opportunity to display a brief C.V. on that website choosing one's own wording.

The membership years begin on different dates for different national groups, as arranged by each national committee or representative, but the PayPal membership years are concurrent with the calendar year.  The annual subscription is deliberately low.  It was set in Europe at 25 Euros a year for full members and 10 Euros for those registered as students in some institution.  Those older than sixty have the option of paying 75 Euros once for life membership.  Currently, the membership fees vary only slightly with currency, always close to the equivalents of the the original European amounts, but converted to a rounded, simple-to-remember figure in each currency.

As the benefits of this renovated website develop greater opportunities will exist for communiction between members.  We are still working on these benefits; so please keep in touch.