13 th congress of the international society of ethnobiology – Section 24 Historical and contemporary changes in importance of food plant use

to Montpellier (France), 20-25 May 2012



Session 24 :  Historical and contemporary changes in importance of food plant use



Why is a particular plant used as food or not is not such a simple question. Food plants are not selected just because they are edible. Plant use is embedded in the tangled web of nutrition, taste, classification of living objects, gathering/cultivating and processing techniques, use of labor, market price, ritual and symbolical values, worldview, and so on. In this session, we are interested in changes in the use and importance of food plants in various ecological and cultural backgrounds. We try to focus, on one hand, on historical changes in the use of some food plants as suggested by archaeological and other records, and on the other hand, on rather recent changes happening with modernisation, which are still traceable through oral information, and are often coupled with changes in the related social and agroecological systems. Some plants which play a minor role in present diet and agroecosystems may have been more important in the past. We therefore intend to explore the present and past management, use and processing of such plants to understand what were their benefits in the past, how and why they were left aside, and possibly, if they still have a potential for the future.  In the case of the recent changes, we wish to examine the multi-dimensional meanings of local agricultural systems, the relations between people and specific cultivated or semi-domesticated plant species, the link between plant use and social rules and the dynamics of human-plant relationships in the context of changes in the land use, in particular expansion of agriculture, often opposed to growing pressures from nature conservationnists.

Key questions addressed to participants: What part do the studied plants play in the present diet and agroecosystems? How are they collected/cultivated? How are they processed and consumed? How important are they today in the studied society? How are they viewed by outsiders? Are they ignored or do they play a different part? What part did they play in the past? How long ago? Which method allowed you to collect this data? Do you have material proofs or hypothesis? Do these plants still have a potential for the future? What are the advantages? What are the constraints?


Co-chairs :

Esther Katz

IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement)
CP 7091 – Lago Sul
71635-971 Brasília (DF) , BRASIL


Gen Yamakoshi

Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University
46 Yoshida-Shimoadachi-cho, Sakyo, Kyoto, 606-8501, JAPAN



Cesar Carrillo Trueba

Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Av. Universidad 3000, Circuito Exterior S/N
Delegación Coyoacán, C.P. 04510
Ciudad Universitaria
México D.F.,


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