Chenyu Zong

School of Archaeology and Anthropology, College of Arts & Social Sciences

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Chenyu Zong


In my research, I will be asking, “how can we interrogate understandings and practices of health through the consumption of hairy tofu?” Hairy tofu is one of many fermented foods available in Anhui and Yunnan provinces in China. It’s a food that is consumed on a daily basis by many local people. Although locals seldom emphasize the nutritional value of hairy tofu, an unstated ‘everyday’ health benefit is thought to be conferred through daily consumption. When locals offer it to outsiders (mostly tourists) its health benefits are heavily emphasised – as the most important property of the food. Through focusing on this unusual local food, I intend to examine the relationship of the taste, smell, texture and appearance of hairy tofu in terms of how it is sensorially encountered as it is consumed, to come to some conclusions about health, and how it is made in the mouth – in the intimacies and moments of the act of consumption. Engaging directly with the swallowing world, I propose, will yield some insights into health and how it is made in the body, including the way that big health politics (in the form of health discourse provided by the state and other authoritative sources) get inside the body and feel, in particular ways, on the tongue and in the nose: where ideas about microorganisms, mould, health and its governance become embodied. While I will certainly rely on interview-derived data, I am specifically interested in the sensuous and phenomenological aspects of hairy tofu consumption.

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