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Hello there, Björn Kjellgren!

Hello there - a series to get to know KTH FOOD Faculty

Björn Kjellgren
Björn Kjellgren
Published Sep 26, 2023

Björn Kjellgren is an Associate Professor at KTH Language and Communication, with a PhD in Sinology and experience as a researcher in Social Anthropology. He is currently working  to further KTH’s education and research in Global Competence.

Can you tell me a little bit about your research and how it is related to food?

My current focus is on the development of global competence in higher education, which is crucial for any sustainability-focused initiative. Indeed, understanding, communicating and collaborating across social, cultural and disciplinary boundaries is essential for progress in any field. Although my current research is not focused on food engineering, food studies have been a long-standing interest of mine. During my doctoral research in the 1990s, I conducted fieldwork among migrants in southern China, studying changing values and social interactions. Food emerged as a significant issue with profound implications for everyday life, serving as a symbol of social aspirations, a means of identification and a catalyst for changing habits. As Feuerbach aptly put it, "you are what you eat", but the social, cultural and political processes go far beyond individual appetites. This symbolic aspect of food is of course also closely linked to the economy, food policy, trade, agriculture, etc.

What opportunities of contribution do you see in your research?

I strongly believe in the potential value of diverse perspectives, and I hope that my social anthropological approach to food can complement the more technical perspectives often found at a university like KTH. People and their perceptions of food are essential to understanding and changing food habits towards sustainability. On a personal level, it would also be stimulating to reignite my previous research interest in this area.

What value do you see in being affiliated with KTH FOOD Centre?

Sometimes it can feel like KTH is a relatively small place, with familiar faces appearing in most meetings and projects. However, this perception is probably a result of rarely venturing beyond one's usual academic domain. I believe that the KTH FOOD Centre can serve as a platform to connect with new colleagues who share a similar interest in food but offer different perspectives. It provides an opportunity to engage with fresh insights and different angles on the topic, hopefully fostering collaboration and expanding research networks.