Icelandic Student Awarded for Anthropology Research

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Icelandic Student Awarded for Anthropology Research

An Icelandic student at the Lawrence University in Wisconsin, Sveinn Sigurdsson, and his research partner Ashlan Falletta-Cowden, received on Friday an award for their project on Icelandic food habits from the world’s largest anthropology association, the American Anthropological Association.

“Most people we talked with agreed that the young generation [in Iceland] is not quite sure what the traditional [Icelandic] diet is and what is not,” Sigurdsson told Morgunbladid.

Sigurdsson said young Icelanders often consider smoked pork, which is served in many homes on Christmas Eve, traditional, although Icelanders hardly ate pork until around 1960. Others consider chicken a modern diet, while many members of the older generations have had chicken for dinner since their childhood.

The main conclusion of the study was namely that not only the Icelandic diet had changed but also people’s perception of what was traditional and what was not.

The idea for the project was born when Cowden visited Sigurdsson’s family in Iceland in 2006 and they both noticed a vast generation gap when it came to food habits. They realized that they had a unique opportunity to undertake a study on food habits in Iceland.

“Iceland went through such a speedy process of modernization that we could talk to all generations, from the kids who eat fries and pizza like other Europeans to people from my grandfather’s generation who was nine when he first saw an electricity pole and still just wants to eat singed sheep heads and preferably a little old,” Sigurdsson explained.

In light of recent events in Iceland, it would be interesting to undertake a comparative study after some time, Sigurdsson said. “It is an interesting question whether traditional values will return, when people see that some modern changes, for example in the economy, have failed Icelanders.”