UCL Anthropology


Kaori O'Connor



Tel: +44 (0)20 7636 6970 (London 0207 636 6970)

E-mail: k.o'connor@ucl.ac.uk or kaori-oconnor@clara.co.uk

Honorary Senior Research Fellow
Department of Anthropology
University College London, UK (current)

Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship
ESRC Post-Doctoral Research Fellow 2004-2006
University College London, UK

PhD, Social Anthropology
ESRC Doctoral Studentship 2001-2004
University College London, UK

B.Litt, Social Anthropology
Oxford University, UK

Diploma, Social Anthropology
Oxford University, UK
BA, Social Anthropology,
Reed College, USA


Editorial Board: Food and Foodways; Clothing Cultures; Textile History.
Co-Trustee: The Sophie Coe Prize https://sophiecoeprize.wordpress.com
Associate, SOAS Food Studies Centre


  • Seaweed: A Global History (Japanese Language Edition) 2018
  • Seaweed: A Global History. Reaktion 2017
  • Pineapple: A Global History Japanese language edition 2016
  • The Never-Ending Feast: the Archaeology and Anthropology of Feasting, Bloomsbury 2015
  • The English Breakfast (Revised Edition), Bloomsbury 2013
  • Pineapple: A Global History, Reaktion 2013
  • Lycra: How a Fiber Shaped America, Routledge 2011


  • Coconut: A Cultural History
  • The Hawaiian Luau: A Cultural History, Oxford University Press
  • T-Shirts: What T-Shirts Say and Do, Routledge 

Short Description of Books:

Seaweed A Global History

Seaweed is both the world's oldest and its newest superfood. Seaweeds are now more associated with the East than with the West, yet they have long been eaten in many parts of the world, including Europe and the Americas. Archaeology is revealing the significant role that seaweed played in early human migration, which is now seen to have taken place along coastal routes as well as inland. Mistakenly thought of today as a forage food for the poor, in ancient times seaweed was highly prized as food and as medicine. One of the world's last great renewable resources, seaweed is a cultural, culinary and environmental treasure. This book introduces some of the 10,000 kinds of seaweeds that grow on our planet, and the ways they have been used by different cultures.


Throughout history, and in all part of the world, feasts, feasting and drinking have been the medium and arena for the display of hierarchy, status and power; the performance of competition and conflict; the negotiation of loyalty and alliances; the mobilisation and exploitation of resources and the creation and consolidation of identity through inclusion and exclusion. Yet until now, there has been no broad, comparative study that draws upon anthropology, archaeology and history to look at the dynamics of feasting across time, cultures and continents in antiquity. While commensality in the classical world and medieval and Renaissance Europe have been well studied, this work looks at feasting in societies of the ancient Near East, Eurasia and the Far East that are less familiar, but which are increasingly recognised as having contributed substantially to world culture including Mesopotamia, the Achaemenid Empire, Egypt, Eurasia, China and Japan. This study throws new light on how and why human history is essentially the story of the never-ending feast.

"It might seem that our era of expensive restaurants, celebrity chefs and exotic edibles is novel. O'Connor's delightful book examines what similar practices looked like in the past, considering texts and archaeological evidence from ancient Europe and Asia. The result is both historically rich and remarkably contemporary in its concerns…and shows how archaeology, literature and art can speak to each other."  - Cambridge Archaeological Journal - the Complete Review

'Known for her work on the anthropology of consumption, O'Connor presents an engaging analysis of food, drink and elite society across the Eurasian continent…O'Connor's Eurasian perspective shifts the emphasis towards Asia and the east, offering an alternative, eastern-inspired view of Greek feasting… thoughtful analyses, well-rounded…this text is an excellent introduction to anthropological approaches to food and ancient feasting.'  - Bryn Mawr Classical Review

'The Never-Ending Feast makes some astute points concerning feasting, food and the interpretation of history by conducting anthropology among the texts, where anthropologists and historians are urged to take an anthropological approach to the study of the past, viewing the events of the past from an emic perspective. This work brings a much-needed focus on viewing the past as inhabited by agents whose decisions about food and feasts were based on issues related to identity and the social milieu in which foods were produced and consumed… O'Connor's synthesis of a large amount of historical and anthropological information from a broad sampling of cultures from the Old World in such a small space is commendable… The Never-Ending Feast is a good starting point to begin researching the feasting practices of elites in complex societies of the Old World from an ethnohistorical perspective.' - Food and History

'The Never-Ending Feast is richly detailed, fascinating, sumptuous. Discussing feasts not just as events but as fundamental elements of economies and cultures, O'Connor revises our notions of commensality and of the dynamics of feasting.' - Mary C. Beaudry, Boston College.

'Kaori O'Connor reminds us that the sharing of food is intimately entangled with the formation ()and destruction) of political alliances, the structures of inequality, the emergence of religious practice and indeed the philosophy of life itself.' - Rebecca Earle, University of Warwick, UK

'…covers an important subject: how feasting is at the heart of human identity. Feasts were what gave meaning to an otherwise dull existence. Communities have been held together by the foods they celebrated with, from the beer and bread of Mesopotamia to the wedding meat-banquets of East Africa.' -  Bee Wilson, The Telegraph


This cultural biography of one of the best-known national meals in the world, uses the material culture of food to explore identity and the emergence and embodiment of 'Englishness' at a time of sweeping social and political change. It includes three complete facsimile breakfast cookbooks, from the Victorian and Edwardian heyday of the meal, developing the use of cookbooks as key social and historical documents.

'In common with other impressive cultural histories of 'things' and with commodity chain approaches (e.g. Sidney Mintz's Sweetness and Power: the place of sugar in modern history, 1986, and William Roseberry's Coffee and capitalism in the Venezuelan Andes, 1983) this book both details an artefact and uses it as a heuristic device for describing other phenomena… this 'biography' is an engrossing heuristic device for learning about class and consumption, and is concerned with 'with taste' in both senses of the word.' - Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

'Kaori O'Connor's splendid biography of what she claims is the most famous national meal in the world shows how it came to occupy such a unique place in the nation's heart and stomach...' - Full Guardian review of The English Breakfast, PD Smith, July 2013

'As O'Connor shows, England boasts a fine tradition of plain cookery, allowed to fall into desuetude in the mid-20th century as a result of wartime rationing…' - Nicholas Clee, The Guardian


Poet Charles Lamb described the pineapple as "too ravishing for moral taste . . . like lovers' kisses she bites-she is a pleasure bordering on pain, from fierceness and insanity of her relish." From the moment Christopher Columbus discovered it on a Caribbean island in 1493, the pineapple was an object of passion and desire. New World explorers were convinced that it was the fruit with which Eve tempted Adam, and new horticultural techniques were developed to bring it to the table of kings and princes, with the pineapple achieving the elite status among fruits that it retains today. This is an edible history of how the pineapple became a cultural symbol and global commodity.



Lycra, the stretch fibre invented and developed by E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (Dupont) provides a unique lens through which to see changing beliefs about health, medicine, gender, the body and society in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and the book demonstrates how synthetic textiles take on and carry symbolic meaning in complex large-scale cultures just as they do in traditional ones. Focussing on the women of the Babyboomer cohort born between 1945-1965, it throws light on the new midlife, and emerging patterns of wellness and consumption among this demographically and socially significant group.

'...there is a lot going on within this book, and it is an enjoyable read... This is a book that builds on the understanding of how things play an active role in our everyday lives, emphasising the social life of the stuff that surrounds us. The book also asks more penetrating issues regarding global capitalism, gender politics and changing cultural expectations. These questions open up further lines of enquiry that concern female beauty, body images and societal expectations. Lycra - How a Fiber Shaped America is a book that follows a single moment and shows how doing so can provide intriguing results for the understanding of fibres, society and stuff.' - Journal of Consumer Culture 

'There are few better ways to comprehend the dynamic processes of global capitalism as they affect our everyday lives than to follow a designated commodity. Lycra reveals strong, interactive relationships between a technologically innovative textile industry and changing gendered notions of what makes the human body look and feel good.' - Jane Schneider, City University of New York Graduate Centre

'…a well-structured jaunt through the world of stretchable fabric is Lycra: How a Fiber Shaped America. In it, anthropologist Kaori O'Connor fixes the reader's attention on what the study of a fabric reveals about US corporate history as well as the role this fabric unwittingly played in shaping normative ideas of femininity….The value of Lycra: How a Fiber Shaped America is in its ability to provide insight into economics, business history, women's and cultural studies through a parsimonious focus on the study of stuff as the milieu for these ontological interactions.' - Consumption, Markets and Culture

'The story of Lycra is a yarn worth telling and O'Connor tells it well…Her research has opened many doors for others to enter.' - Textile

'As a book aimed at students, this is a fine contribution - written with verve and enthusiasm and ranging intelligently between big ideas (ethnographic perspectives, material culture, generational analyses) and genuinely interesting episodes and anecdotes. In the latter, special note must be made of the discussion of the DuPont Company and its culture of research, invention and marketing, and of the exploration of the dissonance between rebellious baby boomers and the girdle.' - Design and Culture


  • October 2019 – The Fabric that Changed the Way We Live, from BBC Ideas: Short Films For Curious Minds, a video in the BBC’s a new experimental platform of short films and content in an entertaining online format intended as an alternative to swiping and clickbait.  Based on Kaori O’Connor’s research and book on Lycra, and narrated by her.

The Fabric that Changed the Way We Live
  • June 2018 BBC2 In the Factory: Sausages

  • June 2018 - ROYAL WEDDING WATCH, on royal food for BBC/PBS. Below, anthropologist Kaori O'Connor and historian Lucy Worsley talking about royal feasting in the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace for Royal Wedding Watch

    Royal Wedding Food
  • January 2018, BBC2 In The Factory - Mayonnaise      
  • June 13, 2016, BBC2 Great British Sewing Bee - on Sixties Fashion
  • June 11, 2016, Sheffield Documentary Festival -Cultural Encounters through Food, commentator on the documentary films  Miso Hungry and Ants on Shrimp
  • BBC RADIO 4 - ARCHIVE on 4 - From the Self to the Selfie. Saturday 19 September 2015
  • BBC RADIO SCOTLAND - Summer 2015  Fear of Growing Up
  • China Central TV Europe: British Food Traditions - Roast Beef, Summer 2015
  • BBC2 - Great British Sewing Bee: Lycra. March 2014
  • BBC, Hairy Bikers series, Eggs, January 2013
  • BBC2, Breakfast Cereals, in Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with Clarissa Dickson-Wright, November 2012
  • BBC2  The Great British Bake-Off, September 2012, on American Pies
  • BBC Radio Four, Woman's Hour with Jenni Murray, interview on Lycra
  • Australian Broadcasting Corporation, interview on Lycra  with Paul Comrie Thomson 
  • May 2011, www.abc.net.au/rn/counterpoint/stories/2011/3207814.htm
  • BBC Radio Manchester, September 20th, on babyboomers, Jane Fonda and midlife fitness.
  • BBC 2, 6-part television series The Great British Bake-Off, August-October 2010, speaking on the symbolism of food.


The Hat Rules. The Oldie, Summer 2015 issue, p. 42.

A Grave Matter: King Richard III. The Oldie,  April 2014, pp 42-3.

Needled.  The Oldie. May 2014. p74.

'The Ladybird and the Dressing Gown: Cultural Icons of the 'Golden Age' of  British Childhood'. Textile History 42:1, 2011, pp 22-49 Winner of the Pasold Prize for Textile History, 2011.

'The Secret History of the Weed of Hiraeth: Laverbread, Identity and Museums in Wales'. Journal of Museum Ethnography, 22: 2011 forthcoming.

'How Smart is Smart? T-shirts, Wellness and the Way People Feel about Medical Textiles'. Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture, 8:1, March 2010, pp 50-67.

'The King's Christmas Pudding: Globalisation, Recipes and the 'Commodities of Empire'. Journal of Global History, 2009 4(1), pp. 127-155, 2009


'The Hawaiian Luau: Food as Transgression, Transformation, Tradition and Travel'. Food, Culture and Society, 11(2), June 2008, pp. 149-172. Winner of the Sophie Coe Prize in Food History 2009.

'Beyond Exotic Groceries: Hidden Commodities of Empire and their Contribution to Globalisation'. Commodities of Empire working paper, online, going up on the Commodities of Empire site December 2008.

Kitsch, Tourist Art and the Little Grass Shack in Hawai'i. Home Cultures Vol 3 Issue 3: pp 251-272. 2006

Eggs and the English Breakfast. Proceedings of the Oxford Food Symposium 2006

Material Culture, Capitalism and Social Change at Home. Anthropology Matters, Volume 2. November 2004.


'The Handmaid's Tales: History, Anthropology, Archaeology and Material Culture' In Riello, Giorgio and Anne Gerritsen. (eds) 2014. Writing Material Culture Histories. London, Bloomsbury

'Beyond 'Exotic Groceries': Tapioca-Cassava-Manioc, a Hidden Commodity of Empires and Globalisation' In Curry-Machado, J. (ed) 2013 Global Histories, Imperial Commodities, Local Interactions. London, Palgrave Macmillan

"Invisible Foodscapes: Into the Blue' in Abbotts, Emma-Jayne and Anna Lavis (eds) Why We Eat, How We Eat. Ashgate, 2013, Forthcoming

'Imagining and Consuming the Coast: Anthropology, Archaeology, "Heritage" and "Conservation" on the Gower in South Wales'. In Janowski, Monica and Tim Ingold (eds): Imagining Landscapes: Past, Present and Future. London, Ashgate, 2011

'Cuisine, Nationality and the Making of a National Meal' In François Gemenne and Susana Carvalho (eds), Nations and Their Histories: Constructions and Representations Palgrave Macmillan, 2009

'The Body and the Brand: How Lycra Shaped America'. In Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture and Consumers. Edited by Regina Blaszczyk. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadephia. November 2007. 

The Other Half: The Material Culture of New Fibers. In Clothing as Material Culture. Kuechler, Susanne and Daniel Miller (Eds). Berg, Oxford and New York. 2004.


  • Institute of Making Grant 2014
    Dr Kaori O'Connor has won a grant from the Institute of Making to develop an interdisciplinary project on cleaning materials in collaboration with UCL Chemistry and UCL Chemical Engineering.

  • Pasold Prize 2011
    Dr Kaori O'Connor has been awarded for the best paper published in Textile History during 2011, for the paper 'The Ladybird and the Dressing Gown: Cultural Icons of the 'Golden Age' of British Childhood'

    • Sophie Coe Prize in Food History (2009)

      Dr Kaori O'Connor has been awarded the Sophie Coe Prize in Food History 2009. This international prize is awarded annually in memory of Sophie Coe, the distinguished culinary historian and food anthropologist who died in 1994. The competition is specifically for original and substantial essays, articles or papers on food and is presented at the annual Oxford Symposium on Food. Dr O'Connor's winning paper 'The Hawaiian Luau: Food as Tradition, Transgression, Transformation and Travel', which the judges described as 'a superb piece of scholarship', is published in Food, Culture and Society 11(2), pp 149-172.

    • UCL 2008 Research Challenge Award (2008)To develop major research project on wills and probate in everyday life.
    • ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship (UK) (2004-2006)
    • Hagley Museum/Center for the History of Business, Technology and Society, (USA), Research Grant 2004
    • Pasold Fund for Textile Research, (UK) Research Grant 2003
    • Hagley Museum/Center for the History of Business, Technology and Society, (USA), Research Grant 2002
    • ESRC Doctoral Fellowship (UK) (2001-2004)


    • Society, aging and wellness: the Babyboomer cohort and the new Midlife
    • Law and social process in everyday life
    • The social implications of new materials, technologies, fibers and textiles
    • The anthropology of food
    • The anthropology of tourism
    • Heritage and identity
    • Polynesia: Hawaiian anthropology, ethnohistory and contemporary culture
    • The material culture of childhood
    • Cultural biographies of commodities, brands and the commodities of empire
    • Marine Resources and molluscs
    • Textiles and new materials


    Mollusc Communities of the Thames Estuary: Shellfish and Harvesters - Past, Present and Future. With Dr Caroline Garaway.

    Law and Social Process in Everyday Life: developing major research project on wills, probate and the changing socio-legal landscape in Britain today, supported by a UCL Research Challenge Award 2008.

    Food Futures: ongoing research project investigating the production, consumption and ecologically-friendly development of previously overlooked indigenous foods as additions and supplements to the mainstream diet in the UK and Europe, as a benefit to the environment generally, to human health, and to local/regional economies.

    Research in the other areas of interest is ongoing, including collaborative projects with the Commodities of Empire Working Group.


    'Using Lycra to Sell Fashion: The Lycra Supply Chain'. Henley Business School,  February 2018

    'Between Blue and Green: The Elusive History of Seaweed'. Department of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark, April 2015

    3 27 flyer



    'Food As Material Culture'. Diwylliant Pethau, Material Culture Conference, Trinity St David's, 25 May 2011.

    'The Return of the Burn: The New Midlife Exercise'. British Sociological Association Annual Conference, April 2011, LSE.

    'Lycra, Health and the Body'. Fabricating the Body, Wellcome Trust/Pasold Research Fund Conference. University of Exeter, April 2011.

    'Invisible Foodscapes - Into the Blue'. Why We Eat How We Eat: Food Choices, Nutrition and the Politics of Eating. Goldsmiths/SOAS joint Conference. February 2011.

    'Water, Water Everywhere" - Thalassophobia, Thalassotherapy, Food, Medicine and the Environment.'  Potent Substances: on the Boundaries Between Food and Medicine', Wellcome Conference, 13-15 September 2010, London.

    Cockles, 'Conservation' and the Contested Coast of Wales. Anglo-American Conference of Historians, London, IHS, July 2010.

    'Tapioca: the Hidden History'. American Anthropological Association 2009 Conference, Philadelphia. In 'The Worst Plant in the World' panel (Invited Session), discussant Sidney Mintz. December 2-6th, 2009

    'Untangling Seaweed: Globalisation, Material Culture and Connecting Histories of Medicine'. International Conference on the History of Medicine and Global Connections, Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL, June 18th-20th 2009.

    'The View from the Beach: Awakening 'Hiraeth' and Weaving Imaginaries on the Gower in Wales'. ASA 2009, Bristol.

    'Seen From the Sea" Coastal Culture and Cuisine in the Imagining of Wales'.  Travellers to Wales Conference, Aberyswyth, April 2009.

    'Wales, Laverbread and Identity'. Given at the Museum Ethnographers Conference, Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford, April 2008.

    The Dressing Gown: the Making of a Cultural Icon during the 'Golden Age' of British Childhood. Given at the Clothing Childhood: Fashioning Society two day international conference, Foundling Museum, London WC1, January 2008

    The Hawaiian Luau: Tourism, Material Culture and the Anthropology of Food. Given at Things That Move: The Material World of Tourism and Travel conference, Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change, Leeds Metropolitan University, 19-23 July 2007. 

    The King's Christmas Pudding and the Commodities of Empire. Given at the first Commodities of Empire workshop, London, July 2007.

    The Sacred Feast: Gods, Power and Food Taboos in Hawai'i. Given at the Managing Sanctity/Pacific Islands Conference at the British Museum, in conjunction with the British Museum's Taboo and Power Exhibition, December 2006.

    Two T-Shirts: What People Think About the New Smart Textiles. Given at the New Fabric of Social Life/Pasold Workshop, September 2006

    The Orientalist's Cookbook: Interrogating Cosmopolitanism Through Cuisine in the Post Postcolonial. Given at the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA) Conference, 2006.

    Producing Fashion: Lycra, Babyboomers and the Anthropology of Fashion. Given at a two-day conference on Producing Fashion, held at Hagley/Center for the History of Business, Technology and Society, October 2005

    Cuisine, Nationality and the Making of a National Meal: The English Breakfast. Given at a two-day conference, Nations and their Past, the 16th annual ASEN March 2005(Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationality) conference, held at LSE. The paper was featured by The Higher.

    Where's My Magazine? Why Babyboomer Women Have Nothing to Read. Given at the annual conference of the British Society of Gerontology (BSG), Keele, July 2005

    Working it Out with ELSA and Jane: Babyboomer Women, Consumption and Exercise. Given at the annual conference of the British Society of Gerontology, Keele, July 2005.

    Magazines and Midlife Women in Britain Today. Given at the first Anthropology of Britain (AOB)workshop, University of Surrey, January 2005.


    Co-convenor, with Professor Chris Carey, of 'Food and Civilization: Food and Drink in Time and Space', international conference to be held at UCL in September 2016.

    Co-convenor with Sarah Byrne of 'Feast and Famine: Exploring Relationships with Food in the Pacific', Inaugural Conference of the Pacific Islands ResearchNetwork (PIRN), held at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, 7-8 September 2012.

    Ladybird Conference Flyer

    Principal Organiser

    'Clothing Childhood, Fashioning Society: Children's Clothing in Britain in the Twentieth Century'.
    January 2008, at the Foundling Museum, London.
    Pasold Fund for Textile Research 2008 Conference
    First conference on children's clothing in Britain in the 20th century.

    Co-Convenor: 'Culinary Tourism and the Anthropology of Food.'
    Panel for the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA) 2007 conference, London.

    Co-Convenor: 'The New Fabric of Life: Textile Technologies in Contemporary Society.
    Interdisciplinary Workshop on the Social Implications and Applications of New Textile Technologies and Fibres'.
    Sponsored by the Pasold Fund for Textile Research.
    September 2006