IRP Food, Cultures and Health

IRP Food, Cultures and Health

French-Malaysian International Research Project in Social Sciences

IRP Food, Cultures and Health

Prof. Jean-Pierre Poulain



Figure 5 – Automatic Observation of the Dimensions of Social Interaction (Vincarelli et al., 2009a)


The IRP “Food, Cultures and Health” is developed in partnership between the Centre d’Etude et Recherche Travail Organisation Pouvoir (CERTOP) UMR-CNRS 5044, Toulouse, France and the Centre for Research and Innovation in Tourism (CRiT), Taylor’s University, Malaysia. It addresses the transformation of the food system organisation and of the social representations and meanings associated to food during the process of modernization in Southeast Asia countries.

After several years of educational and scientific cooperation with Taylor’s University, the establishment of this LIA marked another milestone of partnership and scientific research between the two universities. It extends and amplifies the work developed under the Chair of Food Studies of Taylor’s Toulouse University Centre (TTUC).


This IRP project is an extension of the LIA Food, Cultures & Health, concluded between France and Malaysia in 2016. It associates the CNRS and the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherche Travail Organisation Pouvoir (CERTOP), University Toulouse – Jean Jaurès (School of Tourism, Hospitality and Food Studies – ISTHIA) with Taylor’s University in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). It is a continuation of Franco-Malaysian academic and scientific cooperation between these two partners. After more than 30 years of pedagogical and scientific collaborations, the creation of this LIA and its continuation with the IRP mark the rise of this partnership and the scientific research carried out there.

The main mission of this IRP is to pool expertise, facilities and material resources to carry out a scientific project to study the links between diet and health from the perspective of Euro-Asian populations. Initially the two focus areas of research are: strengthening the network of “Food Barometers” in Asia and the establishment of “Experimental Restaurants” to study the eating behaviour, based on standardized protocols both in Toulouse, France and in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

main projects of research

Encompasses two main research programmes:

  1. “Dynamic and modernized dimensions of food patterns in developing multi-ethnic societies”. Relying on macro-sociological data collected by Asian Food Barometers to study the consequences of changing food practices on public health (obesity and non-communicable diseases) and food cultures patrimonialization.
  2. “Impact of socio-technological contexts on food practices “, a European-Asian mirrored study through the use of two experimental platforms.

1. Asian Food Barometer

The Food Barometers’ objective is to provide data on socio-cultural contexts of food and eating habits and their developments at a national scale. These elements are particularly useful for sectors of economy and public health. It will analyse combined effects of social factors, such as social status, education level, gender, generation, household size and urbanisation, and it also analyses ethno-cultural aspects of food and its consequences on population’s health.

The Asian Food Barometer addresses three mains scientific topics:

  1. The theories of transition (demographic, epidemiological, nutritional, protein), their evolution and reorganization;
  2. The “compressed modernization” and its consequences on food habits, food cultures and health;
  3. The theories of risk and the way in which the empirical field of the food crises invites to reorganize it by taking better account of the anxieties.

The Asian Food Barometer project started in Malaysia, with the launch of the first “Malaysian Food Barometer” in 2014. A second “Malaysian Food Barometer” was completed in 2018, it included in depth socio-cultural determinants and nutritional analysis. The first partnership on Food Barometers in Asia was with SEAMEO RECFON, Indonesia with work on the “Indonesian Food Barometer”.

The Asian Food Barometer project is carried out in conjunction with several research programmes:

  • Flagship Research Programme Obesity & Health

This programme addresses one of the most important challenges of the Asian societies, that is, the rise of non-communicable diseases that accompany the nutritional transition related to modernization of the population’s food habits. The diet-related health problems in Asia, in particular Malaysia is serious because of the very rapid speed of modernization in this part of the world (compacted modernity). This five years programme will focus on the socio- cultural determinants of “food and nutrition transition” in Asia and will make some concrete propositions to face the challenge and help reduce the economic burden related to rising non-communicable diseases.

1.2. SCRIPT: Socio Cultural and Economic Research in Protein Transition in South East Asia: focus on Malaysia & Indonesia

While the adoption of higher energy intakes and more energy-dense diets appears in the frame of the nutrition transition theory (Drewnowski, Popkin, 1997) to be a “universal” incomes-driven phenomenon, dietary shifts from plant to animal proteins (meat, fish or dairy) are much more dependent on culture, religion, and other country-specific variables. A multidisciplinary research team with expertise in Nutrition, Social Sciences and Public Health has conducted the proposed project.

Study protocol was based on the established Malaysian Food Barometer (MFB) with modifications and adaptations to meet the objectives of the project. The MFB was specifically developed to study aspects of the nutrition transition in the rapidly developing and urbanized countries of Asia and South East Asia. Largely based on social sciences, the MFB provides valuable additional insight to classical nutritional or economic studies (Poulain et al. 2014).

1.3. “Eating out in Asia”

Based on more or less partial information and data coming from heterogeneous sources, one claims often that the level of eating out in Asia is higher than in Europe. And is probably higher also than in most countries of the world, including USA. But due to the lack of comparable data that is produced at a representative level and with the same methodology, it is not possible to document and to objectivise this phenomenon. The repartition of meals between home and outside the home is an important question, because it allows understanding the different contexts, in which the food and eating decisions are taken. The purpose of this research is to fulfil this lake of knowledge, by conducting a multinational survey on the repartition of meals and food intakes in 6 Asian Countries (China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia) and France. This research will also study the socio-cultural determinants of eating out.

The results will be useful in economics to understand the organization of the demand of food market. They will be useful for public health to base the recommendations on real life situations. For research in food studies, the findings are expected to contribute to the description of the food cultures through the place the form of socialization, the modality of socialization and of transmission from one generation to another. In addition, the international design of the survey is allowing the analysis of some of the dimensions of the nutrition transition in the rapidly developing and urbanizing countries of Asia and South East Asia. France was added to the project to allow future comparisons between Asian and South East Asian countries and a European country. The survey has been completed in March 2020 with data collected from countries (China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and France), counting a global sample of 15,000 individuals.


 2. Impact of socio-technical contexts on food practices: Experimental platforms to study eating behaviours in context (OVALIE in France and experimental Restaurant in Malaysia)

The “Experimental Platform” plans to explore in detail the influence of physical and social contexts on eating behaviour among individuals and small groups in different settings (home, hospital room, restaurants, etc.). A suitable space, equipped with automated tools (cameras, microphones) backed up with facial recognition software will be in place to capture real live situations. These observations will help to enrich the scope of eating behaviour based on new types of empirical data such as facial recognition of taste emotions and digital analysis of social interactions.

On the Malaysian side, the Experimental Platform project is carried out in conjunction with several research programmes:

  • Flagship Research Programme Obesity & Health

This programme addresses one of the most important challenges of the Asian societies, that is, the rise of non-communicable diseases that accompany the nutritional transition related to modernization of the population’s food habits. The diet-related health problems in Asia, in particular Malaysia is serious because of the very rapid speed of modernization in this part of the world (compacted modernity). This five years programme will focus on the socio- cultural determinants of “food and nutrition transition” in Asia and will make some concrete propositions to face the challenge and help reduce the economic burden related to rising non-communicable diseases.

  • Partnership Hubert Curien France-Malaysia Hibiscus (PHC Hibiscus) “The Socialization of eating practices in children with Prader-Willi syndrome”

This project focuses on food socialization based on the case of Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS), a complex neurodevelopmental disorder representing major development challenge for children that limits their socialization, especially around food. This project aims to identify the description and understanding of the food socialization of children with PWS in order to contribute to the support systems, improve management and care facilities; it also approaches the pathological study to understand typical situations. The research methodologies that will be used are expert interviews, ethnographic observations of children’s interactions with their families at home as well as observations in a controlled socio-behavioural lab setting. The findings may than be adapted to the public health education and management of food related behaviours within the framework of the prevention of pathologies such as obesity and type 2 diabetes that originate from eating.



  • Coordination : Prof. Jean-Pierre Poulain, CERTOP UMR-CNRS 5044 – Université Toulouse – Jean Jaurès, Toulouse


  • Prof. Ismail Mohamed Noor, CRiT, Taylor’s University, Kuala Lumpur

Associated indonesian partner


IRN Asean China Norms

IRN ASEAN China Norms

International Research Network on New Social Norms in Southeast Asia

IRN ASEAN China Norms
2019 – 2023
Dr. Elsa Lafaye de Micheaux

Pulau Pangkor, Perak, Malaisie (juilet 2019) Credits: Ipoh CNRS’ SummerSchool

IRN ASEAN China Norms


The IRN ASEAN-China-Norms China’s Rise and the New Social Norms in Southeast Asia is developed in collaboration with 11 research labs from 7 countries and will be effective between 2019 and 2023. It was created by the Centre for Southeast Asia (CASE) in partnership with the French Institute of Research on East Asia (IFRAE) and the French Centre on Contemporary China (CEFC), which are part of the “GIS Asie”, the French Network for Asian studies. The IRN involves 40 Junior and Senior Researchers.

Missions and research themes

The IRN ASEA-China-Norms aims at exploring normative transformations taking place in South-East Asia in the context of growing regional influence of China. It addresses theoretical questions, including norms, political power, economic development (mainly through investments and aid) from one hand, and the short-term challenges of the growing Chinese influence.

The network addresses social norms and more precisely social rights of workers, wages and working conditions considering the different categories of workers (women, rural workers, migrant workers, young people) in the context of economic development and diversity of Southeast Asian capitalism.



Several research questions are explored in order to assess collectively to what extend the economic transformation in Southeast Asia in the context of the growing Chinese influence might contribute to transform ASEAN social and political norms

  • The Dynamics of Legal norms and normative regimes in the field of social and human rights in SE Asia and in China
  • Normative circulation through the respective economic, politic and strategic bonding ASEAN and China.
  • The regional integration of ASEAN in terms of social norms
  • The impact of Chinese aid, infrastructure projects and industrial investments on working norms in SE Asia
  • Resistance, conflicts and compromises generated by the normative influence

institutions and laboratories involved

Scientific pilot: Elsa Lafaye de Micheaux, CASE, Paris.

Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)
Institut National des Langues et des Civilisations Orientales (INALCO)
Université de Rennes II.


Australia National University

United Kingdom

University of London


University of Ottawa


Hong Kong Polytechnic University


National University of Singapore


University of Malaya.

    IRN PhilInBioMed

    IRN PhilInBioMed

    International Research Network on Philosophy in Biology and Medicine

    IRN PhilInBioMed
    2020 – 2024
    Dr. Thomas Pradeu

    IRN PhilInBioMed

    IRN PhilInBioMed





    The Institute for Philosophy In Biology and Medicine (PhilInBioMed) is a network of interdisciplinary institutes in Australia, Austria, France, the UK and the USA. PhilInBioMed aims at advancing philosophy in the biological and medical sciences, i.e. the co-production of knowledge by the direct interactions of philosophers, biologists, and medical doctors.

    Missions and research themes

    The mission of PhilInBioMed is to promote short- and long-term stays of philosophers in biology and medicine labs, as well as short- and long-term stays of biologists and MDs in philosophy labs. PhilInBioMed wants to foster interdisciplinary initiatives that use the conceptual tools of philosophy to solve scientific problems. The ultimate goal is a collaborative publication of the joint work in scientific journals, in order to impact scientific research.

    Among the main research themes of the IRN PhillInBioMed are:

          • Repair, regeneration and development
          • Cancer and the concept of disease
          • Biological individuality in immunology and other biomedical sciences
          • Aging

    Big data in biological and medical sciences


    • Organization of annual meetings and seminars for network members.
    • Hosting of international interdisciplinary workshops open to all.
    • Promotion of short- and long-term stays at the participating institutes for permanent researchers and professors as well as doctoral and post-doctoral students.
    • Publication of interdisciplinary articles in scientific journals, co-authored by philosophers, scientists and medical doctors.

    institutions and laboratories involved


    The Conceptual Biology & Medicine Group part of the CNRS Unit 5164 ImmunoConcept at the University of Bordeaux

    • Thomas Pradeu (CNRS senior investigator)
    • Maël Lemoine (Professor at the University of Bordeaux)


    The Theory and Method in Biosciences Group at the University of Sydney

    • Paul Griffiths (Professor at the University of Sydney)


    The Konrad Lorenz Institute

    • Isabella-Sarto Jackson (Executive Manager)


    The Department of History and Philosophy of Science of the University of Cambridge

    • Tim Lewens (Professor at the University of Cambridge)

    The Egenis Center of the University of Exeter

    • Sabina Leonelli (Professor at the University of Exeter and Co-Director of Egenis)
    • John Dupré (Professor at the University of Exeter and Co-Director of Egenis)


    The History and Philosophy of Science Project at the Marine Biological Laboratory (USA)

    • Kate MacCord (Program Administrator and McDonnell Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole)

    The History and Philosophy of Biological Sciences Group at Arizona State University (USA)

    • Richard Creath (President’s Professor)
    • Jane Maienschein (University Professor, Regents’ Professor and Center Director)

    The Philosophy Department of the University of Utah (USA)

    Matt Haber (Department Chair)



      Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia based in Thailand


      Creation date: 2001
      Dr. Claire Thi Liên Tran


      179 Thanon Witthayu Lumphini, Pathum Wan – Bangkok 10330 Thailand

      5 researchers, 12 affiliated researchers, 2 post-doc, 4 PhD students, 3 trainees per year.


      Launch of the annual Irasec South East Asia Review Bilan, Enjeux et Perspective in Jakarta (March 2019) Credits: IRASEC

      IRN SustainAsia panel organized by C. Cabasset at the IIAS/GIS Asie conference in Leiden (July 2019) Credits: IRASEC



      Based in Bangkok, Irasec is a French leading research unit dedicated to the study of Contemporary Southeast Asia. Supported by the French Foreign Affairs, it belongs to the large networks of the 27 CNRS research institutes abroad. Engaging the Humanities and Social Sciences in an interdisciplinary and comparative perspective, it analyzes the major developments that affect individually and collectively the Southeast Asian countries (Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Timor Leste) and the Asean organization. Deeply anchored in the Thai academic landscape, the center is also developing partnerships all over the region.
      A team of researchers seconded from France in the region, are completed by a network of associated researchers, Master trainers, PhD students and Post doc. Irasec researchers are organizing international events with local Universities in Southeast Asian countries, associating international confirmed researchers, young researchers and PhD students from Asia and Europe. Irasec also enhances public awareness of the region through debates. It copublishes books with international academic editors, mainly in French and in English, and provides free access to its online publications (Open Editions).
      The IRL IRASEC is currently directed by Dr. CLaire Thi Liên Tran.  It is one of the 75 IRL developed by the CNRS with strategic partners across the world and one of the 6 IRL in Southeast Asia. It is the only IRL in Thailand.

      Mission and research themes

      Research projects on Contemporary Southeast Asia
      Regional & international cooperation
      Support to young scholars
      Publications and Open Access plateform

      Research Themes 
      Political transitions and Religious Issues
      Territorial and Urban Issues
      Asean and regional integration
      Social dynamics, Migrations and Gender Issues 
      Society and Environment, Climate change

      MAIN projects of research

      • SustainAsia (2019-2023)
      • Gemmes Vietnam (2019- 2023)
      • ANR Vinorosa (2020-2024)

      Academic partners

      EHESS : Centre Asie du Sud-Est, Paris (CASE, UMR 8170)
      National School of Architecture ENSA Paris-Belleville, (IPRAUS-UMR 3329)
      Institut de Recherches Asiatiques (IrAsia), Aix- Marseille University
      Institut d’Asie Orientale, Lyon (IAO, UMR5062)
      Bretagne Occidentale University : laboratoire Géoarchitecture (EA7462).
      Paris 1 University : Equipe de Recherche Interdisciplinaire sur le Tourisme (EIREST, EA7337)
      Nice Sophia Antipolis University
      Paris University: Centre d’études en sciences sociales sur les mondes africains, américains et asiatiques (Cessma), Urmis (Unité de recherches Migrations et Société)
      Rouen Normandie University : Centre de Recherche en Economie Appliquée à la Mondialisation (CREAM)

      Southeast Asia

      Thailand. In Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University: Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS),  Urban Design and Development Center (UddC),  Center for European Studies (CES) Thammassat University, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT, ). In Chiang Mai: IRD, Cirad, AFD, Chiang Mai University: Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD).

      Cambodia. Royal university of Fine Art (Phnom Penh)

      Singapore. National University of Singapore (NUS), Asian Research Institute (ARI)

      Vietnam. In Hanoi: Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences (VASS), Foreign Trade University (FTU). In Ho Chi Minh City: Southern institute of Social Sciences (SISS), Open University (OU), Van Lang University (Departement of Tourism).

      Indonesia. Udayana University (Bali),

      Timor-Leste. National University of Timor-Leste


      China. Centre d’études français sur la Chine contemporaine (CEFC, Hong Kong)

      Japan. CSEAS U Kyoto, l’Institut français de recherche sur le Japon à la Maison franco-japonaise (IFRJ-MFJ, Tokyo), International Christian University (Tokyo)

      India. Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH, Delhi), Institut Français de Pondichéry (IFP)

      South Korea. Seoul National University Asia Center (SNUAC)

      Other. Canada. Mc Gill University, Montréal University (Montréal)

      The Irasec team at the Alliance française (November 2018) Credits: IRASEC

      Meeting with the Secretary of State for the Environment of Timor Leste, D. Amaral de Carvalho, following the conference on Coastal Zone Governance organized by C. Cabasset with the National U of Timor Leste (February 2019) Credits: IRASEC

      FJ Ruggiu in Bangkok with the Irasec research team, CNRS representative in Singapore L. Le Calvez and Prof C Vaddhanaphuti, Chiang Mai U (March 2019) Credits: IRASEC

      International Conference Rethinking Asian Capitalism, organized by TAD. Tran and C.Tran with the Southern Institute of Social Sciences and Open U in HCM City (November 2019) Credits: IRASEC