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In Memory of Annie Hubert

Chantal Crenn
Translated by Isabelle Techoueyres

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  • 1  cf.
  • 2  Marmite means a large cooking pot in French, almost a cauldron, where diverse ingredients are thro (...)
  • 3  Le plat national existe-t-il?, 2000.

1The team of the webjournal Anthropology of Food1 and the coordinators of the issue devoted to Food and Migration are particularly affected by the death of Annie Hubert. She was to each of us (especially to the members of the Marmite2, this informal research group based in Bordeaux, France) an invaluable collaborator, and most of all a great friend. Last April, as we were working on the introduction of this issue questioning the link between migration and food, Xavier Medina, Jean-Pierre Hassoun and I were exchanging e-mails with her: she was always ready to discuss despite her relentless fight against her disease and tiredness.... Her article Does such a thing as a National Dish exist3?, close to our subject, fed our reflexion. Sadly, only a few weeks later, our dear Annie was gone.

2Known as a food anthropologist, Annie was among the few researchers in this field in France. She belonged to this type of devoted and exceptional scientists who didn’t fear to trespass disciplinary borders – nor institutional ones! Always ready for innovation, she was enthusiastic over the birth of Anthropology of Food, and supported totally its interdisciplinary dimension. She played an important part in its development by offering the contribution of her international network of researchers in the food field. Within 10 years, AoFood has acquired international scientific repute, thanks to the work of a team of voluntary European researchers who ensure its quality as well as free access. Annie Hubert followed closely the evolution of this Journal which is in fact the fulfilment of what she had started since the beginning of her own works, which concentrated at first on Yao food habits in North Thailand.

3Early in her career, Annie Hubert was fast to build bridges between social anthropology and medical sciences as she highlighted the socio-cultural dimensions of pharynx cancer. In collaboration with the famous virologist Guy de Thé, she joined the Pasteur Institute in Paris. She showed how food practices and native popular medicines may explain high prevalence rates in Tunisia, Greenland, and among populations in South China. This study has been one of the first ones to link epidemiology and anthropology in France. The contextualisation of such disease helped to underline the social origins of disparities in the distribution of cancers and enabled to identify biological mechanisms which activate the Epstein-Barr virus in pharynx cancer through carcinogen substances. Annie Hubert fought unfailingly for opening unusual domains to social sciences:

  • 4  Chantal Crenn, Matthieu de la barre, Karen Montagne, Isabelle Téchoueyres, Pratiques alimentaires, (...)

4- In the sphere of food engineering, with her collaboration with l’Institut des Sciences et Techniques de l’Alimentation in Bordeaux I university (ISTAB), where she had her own office – and where we used to meet and hold work sessions (besides her own house which was a real laboratory for human sciences). She set up courses on social and cultural aspects of food habits for student engineers, with Jean-Pierre Corbeau and the Marmite. While at ISTAB, our team worked on the link between « traditions », food and health. We particularly investigated food habits in the South West of France, organic food eaters, Bordeaux urban dieting women, as well as vineyard workers of Moroccan origin4.

5- With the CNRS Lab UMR 6578 Adaptabilité Biologique et Culturelle in Marseille she set up and coordinated an interdisciplinary research group working on food. Following her, Anne-Elène Delavigne and I have written an article showing how the method for food anthropology provides better understanding of the Human thing.

6- Of course the medical sphere, with the Institut Bergonié and the Cancer Research Centre in Bordeaux. She also set up the research group “human sciences and Cancer” also called Groupe Susan Sontag5, at Bordeaux II university.

7- Links with the Unité de Santé Publique of INSERM Bordeaux, particularly with Professors Raynaud and Barberger-Gateau, have enabled fruitful collaborations and complementarities between quantitative and qualitative studies.

  • 6  French National Institute for Health Prevention and Education.
  • 7  Jean-Pierre Corbeau, Chantal Crenn, Anne-Elène Delavigne, Matthieu de Labarre, Karen Montagne, Isa (...)

8- In the field of health prevention, she enticed the Marmite team to propose studies for the INPES6 concerning the analysis of the impact of nutritional messages among diverse social, national, ethnic populations of different age and gender7.

9- In 2003, in collaboration with OCHA8, and in association with some of us, Annie Hubert examined how social norms influence women bodies, particularly through thinning diets, anti-age cosmetics, etc…9 The subject of gender remains central in her beautiful book Éloge de la maturité (2005), based on observations among societies she got to know along her multi-national researches, where she delivers a scientific analysis of « gendered » daily practices concerning aging (2005). In this remarkable book, Annie Hubert has shown once more how it is possible to combine subjective, scientific as well as committed dimensions. Nevertheless, along her own professional career, she has been a victim of gendered hierarchical power relations.... It maybe the reason why she investigated the subject of asymetrical social relations.

10While gender was a central subject for her, food remained at the core of her work. In Aquitaine, she was always « on the road » to hold lectures in diverse institutions, such as IUT for social careers (Bordeaux III university), the IFAID (Institute for Development), or for associations such as « » (promoting local foods) or even the Office for Youth Employment and Insertion; her involvement with Cap Sciences in Bordeaux (Centre for Scientific Vulgarization) was particularly fruitful, as well as her collaborations with Agriculture Organizations and High Schools. She also took part to Ethnographic film festivals organized by Bordeaux university student Association and never refused to present remarkable films about food, such as Halfaouine, l'enfant des terrasses, a Tunisian film made in 1990 by Ferid Boughedir in several Bordeaux cinemas.

11Beyond her militant commitment and scientific works, I would like to insist on the fact that Annie Hubert was really a « tie-weaver » ; her curiosity for all human beings in their complexity led her, through the numerous thesis she accompanied, to support very varied research subjects and perspectives. Her own personal trajectory, spanning several continents which made her a polyglot in every acceptance of the word, led her to be a very special anthropologist.

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1  cf.

2  Marmite means a large cooking pot in French, almost a cauldron, where diverse ingredients are thrown to simmer together.

3  Le plat national existe-t-il?, 2000.

4  Chantal Crenn, Matthieu de la barre, Karen Montagne, Isabelle Téchoueyres, Pratiques alimentaires, “traditions” et santé en Aquitaine (sous la direction d’Annie Hubert), ISTAB, Février 2005, 151.p.


6  French National Institute for Health Prevention and Education.

7  Jean-Pierre Corbeau, Chantal Crenn, Anne-Elène Delavigne, Matthieu de Labarre, Karen Montagne, Isabelle Téchoueyres, trajectoires alimentaires et parcours de vie, INPES, janvier 2010, Jean-Pierre Corbeau, Chantal Crenn, Anne-Elène Delavigne, Matthieu de Labarre, Karen Montagne, Isabelle Téchoueyres, Impact des discours nutritionnels sur les comportement alimentaires : une approche socio-anthropologique, INPES, février 2007, 171.p

8  Observatoire CIDIL.des Habitudes Alimentaires (Milk Syndicate Observatory for Food Habits), cf.


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Electronic reference

Chantal Crenn, “In Memory of Annie Hubert”Anthropology of food [Online], In Memoriam, Online since 25 December 2010, connection on 23 February 2024. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Chantal Crenn

in Eynesse, November 2010

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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