Society and Identity
The production and consumption of food are global phenomena, but they are not globalized or placeless. The farming, marketing, preparation and intake of food are all identified through processes that are historically, socially, and culturally determined. In each instance, social relationships define who should produce food and how, what makes something edible, how it should be cooked, and what constitutes taste (Farrer 2015). Food, then, is a type of discourse, through which power relations are enacted.
Based on fieldwork in China and Sweden, among Uighur communities in the Netherlands, and Chinese communities in Belgium, this panel’s three papers explore how power relations play out in types of farming and food entrepreneurship. The papers pay particular attention to how those relations impact gendered and ethnic roles and identities.
How do media representations of women working on farms in China and Sweden compare? At a time in which the necessity of large-scale changes in how we produce and consume is increasingly being recognized, Annika Pissin’s analysis offers the opportunity to examine the varied histories and experiences of the less-studied group of female farmers in small-scale niche farming in Asia and Europe.
In the Netherlands, Uighur female entrepreneurs have opened two Uighur restaurants. The Uighurs are one of 56 officially recognized ethnic minorities in China. The Uighur diasporic community has assigned a special role for Uighur women as upholders of tradition. Paramita Paul investigates how Uighur female restaurant owners in the Netherlands negotiate ethnic identity through the discourse of cuisine.
Politics of ethnic identity and culinary practice are also central in Els van Dongen’s study of “Chinese” chips shops in Belgium. This study highlights the complexity of Chinese entrepreneurship in a “traditional” food sector in Europe, where Chinese owners, who have themselves often re-migrated to Belgium from the Netherlands, have to counter expressions of “gastro-nationalism”. The “Chinese” chips shop is a site of contestation for the production and consumption of the culinary “other”.
By examining and comparing foodways in Asia and Europe, and amongst Asian communities in Europe, this panel underscores the need to reflect on historical and institutional approaches to food, and on the multifaceted role that food plays in human relations.