Posted: March 14, 2012 by janinemarie91 in Uncategorized

“How culture informs our culinary choices” (Mannur, p.2)

In this article by Mannur, the main dogma of how food allows diasporic cultures to persist is this: Our culture dictates what we should eat and as diasporas disperse throughout the world, food in return, facilitates to create communities in places of diaspora.  The focus of this article is that of the diversity of South Asian diasporas and within India’s regions but is also true for most of the world’s diasporas, including Korean first-generation diasporas in Tokyo, Japan.

Sensory excitation is the mode at which the reliving of memories of the homeland is facilitated. The author’s experiences in her diasporic hometowns from Malaysia, to Papua New Guinea and United States being the most recent, the smell, taste and even the sounds of India are made alive through the dishes procured in both private and public spaces – from the homes of the family friends who are members of the Indian diaspora to chains of restaurants and recently, food carts that litter the streets of “Little India”. The change in the food landscape of the immigrants’ host country of the US is reflected in the four decades of transition from the sparseness of authentic ingredients in Ashima Gangulis’ kitchen (Mannur, p.1) to Mannur’s ease of acquiring mustard oil in her nearby South Asian specialty store.

Recreation of the authenticity of dishes or even of quasi-authentic ones depending on the availability of the ingredients is a way of recreating home. Furthermore, not only does it relive past experiences but it is a cohesive element that binds different members of communities into the comfort of returning home.

“Body is man’s first and most natural instrument” (Lee, p.8)

In first-generation Korean immigrants in Tokyo, Korean food acts a reinforcement of authenticity of identity that is important in the renegotiation of identities of those with memories of colonialism and arguably, to those who still feel the pressures of proving an authentic identity in a postcolonial setting. In the practice of consuming spicy Korean dishes amongst the Koreans residing in Tokyo, the body’s corporeality together with what Leder coins as “dys-appearance” or “being away” (Lee, p. 203) are facilitating the construction of a Korean ethnicity disregarding the physical incapacities to ingest such food.

There is also a seeming denial in the inevitable influence of Japanese society amongst Koreans partially due to strong exclusionist feelings dominant in the Japanese cultures. One of the Korean men, Cho, states almost with an apologetic tone that “the long years in Japan has changed his tongue” (Lee, p.5).

The notion of bodily memory is alluded to as the most natural instrument that humans possess (Lee, p.8) and as such, drives self-understanding. However, as Bourdeau stipulates in habitus, bodily actions are encoded under a certain pretext. In the case of these aging Korean immigrants, the bodily agency that the body operates under is a social dictum of mélange of food consumption, meal rituals and gestures that are passed on from generation to the next.

The politicization of food

In “Hummus taste best when it is fresh and made by Arabs”, Hirsch shows that the process of “Israelization of hummus” (p.86) where the Jews began to incorporate hummus in their diets and culture took away from its Arabic origins. Comparable to what Palestinians feel as a contested form of colonization, already existing feelings of territorial displacement is extended into stripping of identity that is due to hummus being accredited to what is authentic Jewish.

Reclamation of the Arabic identity of hummus was made possible through the political, social and cultural transformations that took place in apartheid Israel. Despite the author’s dismissal of hummus’ consumption with political relations, it cannot be denied that since food traverses powerful transnational routes and modes, as Appadurai argues, food can “signal rank or rivalry” thus, in the hummus example, politics does play a role in the shaping of hummus’ ownership (Hirsch, p.619).

Global food

The Mintz article echoes the Appadurai in the recognition of food’s ability to spread through movement or non-movement of people. Similar to Hirsch, Mintz’s anthropological approach, food’s globalizing nature is attributed to its overdeterministic properties. Fast food travels and foodways are tread, from the nomadic peoples to settling of non-nomads, colonial era’s trans-atlantic trade routes, early and contemporary diasporas, food continually facilitates the ethnic, cultural, social and political functions of the people.

Food practices, consumption, preparation, dating back to our pre-historic origins of gatherer-consumers, not cookers, to pastoralization and domestication indicates that the obvious pathway of food is to be localized and globalized as a consequence of these practices.


Are you really who you eat? (Derived fromt the saying “You are what you eat”)

To what extent does the physical body need to be sacrificed to enforce authenticity of identity? Or does it even need to be sacrificed? (referring to the Korean spicy food consumption by seniors)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s