- Food is a focus of cultural politics, whether in individual projects of projecting acosmopolitan self-identity through dietary practices or national projects of projecting culinary soft power through promoting national cuisines. This volume of essays documents the politics of producing Asian cuisines in the contemporary age of rapid culinary globalization. Culinary politics may occur at the micro-level of constructing a cookbook as a way of revising or challenging national culinary cultural traditions, or it may happen at the macro-institutional level of applying for recognition as ügintangible cultural heritageüh to the UNESCO. In all these cases local, national and transnational issues shape the production and meanings of cuisines, while cuisine are also used as a way of talking about or influencing larger social relations.
The project aims to make original contributions to ethnography of Asian culinary contact zones, or spaces in which transnational cultural flows and local foodways interact. This includes studies of the ways in which Asian cuisines cross borders and subsequently interact with local culinary systems. It also includes studies of how cuisines within Asian cities, including imported cuisines, are also modified or employed in local, national and transnational cultural politics. Contributors use multi-sited and cross-border ethnographic fieldwork and comparative qualitative case studies to uncover the transnational pathways and the cultural politics ofnational, regional and urban cuisines. As ethnographies of globalization, each contributor makes use of qualitative fieldwork and historical ethnography to produce a story of historical developments as well as a thick description of the cultural and social production of cuisine themselves.
Theoretically, the collection contributes to conceptualizing the politics of cuisine. We want to go beyond theconceptualization of culinary globalization as primarily about the ügdomesticationüh or ügindigenizationüh of the foreign. As cuisines cross borders they do indeed become site of negotiation and hybridization, or the politics of culinary contact zones, but they also are objects of the state-led politics of food, or strategies ofprojecting culinary soft power (both bynational local polities). They may also be spaces for individuals constructing regional, national and/or cosmopolitanidentifications. And we must not forget that cuisine itself is a field of social relations with key players, challengers and changing relations of power. The kitchen is itself a field of cultural politics. This proposal brings together a diverse and experienced team of ethnographic researchers to examine these various expressions of the culinary politics in the dynamic field of foodways moving into and out of Asia.
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