An International Symposium on

Travelling Cuisines:

Culinary Politics and Transnational Foodways in and out of Asia


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 “intangible cultural heritage” 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 “domestication” or “indigenization” 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.

PROGRAM (Updated on June 8: Final in PDF)

Sophia University, Library Building 9F, Room 911
June 22-23, 2013

JUNE 22: DAY ONE (Open to the Public)

9:30 – 11:45 Session One
Discussant: Jordan Sand, Georgetown University

Culinary Politics of Localized Western Cuisine in Shanghai
James Farrer, Sophia University

The Travels of Kitty’s Love Cake: A Tale of Spices, 'Asian' Flavours and Cuisine sans Frontieres
Jean Duruz, University of South Australia

Japanese as Global Food: Umami, Celebrity and the Global Urban Network
Shoko Imai, The University of Tokyo

1:15 – 3:30 Session Two
Discussant: Takeshi Ito, Sophia University

Japanese Cooks in Italy: The Institutionalization of Overseas Training during the1980s and 1990s
Keiichi Sawaguchi, Taisho University

Consumer Education Initiatives in Japan in Transnational Perspective: Slow Food, Nippon Food Action and JRO
Stephanie Assmann, Akita University

Making Crayfish Local: From Exoticism to Localism
Sidney C. H. Cheung, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

3:45 – 6:00 Session Three
Discussant: Gavin H. Whitelaw, International Christian University

Searching for Local Food in Japan
Eric C. Rath, University of Kansas

“Kosa kosa per pani badle, chara kosa per vani”: Indian Ocean Cuisine and the Politics of National Cultures
Krishnendu Ray, New York University

Why Doesn’t Malaysian Cuisine Fare Well in the Global Restaurant Industry?: A Sociological Enquiry
Kosaku Yoshino, Sophia University

JUNE 23: DAY TWO (Closed session: Invited participants only)

This symposium is funded by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research. It is organized by ICC Research Unit on "Globalization, food and social identity in the Asia Pacific"