The Promotion and Mutual Aid Corporation for Private Schools of Japan
Academic Research Promotion Fund

"Food and Social Identities in the Pacific Region″



peppersFood is one of the most important ways people express social identity in any society. Regional identities, class distinctions and distinctions between tradition and modernity all are expressed through the consumption of different types of foods. In rapidly modernizing societies of the Pacific Rim, the consumption of food also reflects changing class and status distinctions. This research project aims to document and compare how food consumption expresses social identities in three important regions in the Pacific, Southeast Asia, China, and Latin America. The group's work will consist of separate fieldwork case studies all focusing on a particular food item in a particular region.

While the fieldwork will be conducted by individual researchers, the work of the research unit as a whole is integrated through common research questions. Each study will look at (1) the changing production of the food products themselves (2) the ways in which social class and other status distinctions are expressed through food consumption (3) the ways in which regional and local identities are articulated through food and (4) the ways in which concepts of "tradition" and "modernity" are expressed through the branding and consumption of food products.

The methodology for each fieldwork site is ethnographic and historical, combining ethnographic interviews with documentary analysis that allows us to trace the development of patterns of food production and consumption over time.