Food and Identity: Food & Race March 26th, 2013
Covered Reading(s): “More than Just the „Big Piece of Chicken‟” Psyche Williams-
Note: Other readings related to race: Allison, Anne, "Japanese Mothers and
Obentos: The Lunch Box as Ideological State Apparatus”, Levenstein, Harvey, “The
American Response to Italian Food, 1880-1930”, Wade-Gayles, Gloria, “‟Laying on
Hands‟ Through Cooking”
I. Race vs Ethnicity
Race is a predominantly American discourse born out of the homogeneity of
our society. It is influenced by white guilt about slavery and the general
discrimination of blacks and other minorities. Therefore people are
uncomfortable talking about it: sensitive topic.
o Esoteric: Being part of a race can only be truly experienced by
members of that race. It isn‟t something that can be chosen or changed,
must experience being whatever race you are born as.
Ethnicity is a more open, global discourse that is heightened in cosmopolitan
places. It is more of a social/cultural construct; how one identifies with a group
of people and culture. Therefore it is not considered as offending and tied with
historical events as race is.
o Exoteric: Ethnicity, being a social/cultural construct, is malleable to an
extent and variable based on the person who decides what ethnicity
he/she is, and the people who view him/her. Forces such as food,
language, music, traditions, holidays, religion, and family influence a
Ex: A person born in Germany with Bangladeshi parents. He/she
is German by nationality and Asian or Brown by race. However,
by ethnicity he/she may be either Bangladeshi or German
depending on personal view. Social forces such as German
friends and preference for German culture may influence this
person to feel German by ethnicity.
Nationality is generally considered the country of origin/birth.
People in the British West Indies are 98% Black, but because they‟re society
is racially homogeneous, there is no need to define oneself by race or color.
Rather, they probably identify themselves by island/area of origin and family
instead. Outsiders may label them as black or African-American (even though they may not be from Africa) in order to define, generalize, and distinguish
from the mainstream.
In Brazil there are 37 kinds/gradations of race but they are not symbolic or
emotionally-charged as they are in the U.S.
Ultimately, in the U.S. it is White vs Other. There is a legacy/burden of slavery
and discrimination. Whiteness is an earned concept, a degree of White, which
has associations with power, wealth, prestige, and mainstream culture.