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Foodways: Diasporic Diners, Transnational Tables and Culinary Connections

Foodways: Diasporic Diners, Transnational Tables and Culinary Connections

CDTS, University of Toronto

October 4, 2012 – October 7, 2012

This conference will bring together scholars, writers, artists, farmers, cooks, NGO and GO employees to explore and share insights on the role of transnationism in shaping historical and contemproary understandings of food, the forces that drive the mobility of food, and the role of food in the (re)production of cultural identities



Food links people across space and time. As it spirals outward from parochial sites of origin to articulate with new sites, actors and scales, it assumes new substance and meaning in new locales.  This movement of food establishes dynamic foodways and gives rise to new foodscapes through which we can understand the past in terms of temporally connected sites of intense interaction. In that movement and reconstitution, food also plays a strong role in shaping translocal identities. Through the work of itinerant traders, markets, courts (noble and legal), bureaucrats, politicians, immigrants, and entrepreneurs, among others, it is used in projects of social reproduction, regional development, nation-building, and articulations with land, place and ‘home’.  Consequently, as peoples have moved in the world food has played a central role in (re)defining who they are, reproducing myth and ritual, and bounding diasporic communities.  It has also gneerated spaces of transculturation; the coming together of disparate actors in ways that not only give rise to new foodstuffs and practices of eating, but to diasporic foodscapes that resemble contact zones.  These zones exist as everyday spaces in which we witness the complex interplay of identities and the formation of subjectivities that express past legacies, present needs, and future possibilities. A great deal of academic work explores this interplay of food, practice, identity and subject formation, much of it bound together by a commitment that through a fuller understanding of those relations, we better understand ourselves, our pasts, and the complexities of the spaces and lives we inhabit and enact in a transnational world.



This conference seeks to address questions surrounding the dynamics of the food ‘we’ eat, the ways in which ‘we’ eat, the meaning ‘we’ give to eating, and the effect of eating in a transnational world. Recognizing that culinary culture is central to diasporic identifications, the focus is on the place of food in the enduring habits, rituals, and everyday practices that are collectively used to produce and sustain a shared sense of diasporic cultural identity. Yet even as it does this work, food and the practices of production, preparation and consumption that revolve around it, cannot help but be drawn into a wider culture of consumption increasingly grounded in the pursuit of qualities of difference and acts of distinction. This focus on food, cooking, and eating in diaspora and its role in connecting and changing peoples, places, tastes, and sensibilities around the world yields insight not only to substances that people consider essential to the maintenance of identity, but to the production of new cultural political formations in a transnational world and to the role of cultural (re)production in the expansion of consumption under contemporary capitalism.  Far from simply relevant to the present, a focus on food also reveals the dynamic role of historical pathways in understanding cultural formations as they have existed through time, and in positioning the present as a moment in a continuing process of structured mobility that directs the movement of people, what they eat, and how they understand themselves and the world around them.  It also yields insight into the multiple places and ways in which food assumes value and how that value is often reliant upon the continued reproduction of ties that bind people, place, and practice across space and time.


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Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies, University of Toronto, Jackman Humanities Building,  170 St George Street, Suite 230,  Toronto, ON, Canada M5R 2M8