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Food is a cultural sign

June 4, 2013

A great deal of work has been done on the social and cultural aspects of food. Gardaphé and Xu invite us to see “food as a cultural sign that participates in the representations of race, ethnicity, gender, class, nationality, and exile”[1]  “The language of food,” they write, “fills the pages of multi-ethnic literatures of the United States. Food tropes, metaphors, and images serve as figures of speech which depict celebrations of families and communities, portray identity crises, create usable histories to establish ancestral connections, subvert ideology and practices of assimilation, and critique global capitalism.”[2]  Of course, such discussion is in no way limited to the United States – or to multiethnic literature –

“In literature we have met many characters who spurn their ethnicities through disavowal of ethnic foodways. … An exploration of foodways in ethnic American literature reveals much about the way cultural superiority and inferiority have been measured by native and ethnic groups.”[3]


[1] 10 Fred Gardaphé and Wenying Xu (2007) ‘Introduction: Food in Multi-Ethnic Literatures’ MELUS 32(4): 5-10

[2] 5 Fred Gardaphé and Wenying Xu (2007) ‘Introduction: Food in Multi-Ethnic Literatures’ MELUS 32(4): 5-10

[3] 6 Fred Gardaphé and Wenying Xu (2007) ‘Introduction: Food in Multi-Ethnic Literatures’ MELUS 32(4): 5-10

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