Culinary Practices and Ethnic Identity: a Study of the Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

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Culinary Practices and Ethnic Identity: A Study of The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

In the present era of globalization and immigration, the issues of ethnic language, ethnic cultural activities, ethnic costumes and ethnic cuisine have contributed in the formation of the diasporic identities in the foreign countries. In the mainstream culture, the immigrants or the diasporic communities generally endeavor to cling to the native land through forging the ethnic culinary practices to a great extent. The gastronomical factors exert an impact in the construction of the national identity and ethnic identity apart from the diasporic identities of the diasporic groups or the immigrants. Moreover, rather than the national cuisines, regional cuisines have enriched the kitchen of the diasporic communities in the alien atmosphere. The culinary items serve the purpose of prompting the distinction between the different ethnic identities in the foreign countries. From the socio-cultural perspective, gastronomical practice carries the significance. In addition to this, for the diasporic communities or the immigrants, culinary items generally provide a rich arena to excavate the complexities of the incidents and events involved with memory and nostalgia. In this article, my central concern will be to unearth the interconnection between the nostalgia and the ethnic cuisine in the foreign country. Nevertheless, I will focus how the cuisines are treated differently by the first and the second generation immigrants in the foreign culture. In my discussion, I would like to project the manipulation of the interplay between the local and the global concerning the culinary practices, in the formation of nationhood within the diasporic groups in the foreign countries. Through the lens of ‘global-local’ phenomenon, cuisine as an effective element bridges the gap between the different countries. More clearly, it can be construed that the diasporic identities are formed in the clashes of the native and foreign culinary dishes. Scholars like Wilk have viewed the formation of Belzian cuisine, the new generated form of cultural production is the consequence of the global-local turmoil (1999, 2002). Hence, in the foreign domain, when on one hand, gastronomical factor carries the national identity, on the other, the intertwinement between the global and local builds up the diasporic identities apart from their national identities. Nonetheless, the sustenance of national cuisine can be illustrated as the method for resistance of the mainstream foreign culture to ethnic minority culture. The discourses of immigration of diaspora have focused on the interconnection between the identity construction of the communities and the food consumption. Highlighting this issue, I shall demonstrate how food recipes of a homeland impel the exiles or the diasporic groups to reminisce the historical moments. Again, the examination over the national belonging and national purity which is embedded in gastrophilic histories is relevant here in this respect. The relationship of the food consumption with the diasporic identity can be explicated as ‘an expression of identity’ or ‘flags of identity’ as viewed by the critics like Murcott (1996) or Palmer (1998). Scholar like Mintz (2003) argues over the national cuisine and identity by articulating the national cuisine as an amalgamation of political and touristic artifact: … a national cuisine primarily possesses a textual identity; produced textually, it can help to achieve a desired touristic and political effect. But there is no doubt not only that the particular foods or food habits may be chosen either for national self-definition or to stereotype others, but that they may emerge as strikingly convenient condensed symbols of identity conflict or division. (p.32). As national cuisine basically has been endowed with national belongingness, some specific culinary practices function as a contour line to differentiate the culinary...
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