Inter-Asian Connections IV Workshop -- Rescuing Taste from the Nation: Oceans, Borders and Culinary Flows
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Nutrition, Food Studies & Public Health
New York University
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Wollongong
Call for Workshop Papers
The world of taste and trade in comestibles opens a window into the space between nations. National cuisines have been amply theorized. Indeed, the basic tools of modern cultural history and demographics have become so nationalized that they have repressed the centrality of other connections and imaginings, for instance, between neighboring territorial regions of Asia or among port cities of the Indian Ocean (Mombasa, Hormuz, Mumbai, Malacca), linked through flows of knowledge, resources and material culture. When we examine the edges and intersections of continents and territories, however, we begin to see how narratives of cultural difference rub up against the reality of shared tastes, culinary ingredients and technologies.
Within and across Asia, a new history of oceans and renewed visibility of transnational circulation is reinvigorating discussions of cultural domains that exceed the nation-state. Instead of heartlands and national wholes we propose a productive mapping of taste and place that is encapsulated in the Hindustani saying, Kosa kosa per pani badle, chara kosa per vani, every two miles the water changes – where water is a metonym for taste – and every four miles the language. This locates taste at the center of the ethnoscape that extends beyond the edges, borders and boundaries of the four-colored maps of modernity. The workshop seeks to question the centrality of the modern nation-state as a vehicle for collective gustemic identity and to propose alternative ways of classifying and mapping taste across inter-Asian foodways.
What are the conditions that produce (or preclude) the possibility of culinary flows between nations? How do territorial proximity, agro-ecology, history, language, conflict, colonization and mobility (migration, media, technology) enable or constrain the imagination of trans-national configurations of culinary identity across Asia? We invite papers that interrogate the connections, convergences and conflicts around foodways between and within nations across Asia, from contemporary or historical perspectives. Papers should attend to culinary cultures, products, tools, collective tastes, systems of preparation or forms of knowledge (culinary texts, oral histories) that escape or stretch beyond national circumscription. Possible themes and topics include:
- extra-colonial comestibles that pre-date Western imperial interventions and the transnational pathways of dispersal (e.g. historical analysis of palm toddy, betel nut or halvah); colonial foodways (e.g. curries that have proliferated); fusions old and new
- patterns of fish migration and cookery techniques (e.g. political-ecology of fish stocks and processes of preparation at diverse coastal cities); shared and distinct uses of tamarind, curry leaf, coconut, etc.
- contemporary migrant labor practices and mobility of culinary knowledge (e.g. multi-sited ethnographies of plantation workers, street peddlers, cooks, and chefs); gender and scripts of professionalization; embourgeoisment of taste and talk
- trans-national politics of taste and Geographical Indications across borders or in disputed territories (e.g. the cultural politics of saffron in Kashmir)
- microcosmic sites (e.g. hawker stall, café, domestic kitchen, blog) as spaces of class- and gender-based collective remembering and reworked meanings of belonging.
We encourage submissions from junior and senior scholars (in the fields of History, Anthropology, Sociology, Geography, Cultural Studies, Communication, Material Culture and Food Studies), as well as policymakers and cultural producers so as to generate a shared language for multidisciplinary research. All participants will be invited to deliver a brief commentary on two other papers during the workshop. Participants will be invited to submit their work for possible inclusion in an edited volume, to be compiled after the workshop.