Ann M. Gaul

Arabic and Islamic StudiesGeorgetown University

Award Information

2016 IDRF Program

Arabic and Islamic StudiesGeorgetown University

Kitchen Affects: Culinary Spaces in Colonial North Africa, 1919-1964

Much more than food was cooking in the kitchens of North Africa's new middle classes during the final decades of colonial rule. Starting with culinary practices and tastes in domestic spaces, my project uses a comparative approach to ground abstract narratives of Egyptian and Moroccan anticolonial nationalism in the concrete formations of domestic food production. Culinary practices and tastes offer insight into how historical narratives of bourgeois class formation might be written, and how those classes' literary production might be read through food's material and affective aspects. Over the first half of the twentieth century, women in colonial Egypt and Morocco increasingly cooked in modern, urban, domestic kitchens. They learned new culinary techniques through mass media (periodicals, radio, television) and state curricula, and cooked with running water and raised stoves. It was in kitchens like these that the culinary styles now labeled "Moroccan cuisine" and "Egyptian cuisine" emerged, comprising techniques and recipes common to the urban middle classes of each nascent nation. Yet despite overlaps in their repertoires of culinary influences (sustained contact with French culture; a shared medieval Arab-Islamic elite cuisine), and the fact that the new kitchens themselves were materially similar, "Moroccan" and "Egyptian" cuisines appear to have startlingly little in common today. Bringing together literary, ethnographic, and historical approaches to texts about these culinary spaces, this project offers a new account of cultural politics and identity formation in colonial North Africa. My sources include novels and memoirs that depict domestic life, cookbooks and home economics texts, periodicals (women's magazines and related content or women's pages in general publications), and archival material related to domestic material culture and girls' education. In addition to literary analysis, ethnographic and historical methods are central to the project.