Citizenship and belonging: reactions to the tiramisu (exhibition)

[Adapted entries from my research journal]

If viewed as a steppingstone I think the exhibit [Tagines and Tiramisu] is both interesting and shows promise, but feel that it is very much a work in progress. Some honing and fine tuning is required. This is something I’m happy to do, as the idea of using food as a means of looking at issues of identity and belonging fascinates me. I have long been interested in all aspects of food, especially the anthropology of food and the spread of different foods and dishes. The type of food eaten in a particular country mirrors its relationship with the outside world, as a result of the invader, the invaded and latterly globalising forces, and therefore reflects its society. Both Mennell and Mintz (1985, cited in James, 1997, p.73) reflect this view when they say that, ‘each national cuisine bears the traces of trade, travel and, increasingly, of technology, so that food could more correctly be said to be constitutive of global rather than local cultures’. I intend to explore and develop the use of food to bring out notions of identity and belonging,

The idea of presenting an edible exhibit was a valid response to both my theme, multicultural citizenship approached through the lens of food, and research question: [How] Does what we eat in part situate our identity?

It encompasses the intersection of identity, food and my surprise. The tagine pot represents ‘identity’ as although British my research subject has Moroccan ancestry, which she referred to in our interview as being important to her. The tiramisu within the pot references multicultural citizenship as by living in London my research subject is exposed to food from all corners of the Earth. The tiramisu within the tagine pot encapsulates my surprise and skewers my preconceptions of what a woman in a hijab and abaya would refer to as ‘relating to her identity’.

At first people were unsure about my exhibit. Should they remove the lid? Could they eat the tiramisu? Was it an exhibit? An unforeseen consequence of this response was that I remained by the tiramisu and elicited from the viewers what they thought the tiramisu represented and engaged in discussions about both the piece and the ideas surrounding it; multiculturalism, ideas of identity, favourite foods etc. I didn’t want people to have a spoonful of dessert and move on, so I engaged everyone before they tasted it, which became a performance.

From the responses I got it seems that they found the idea behind the exhibit interesting, and the exhibit itself delicious! Visual evidence of which can be seen below.

Professor Les Back takes the plunge.

Professor Les Back takes the plunge.

Tagines and tiramisu: Multicultural citizenship and food

Tagines and tiramisu: Multicultural citizenship and food

Tagines and tiramisu: Multicultural citizenship and foodTagines and tiramisu: Multicultural citizenship and foodTagines and tiramisu: Multicultural citizenship and foodTagines and tiramisu: Multicultural citizenship and foodTagines and tiramisu: Multicultural citizenship and foodTagines and tiramisu: Multicultural citizenship and foodTagines and tiramisu: Multicultural citizenship and foodTagines and tiramisu: Multicultural citizenship and foodTagines and tiramisu: Multicultural citizenship and foodTagines and tiramisu: Multicultural citizenship and food

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