Dialectics of belonging and othering - The significance of food in multicultural urban contexts

Panel in the 7th Annual International ADI Conference on Food, Feeding and Eating In and Out of Asia

Convenor: Pablo Holwitt, Leipzig University

This panel interrogates the meaning of food and food practices for the complex modalities of conviviality in urban environments. Cities are not only home to people from vastly different socioeconomic, regional and religious backgrounds, but also to a variety of food-habits, contexts and protocols of food-consumption as well as regional, transregional and transnational cuisines. This proliferation of food leads to clashes as well as realignments of tastes and fosters specific practices of inclusion and exclusion. In this sense, food is fundamentally linked to questions of (urban) citizenship, identity construction and practices of belonging and othering. 

Contentions over the presence and absence of food in urban areas occur in manifold forms: In many Asian cities, middle class activists aim at the ban of hawkers from public spaces, housing societies exclude non-vegetarians from their buildings and chic restaurants cater to new consumption practices and assume meaning as markers of social distinction for the urban upper class. Furthermore, ´Asian´ food venues in cities worldwide are visible spatial manifestations of different diasporic communities´ presence and signify their claims to recognition. 

The panel addresses these issues by inviting contributions that deal with the ways an intricate dialectic of belonging and othering is linked to the consumption of food in urban areas. In which contexts do food practices stress differences and mark distinctions and when do they foster exchange and conviviality? How do ´official protocols´ of articulating community-identities with reference to food-habits interact with everyday practices of transgression? How do food practices and citizenship struggles ´feed into´ each other?

Pablo Holwitt is a PhD fellow at the Institute of Anthropology, Leipzig University.