Links to this week’s readings can be found at:

Image Courtesy: WanderLuxe

This week, we’re looking at the messy intersections of food and culture with hopes of untangling the ways in which Orientalist tropes often reappear in disguise as multiculturalism. Can food truly act as a space for unproblematic cultural exchange? How can we create a vision of multiculturalism that centers not only the food itself but the people who make it? 


Anthony Bourdain (articles linked above) — In an era in which the hunger for “culturally authentic” experiences has reached new heights, Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown presents a fascinating contradiction. Bourdain was a foreigner who embraced his foreignness and allowed the locals to guide him through their experiences of the homeland; and yet his presence as celebrity meant that the recording and sharing of these experiences would necessarily transform the places he visited, not only by drawing new attention to them but by literally transforming local economies.

Key Questions:

Is it problematic to want “cultural authenticity?” Who, or what, usually determines cultural authenticity?

Was Bourdain’s presence as a celebrity fundamentally harmful, even as he tried to engage foreign cultures with humility? 

Why We Need to Stop Calling Immigrant Cuisine “Ethnic”: This article raises difficult questions about the potential pitfalls of Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and the vision of multiculturalism it presents, challenging the notion that food alone can serve as a marker for cultural tolerance. 

Key Questions: 

Do shows like Bourdain’s Parts Unknown have a place in our vision of multiculturalism in the 21st century?

In what ways do such shows — or does such thinking — re-emphasize the Orientalist distinction between East and West? 

Eating Multiculturalism: Using Australia’s culturally diverse food scene as a backdrop, this personal essay gauges the limits of food-as-multiculturalism, exploring the undercurrents of discrimination and colonialism that often go undiscussed when individuals use food as a means of examining cultural histories. 

Key Questions: 

How can we move away from a vision of multiculturalism based on consumption?

In what ways does current rhetoric about ‘ethnic’ food and cuisine reproduce colonial rhetoric about “discovery” and exoticism? 

Leave a Reply