Eating the Asian Other? Pedagogies of Food Multiculturalism in Australia

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Rick Flowers
Elaine Swan


Public pedagogies in tourism and education in Australia suggest that food is a medium through which we learn more about each other’s cultures: in other words food is a pedagogy of multiculturalism. Drawing on a white Anglo Australian man’s memories of food in different intercultural encounters, this paper prises open the concept of eating the Other. There has been trenchant critique of food multiculturalism and the consuming cosmopolitan in Australia (Hage 1997; Probyn 2004; Duruz 2010). Thus, several writers critique the prevailing idea that eating ethnic food is a sign of cosmopolitanism, and even anti-racism, in individuals and cities in Australia (Hage 1997; Sheridan 2002; Duruz 2010). Hence, the notion of eating the Other has been taken up to discuss how ethnicity becomes an object of enrichment for white people through the eating of ethnic food in restaurants (Hage 1997) and cooking ethnic food at home (Heldke 2003).

In this paper we present an ‘entangled’ story of Frank which includes white expatriate masculinity, multiculturalism with ethnics and what Heldke calls ‘colonial food adventuring’. Drawing on a close reading of Frank’s story, we argue that an evaluation of food multiculturalism needs to historicise, gender and racialise inter-cultural food encounters. Thus, we argue that there are ethnic food socialities other than those of home-building or restaurant multiculturalisms. We suggest that culturalist and political economy pedagogies of food multiculturalism could be augmented by one that attends to the production of whiteness and gender.

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Imagined Transcultural Histories and Geographies Special Issue July 2012 (Peer Reviewed)