Transitions in taste in Vietnam and the diaspora

Thomas, Mandy (2004) Transitions in taste in Vietnam and the diaspora. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 15(1), pp. 54-67.

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Abstract

This paper argues that food and styles of eating have become the predominant markers of social change for the Vietnamese in both Vietnam and in the diaspora. In post-socialist Vietnam the transition to a market economy has allowed for a huge growth in the number of restaurants and cafes, and in the north, a return to an earlier style of cooking. The intense interest and emphasis on food as embodied pleasure has meant that it has come to stand for the transition away from a heavily state-controlled economy. The new configurations of family and friendship are being framed by newly available ways of ‘eating out’, which are both a means of social display and distinction as well as an indicator of the tensions between reform and festivity within an authoritarian nation-state struggling to define itself in a globalising world.

At the same time as food in Vietnam is undergoing rapid transformation so too has the Vietnamese diaspora enerationally changed its eating patterns. Although there as been a focus in the literature on food in the diaspora that emphasises the nostalgic and recuperative elements of ‘migrant food’, I argue that food is the prime mechanism of intercultural engagement for each diasporic generation. For older Vietnamese, Vietnamese restaurants and barbecues have been the sites of interplay between cultural tradition’ and innovation, and between Australianness and Vietnameseness, and these interstitial places continue to be important for younger Vietnamese. Within this established framework of cross-cultural interaction, for Vietnamese youth, the social settings of ‘ethnic food’, eaten at home and shared with family, have been grafted onto a sociality of eating fast food. This melding together of both invention and convention, of transgression and ordinariness provides the background against which young people from migrant backgrounds are reinvigorating the social spaces of food consumption and in the process both e-enchanting and destabilising the notion of migrant food.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 62918
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Post-Socialist Vietnam, Food in Vietnam, Food and Social Change
DOI: 10.1111/j.1835-9310.2004.tb00365.x
ISSN: 1035-8811
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > ANTHROPOLOGY (160100)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > CULTURAL STUDIES (200200)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Deposited On: 26 Sep 2013 02:05
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2013 03:25

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