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Interview with Atsuko Ichijo

Paulina Smolinski / March 17, 2020

To speak of country’s cuisine is to speak about the culture that prepared it. The roots of the food we share are ingrained within the nation that identifies in its preparation. In this issue, we speak with Atusko Ichijo about expanding a “contested concept” gastronationalism.

ASN: In your words, what is gastronationalism?

AI: A niche, contested concept which could mean a range of things from the state's attempts to protect its national interest to do with food making use of all available institutional means to ordinary people's assertion through discourse and action that a certain food item/food culture belong to them as a national group.

ASN: Can you expand on how gastronationalism is an example of banal nationalism? 

AI: Banal nationalism refers to the manifestation and workings of the state's/elite's efforts to repeatedly assert the framework of the existing nation-state through banal means. If gastronationalism is the state's attempt to protect its national interest to do with food, it is an extension of banal nationalism as it works through something banal called food. 

ASN: You describe the use of nationalism in food in Peronist Argentina as the government's attempt to show it "is looking after the population by making its policies on food security and nutrition very visible." Has there been a rise in the use of food security policy as a nationalist tool? 

AI: I have not looked into this, so I cannot be certain. But I would expect so.

ASN: With food representing new forms of identity politics  - what is the impact of fusions of foods from different nationalities? 

AI: A very interesting question. One can make sense of it as a different form of national imagining from below - that people on the ground are imagining their nation differently and perhaps more creatively than what is 'officially' prescribed. This may or may not lead to confrontation with the state/official version, and perhaps this is an interesting angle in looking at a conflict situation. For example, if there is an emergence of idea of Israelised Arab cuisine, not Palestinian cuisine, what does it tell us about the state of Palestinian identity and nationalism?

ASN: With gastronationalism being a young field- where do you see it expanding in the future?  

AI: Two possible routes: a) the refinement of gastronationalism as De Soucey has originally proposed - as a concept to describe what the state does in order to protect what it sees as its national interest to do with food, and how this interact with inter-state relations; b) the potential of gastronationalism as a tool of resistance in a conflict situation.

See full text of the article "Food and Nationalism: Gastronationalism Revisited" on Cambridge Core Webiste.