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Morris – Food, race and the power of recruperative identity

Morris, Robyn. Food, race and the power of recuperative identity politics within Asian Australian women’s fiction. Journal of Australian Studies 32 (4) (2008): 499-508.

Keywords: Asian Australian literature; food metaphor; national identity; cultural identity

This article considers the link between  consumption, cuisine, and agency in fiction by three Asian Australian writers. The author, Morris raises the question if these writers, Lillian Ng, Simone Lazaroo and Hsu-Ming Teo challenge the assumption of a monolithic national identity in which Australian multiculturalism is equated with eating or tasting but disavowing the other? In Australia there has been a long and well-documented history of representing Asian otherness as swamping or consuming whiteness or of diluting or causing disease to whiteness. This is very critical as food is assessed in this article.

The subject positioning food can be read as a visible mark of different and otherness and Robyn Morris clearly defines this throughout her article as she gives examples of writing and instances where what is eaten and how it is eaten can define one’s cultural identity. Food is a cultural player, personal and of the body, food is constant, daily, it is racialized and that’s when it becomes political. She also completes an analysis of whether the metaphor of food and consumption within these writer’s novels feeds the mind? Language is a power tool of domination and helps to shape our identity as it pertains to food. These three authors explore links between racialized body, food, culture, and identity through poetry and narratives and the symbolism involved with these correlations. For these women, there is a sense of culinary in betweenness that is seen in their writing due to their ethnic backgrounds. These writers employ the metaphor of food as a strategy for recovering the racialized and gendered self from consumption within literary, political and cultural discourses.

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