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Breaking the Norm: Negotiating Individual vs. Group Identity in Food Culture in France and Spain

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posted on 01.05.2014, 00:00 by Catharine Youngs
“Food identity”, a term created by the author of this study, was based on Phillip Smith's (2001) definition of the term culture, which includes the customs and way of life of a people, and identity as posited in social identity theory. In social identity theory, a person has several selves and is a member of several groups as a result creating in-group and out-group categorizations. From these two ideas, theorizing one identity at a national level (food culture) and one identity on an individual level (social identity), the idea of “food identity” was formed.

The concept for this project is a result of the author’s experiences as a gluten free American living in France and Spain. These two countries have distinct cultural and food identities. Problematically, when an individual who identifies with these cultures chooses or requires a dietary difference outside the normative cultural framework, in this case not eating gluten, the group can react negatively. Subsequently, the thesis focuses on researching these two cultures’ reactions to gluten free diets in relation to their historical identities of food and culture.

Through the historical background of each country with an emphasis on bread, an examination of the personal blogs of seven food bloggers from both countries, and an analysis of five survey results, new information has been uncovered about the role of bread in France and Spain. Additional new information includes the food identity of average individuals in these countries and how gluten free nationals have to negotiate their personal food identity in relation to their culture’s identity. The differences and similarities between the experiences of the nationals in these two countries further highlight the fascinating negotiation required when an individual is identified as outside of a culture’s normative food identity.





Susan Polansky


Modern Languages

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