Liu argues that for the Zhaojiahe villagers, food is a “complex system of meaning” (2000:105). Rather than thinking of food as simply sustenance, anthropologists look at food as both a social and symbolic practice – that is, we grant importance to both who eats with whom, and to the significance of what is eaten. This is doubly so in Asia, where food is several things: it organizes sociality, it evokes memories and emotions, it is a pretext for talking about the past and the future, it both signifies and recreates family structure, etc. In this assignment, you will explore Asian ideas of food and eating through a short ethnographic assignment. o Go to an East Asian restaurant. There are possibilities throughout HRM. You will want to find a restaurant where you can talk to the staff, so go when it will not be too busy (talk to your professor if you would like some guidance). It may be beneficial to conduct this research as a small group, and you are encouraged to cooperate with other members of the class in the data gathering portion. Remember though: the essay itself is not a group project and should be entirely your own. o According to the Code of Ethics of the American Anthropological Association, “Anthropological researchers must do everything in their power to ensure that their research does not harm the safety, dignity, or privacy of the people with whom they work, conduct research, or perform other professional activities.” Research should be conducted in an open and forthcoming manner, with the informed consent of the participants. This means that you should explain to whomever you talk to that you are doing research for a class assignment, obtain their permission to conduct the interview, and you should not push them into answering your questions if they are not willing. More information on the ethical conduct of research can be found through the Course on Research Ethics (CORE) offered by Canada’s research funding agencies: http://tcps2core.ca/welcome o Talk to the waiters and staff in the restaurant. Tape recording would likely be experienced as intrusive, but it would be a good idea to take notes about how people respond. There are several possible types of questions you might ask, including:
What regional style of food does the restaurant serve (Sichuan/Szechwan? Cantonese?) What country and region are they, or their family, originally from? Do they have any special dishes there?
What is distinctive about the style of food they serve? What on the menu would they like to eat? Why? Would they eat something different at home? Who cooks? When? Where? How? Try to get some sense of how they feel about food, what it means to them, and what it makes them think of. o Drawing upon the themes and ideas from the class surrounding issues such as food, gender, family and others, analyze the role food plays in the creation and maintenance of Asian cultural identities in a roughly 1800 word essay (about 5-6 pages).
What did you learn about Asian food and its relation to identity? How does what you found relate to the readings we have discussed?