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Title:French taste: food and national identity in post-colonial France
Author(s):Poole, Benjamin
Director of Research:Chaplin, Tamara
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Chaplin, Tamara
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Fritzsche, Peter A.; Mathy, Jean-Philippe; Oberdeck, Kathryn J.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
national identity
post-colonial period
Abstract:This dissertation examines representations of “French” and “foreign” food—in cookbooks and newspapers, TV cooking demonstrations and talk shows, state policies and political debates—and how these helped to redefine French national identity in the last third of the twentieth century. Focusing on how the global context shapes national identities, it tracks France’s transformation from an imperial exporter of modern civilization to a nation seemingly besieged by transnational cultural invasions. It argues that as France navigated this transition, the classic image of French cuisine as the “universal” standard for modern culinary arts gave way to a more relevant gastronomic identity rooted in local traditions and terroirs. Chapters 1 and 2 trace the distancing of Frenchness from universalism, rationalism, and modernization in the dramatic rise and fall of “nouvelle cuisine” in the 1970s and the debates about “American” fast food in the 1980s and 1990s. Chapters 3 and 4 chart the growth of French localism and traditionalism through the celebrity career of the “peasant” woman turned TV chef, Maïté, and in French trade, agriculture, and tourism policies that took advantage of France’s artisanal traditions and “authentic” specialties. However, this rising cultural essentialism remained unsettled and was challenged by France’s imperial past, large immigrant communities, and republican political legacy. Chapter 5 explores these tensions by examining the symbolic ambiguity of couscous as both a popular French “national dish” and an exotic “foreign” delicacy associated with North Africa. Ultimately, this dissertation suggests that the transnational interconnections and global pressures that seem to threaten national identities are also what make them meaningful and valuable. This work demonstrates that distinctive French gastronomic traditions and local food products found new resonance and viability in the age of globalization.
Issue Date:2015-01-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Benjamin Poole
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-01-21
Date Deposited:2014-12

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