PhD candidate Merin Oleschuk on Authenticity and Exoticism in Ominvorous Food Culture

January 23, 2019 by Nico Golinski

Merin Oleschuk has published an article in Cultural Sociology that analyzes racial inequalities in gourmet food culture and the framing of food as exotic and authentic. The article is based on interviews with foodies of colour to explore how they engage with the discourse and finds that both frames of authenticity and exoticism can encourage cross-cultural understanding but also exacerbate cross-cultural differences.

Merin Oleschuk is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto studying the impact of social inequalities on food consumption. Her dissertation examines values and practices around home cooking.

We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available through the University of Toronto Library Portal here.

Oleschuk, Merin. 2016. "Foodies of Colour: Authenticity and Exoticism in Omnivorous Food Culture." Cultural Sociology 11(2):217-233.

Omnivorous cultural theory highlights the persistence of inequalities within gourmet food culture despite its increasing democratization, arguing that foods remain symbols of distinction through their framing as ‘authentic’ and ‘exotic’. Where these two frames have been shown to encompass problematic racial connotations, questions arise over how racial inequalities manifest in foodie discourse. Drawing from interviews with foodies of color living in Toronto, Canada, this article examines how these inequalities are reproduced, adjusted and resisted by people of color. It asks: how do foodies of color interpret and deploy dominant foodie frames of authenticity and exoticism? Analysis reveals each frame’s potential both to encourage cross-cultural understanding and essentialize or exacerbate ethno-cultural difference. Participants’ ambivalent relationship with foodie discourse (i.e. deploying it alongside critiquing it) highlights how cultural capital works alongside ethno-racial inequalities, and reveals the racial tensions remaining within foodies’ attempts to reconcile democracy and distinction.

Read the full article here.