TASTE IN THE MAKING / COOKING AT
THE CORE: CUISINE AS PRACTICAL REGIME / SOCIAL FORMATION
by Prof. Allen Chun
Date & Time
20.04. 2022, 2:00 PM
In Marilyn Strathern’s classic monograph, Kinship at the Core, she argued that the core of the English village had less to do with “real” kin structure than with the peculiarity of the village as a cultural community. One might make a similar point about the meaning of taste. I question here prevailing notions guiding the “anthropology” of taste, in its presumed diffusion of a cultural tradition, the emphasis on semantic content in the literal constructions of taste, and the taken for granted relationship between taste and cuisine. I maintain that the construction of taste is best understood as the product of a regime, not simply of cooking in a material sense but also in the way unconscious axioms of practice foreground the possibilities of taste. These practical regimes represent cooking at the “core” more accurately than labels attached to so-called cultural traditions. It is necessary to rethink established approaches to the construction of taste in order to assess further in what sense taste is related, if at all, to the definition of cuisine. Cuisine, not unlike the institution of public eating, which gave rise to the “invention” of the restaurant and a diversity of consumption regimes that differentiate not only the public from the private but also class influences and the role of various industries in commoditizing consumption, is above all a social formation. It may use culture to “brand”, but such branding is not necessarily related to taste per se. More importantly, they underline the role of more complex processes of hybridization and cosmopolitanism in the “making”.
Allen Chun is Research Fellow Emeritus in the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taipei. From August 2019, he has been Chair Professor in the Institute for Social Research and Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu. His interests involve cultural theory, nation-state formation, transnationalism and identity, and his work has focused mostly on Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. He is author of Forget Chineseness: On the Geopolitics of Cultural Identification (SUNY, 2017) and On the Geopragmatics of Anthropological Identification (Berghahn, 2019).