Herman Lelieveldt (SPS Visiting Fellow)
23 May 2017, 16:00-18:00, Sala del Capitolo, Badia Fiesolana
In an age in which political debates increasingly revolve around cultural issues the importance of food as a means to underline and emphasize national identities can hardly be overstated. European wide surveys show that almost three quarters of citizens want to know from which country a product has been sourced, national politicians increasingly proposing country of origin legislation for various food products and food producers increasing don their products with national flags and labels such as Made in Italy. All these examples are clear manifestations of “gastronationalism”, a term originally introduced by the sociologist Michaela DeSoucey to refer to the “use of food production, distribution, and consumption to demarcate and sustain the emotive power of national attachments, as well as the use of nationalists sentiments to produce and market food” (2010: 433).
In my presentation I argue that it is only by going beneath and beyond the national level that we can really understand how food is used to shape and re-shape identities and for what purposes. Gastropolitics in other words is a multifaceted phenomenon that runs all the way from the economically motivated EUs agricultural quality scheme aimed at highlighting the regional origins of traditional foods to the outright xenophobic criticism of Halal school lunches by the French Front National. I show how battles over these food identities reflect the more fundamental tension between integration and demarcation that is increasingly becoming relevant as a new fault line in European politics, both in economic and in cultural terms.
Herman Lelieveldt teaches political science at University College Roosevelt and is the convenor of the Utrecht Summer School on Food Politics in the EU. He is the author of The Politics of the European Union (Cambridge UP, 2015, with Sebastiaan Princen) and De Voedselparadox (The Food Paradox. Why it is so hard to make our food system more sustainable (Van Gennep, 2016).