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date: 04 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

As a central aspect of human lives, food, foodways, and eating have been included in American folklore research since the mid- 20th century and have been used to explore the dynamics of folk groups, ethnicity and regionalism, identity construction, artistic expression, and power hierarchies. This essay offers a definition of folkloristic perspectives on food, identifying three areas of emphasis that characterize folkloristics in general but are particularly relevant to the study of food: the personal (as in individual agency within larger structures), aesthetics (artistry and creativity as a part of that agency, and aesthetic experience as a motivation for engaging in cultural forms), and meaningfulness (sense of connectedness between individuals and their pasts, places, and other people). The essay examines food as cultural, social, and personal construction and as performance of identity, then offers two methodological frameworks for studying food: ethnography of eating and foodways. It concludes by exploring ways in which folkloristic approaches to food can be applied to issues within the food system as well as to broader questions around nationalism, cultural appropriation, authenticity, social inequalities, and community building.

Keywords: dining, eating, ethnography, folklife, folklore, food, foodways, performance, tourism

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