Stancetaking and identification in transnational families through culinary talk and practices

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Wilczek-Watson, Marta
  • Subject: P1

As global social networks expand, couples are increasingly comprised of partners from divergent sociocultural backgrounds (e.g. Piller, 2007; Dervin, 2013). This unfolding trend inspires research into complex identification processes in such transnational relationships. To explore these processes, I conduct a qualitative discourse analysis of interactions in five UK-based Polish-British families. The data include the families’ interactions during celebratory meals, which\ud they video-recorded, and my semi-structured interviews with the participants, which were audio-recorded. The study focuses on how the participants’ food-related interactions project ‘stance’ (Du Bois, 2007), that is, how talk about food and food practices can discursively and semiotically index the speakers’ positioning towards their own and others’ sociocultural fields.\ud \ud The analysis reveals that as the speakers negotiate their foodscapes, they constantly engage with various sociocultural repertoires and appeal to multiple ‘centres’ of normativity (Blommaert et al., 2005). This negotiation at times occasions contrasting positioning acts, highlighting the dynamism of the speakers’ stancetaking, and thus of their identities. On one hand, the participants reproduce and exoticise what they imagine as their ‘traditions’, ‘cultures’ and ‘nations’, on the other, they echo postmodern discourses of ‘choice’ (Giddens, 1991), individualism and post-national cosmopolitanism. Following the theories of ‘reflexivity’ (Giddens, 1991; Urban, 2001), I demonstrate how in postmodernity even food interactions surface as reflexive spaces. Through culinary performances and meta-talk, the speakers reinterpret cultural signs, creating ‘third spaces’ (Bhabha, 2004 [1994]) – discursive zones with ever-evolving cultural meanings.\ud \ud These reflexively co-constructed ‘third spaces’ display the participants’ identity as hybrid and cosmopolitan families. The family members successfully negotiate the perceived differences between them, which challenges the ideologies of problematic intermarriage (see also Piller, 2002; Gonçalves, 2013).\ud \ud Their complex sociocultural repertoires do not ignite a ‘cultural clash’. They rather offer the speakers versatile vistas for identification and constitute ‘symbolic capital’ (Bourdieu, 1977), thus reflecting the increasing commodification of hybrid forms and pursuit of transcultural identities.
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