(P82AB) Youth encounters of cuisine, nutrition, and globalization in Southeast Asia
Part 1Session 1
Wed 09:00-10:30 K12 | 2.15
Part 2Session 2
Wed 11:00-12:30 K12 | 2.15
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Ambiguous Encounters with Traditional Vietnamese Cuisine for Young Ethnic Vietnamese in Paris, France
Felipe Diaz Marin CY Cergy-Paris University
France, as a result of its history, has been welcoming since the late 19th century a Vietnamese diasporic community, at the beginning this started due the France’s colonization of Vietnam, and in several waves of the Indochina migratory and humanitarian crisis that occurred until the late 80’s. In this long history, the Vietnamese community has adapted to this new landscape and found their place in the French society. This process has been helped thanks to the familiarity to the culture due to the French’s colonization of Vietnam, and the adaptability inherited by their own Vietnamese culture. In Paris, at the 13th arrondissement, the Vietnamese community has settled since the first waves. Nowadays, this area is known as the Parisian Chinatown. At the end of the 80’s decade, Michel Zumwalt in his work: “The Vietnamese of Paris: Integration Without Assimilation and Conservation of Cultural Identity”, explains that the Vietnamese diaspora acculturation strategy is “integration” (see Cole, 2019; and Zumwalt, 1989), accepting the French Culture and at the same time conserving their own culture, living in two parallel worlds. In this case, the narrative uses the cuisine as an instrument to transmit a Vietnamese national identity, a link to bond with the community and reinforce the collective imaginary of what is a Vietnamese. Transforming the mere act of feeding themselves (biological) in a way to express their identity, food not only nourishes but also signifies (Fischler, 1988). After thirty-three years, there has not been any new research work about the acculturation process and individual and collective imaginary identity of the younger generations of the Vietnamese diaspora in Paris.
Studying the Vietnamese food in Paris will open the door to observe the evolution of the narrative and the individual and collective construction of the imagined community nourished by the strong cultural transnationalism of this diaspora. Furthermore, in these modern times, being more interconnected thanks to social networks and communication technologies, that enhance their relations with their roots and relatives. As well, this study sheds some light on the modern mechanisms of transmission of the cultural food heritage and its role in the identity construction of the fourth or fifth generations of the diaspora, using the transnational French-Vietnamese food system as an analytical tool.
Managing Nutrition Precarity in the Migrant Experience: Dietary Lifestyles of Cambodian Migrants in Thailand
Sary Seng Chulalongkorn University
The research investigates the dietary lifestyles of Cambodian migrants in Thailand, with an eye to understanding how they manage their nutritional health in precarious and foreign situations, including under the dire conditions presented by Covid-19. The question of overall health of migrants is often probed in research but the peculiarities of migrant-worker food are often lumped together with illustrations of (poor) living conditions. However, there is an argument that food and nutrition should be detached from such general depictions as there is scope for far more agency on the part of individual migrants, namely through the engagement of food literacy to overcome adverse dietary environments. In this analysis, food literacy is defined as the capacity to plan and manage, select, prepare, and consume food in different contexts. In this case, food literacy is understood as playing a role beyond the household dietary experience, such that these capacities are creatively engaged to compensate for the food system precarity in the migrant experience. The research method employed a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches that are adjusted to the current research conditions arising from Covid-19. Data collection were conducted through (online) focus group discussion, survey, and key informant interviews with migrants and associated people across a variety of sectors typical of Cambodian migrants in Thailand. The precise means for collecting data were flexible and adjusted to restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, often using messaging services, video chat, as well as socially-distanced observation.
The research results show that international migrants who are disconnected from kinship resources, in a foreign food environment, or facing difficult working conditions, are put under extreme pressure to feed themselves in a balanced manner—much in the same way that poverty impacts people’s abilities to achieve reasonable nutrition. The precarious conditions facing migrant workers, in which living and working conditions often limit mobility and instability is endemic, means that skills associated with food literacy are regularly employed to survive or manage extremely challenging dietary conditions. Covid-19, which not only undercut employment and housing, but made it difficult to even repatriate back to Cambodia, were often forced to fend for themselves. Cambodian migrant workers who experienced and grew up scavenging for food, catching fish, picking up wild plants and preparing food without proper cooking equipment, will be able to leverage these skills as adults and practically help them out during precarity while they are stranded in Thailand. Those without such relevant backgrounds, but who have gained food literacy from direct experience as migrants also fare better under extreme vulnerability. For many, food literacy facilitated migrants’ very survival. This reveals the continuing utility of building food literacy as young people in order to buffer themselves against changing food environments throughout their lives.
The Progression to Virtual Commensality: How Online Food Practices & Narratives Shape the Young Malay Community
Belinda Fong Sunway University
Commensality is a key aspect of social dining. The preparation, distribution and consumption of food play prominent roles in the Malay feasting culture. However, with the growth of globalisation and modernity, this commensality has taken on a digital role where the incorporation of digital technology is a big influence in eating and drinking episodes. This is even more enforced in the rise of single-person household globally, as well as the impact of global lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made traditional commensality a challenge. As such, solitary eating has increasingly become the norm, which has also been infiltrated by the use of social media platforms to convey a sense of connectedness during mealtimes. This study aims to explore the socio-cultural dynamics lying behind the influence of mukbang videos on everyday practice of commensality in the young Malay community, and in that sense, examining how the emerging methods of food consumption and human foodways contribute to changes in the ways they eat and transfer their food knowledge. This study will base its research on Barthes’ and Levi-Strauss’ work where the theory of semiotics is used to put the role and function of food into context, as well as understand its conception as a communication tool through social structures and cultural systems. This study will further explore the different relationships between communication and food, as based on the Symbolic Interactionism Theory, and how these relationships negotiate identities, cultures and environments and are interpreted into symbols, conduits and filters of cultural knowledge. Therefore, the understanding of the various features of the online environment can systematically alter people’s choices for establishing connections to other members, and how these choices may influence ways that people use each other as sources of social comparison, and thereby as reference points for behavioural change.
Growing & Cooking Local Edible Plants as Risk Mitigation System to Address Youth’s Social Marginalisation in Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia
Jasmine Phang Institute for Ethnic Studies, National University of Malaysia
This study proposes to investigate the role of the ULAM School as a risk mitigation system in addressing the issue of youth social marginalisation in Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia. The ULAM School is a research endeavour that seeks to reinvigorate and reintroduce local edible flora – or ‘ulam’, as is called in the Malay language – into food consumption patterns of the public. This study investigates marginalised youths’ encounter with the ULAM School, tracing their journey from growing to consuming these plants; and of their coming to know, recognise and appreciate the flora as part of their traditional culture. Applying Ulrich Beck’s risk society theory, it conceptualises the School as a risk mitigation system in which ulam plays a decisive role in the marginalised youths’ capital accumulation to address issues of marginality. It posits risk as the product of the mediation between the individual self and institutional structures, which for these youths is exemplified through the lack of life chances and greater exposure to risks – which are further amplified by the processes of marginalisation. The study proposes that the intervention of a risk mitigation system thus brings about change for the marginalised individual, through the accumulation of relevant capital, and resulting in the eventual addressing of marginality. Qualitative in approach, it employs observation and interview methodologies. Of focus are the marginalised youths of past substance users of the Sarawak indigenous group – the Orang Ulu – in the coastal city of Miri. The research brings significant implications: besides examining Beck’s hypothesis on the concept of risk mitigation, it attempts to address pertinent social issues by highlighting the role of ulam – of its continued relevance in current times when food systems and consumption preferences are variegated, and modern agriculture gradually replacing traditional ways of plant cropping and forest produce gathering.
The Role and Function of Wild Edible Plants in the Food System of Young Members of Indigenous Communities in Peninsular Malaysia
Rachel Thomas Tharmabalan Sunway University
This research is transdisciplinary in nature and focuses on the different types of wild edible plants used by Malaysia Peninsular indigenous people, known as Orang Asli, its medicinal and nutritional values, their relationships and knowledge with the environment and these wild edible plants. However, with environmental degradation and social change taking place due to developmental projects aimed at them, many of these wild edibles are slowly getting scarce and as such, the knowledge associated with it has been also eroding. Ethnobotanical appraisal, semi structured and field interviews were conducted to determine the names and the significance of the nine wild edibles used by the Orang Asli, which are Sauropus androgynus (L.) Merr., Manihot esculenta Crantz, Diplazium esculentum (Retz.) Sw., Dendrocalamus asper (Schult.) Backer, Solanum nigrum L., Gomphandra quadrifida (Blume) Sleumer, Pleocnemia irregularis (C. Presl) Holttum and Strobilanthes crispa Blume and Erechtites valerianiaeolia (Link ex Spring) DC collected from three different sites in Peninsular Malaysia: Telimau, Bukit Terang and Kampung Sat. These wild edibles were then assessed for their proximate and mineral compositions. From this research, we can postulate that the Orang Asli undeniably carry a corpus of traditional knowledge on wild edibles. This ethnoscience is legitimated by science when it comes to nutritional and medicinal properties. In spite of this knowledge, their communities are being affected by health disorders such as NCDs and the double burden of malnutrition. Findings show that this double burden of malnutrition correlates with poor intergenerational knowledge transfer depending on the geographical location of their settlement, and on the degree of cultural assimilation. This cultural assimilation not only correlates with changes in their health, but also alter communities’ economy, value system and cultural identity. This research hopes to encourage conservation methods for these wild edibles as well as help preserving the distinct cultural identity and knowledge among the Orang Asli youth through the proposed model of “Sustainable Food Sovereignty”.
Ulam and the Youth: Acceptance of Local Edible Flora by Students in a Malaysian Private College
Kean Buan Tan INTI College
Rapid industrialisation and urbanization since the country’s independence has profoundly affected Malaysian society fabric. Over time, new lifestyles and eating habits have emerged in the cities leading to growing health complications known as Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD). As a result of economic globalization, Malaysian city dwellers enjoy greater access to imported vegetables produced by intensive agriculture (macro greens) but may overlook local natural resources such as native and naturalized greens. Much of this local edible flora is known in Malaysia as ulam and has been traditionally consumed by ethnic Malays and peninsular aborigines (Orang asli). The problem statement relates to thinning knowledge about ulam diversity, but also its health benefits and culinary preparations, as far young urbanites are concerned. The main objective of this research is to analyse young Malaysian urbanites’ construction of social representations about ulam, in order to better understand factors that stimulate its knowledge and acceptance. Social Representation Theory (SRT) constitutes the main conceptual framework for this thesis. Primary data were collected using qualitative research. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sample of young Malaysian urbanites registered as Diploma students in the School of Hospitality of a private college in Kuala Lumpur’s periphery. Findings show that ulam’s contextualization remains correlated with ethnicity, while demonstrating an expansion of its semantic field, the latter incorporating macro greens as novel social representations of ulam. Thinning knowledge of ulam is confirmed, even within the ethnic Malay group. Intergenerational transfer is prevented by a multiplicity of factors including spatiality, home cooking patterns and verbalization of ulam-related knowledge. Critical discussion deconstructs the process of ulam’s contextualization, decontextualization and recontextualization as the most pertinent process of social representation formation for the social environment of this research. Responsible food education emerges as a potent factor of recontextualization where ulam may be reified as the social representation of an eating- well movement in opposition to the Western-centric healthy-eating.
Youth in developing countries are largely expected to succumb to the global nutrition transition already widespread in industrialized countries, whereby nutritional knowledge anchored in local food systems is inexorably devalued. Trying to get ahead of this curve, the WHO has declared obesity a worldwide epidemic and is attempting to establish preventative initiatives. However, public agencies and academics have struggled to define and characterize the problem in developing countries, often conflating manifestations of dietary problems with more general processes of globalization or urbanization. Variously, blame is portioned out to “western cuisine”, convenience food and/or corporate control of the global food trade. In these debates, young people are often deprived of agency, viewed as victims of food marketing, addictive fast food, or the retrograde malignment of traditional cuisines.
These teleological and linear presumptions about the youth experience of cuisine and nutrition are contradicted by the divergent accounts of childhood encounter with global food systems both past and present (in the works of Jack Goody, Carole Counihan, Eriberto Lozada, and others). Social media and other newly accessible global influences allow for simultaneous exposure to industrial food and postmodern trends, such as alternative food networks, foodie culture, and heirloom agriculture. In Southeast Asia, the increasing complexity of the foodways encountered by young people is leading to variegated and surprising outcomes across the region. In this panel, we invite researchers working on the convergence of childhood and youth (understood widely) and the evolution of food systems. This can include topics such as school food, culinary education, lifelong learning, food skills and/or food literacy, practical knowledge and the senses, food marketing,
popular food culture, food in (social) media and art, and other food topics that directly or indirectly relate to youth and childhood.