Callaloo or Pelau? Food, Identity and Politics in Trinidad and Tobago

  • Eleonora Esposito


In the history of mankind, food has always played a crucial role as a performative act and marker of ethnic, religious and national identity. In particular, the usual number of biological, social, economic, historical and ethnic dimensions, involved in any discourse on food, seem to have reached a new degree of complexity in the Caribbean. In a region heavily influenced by its colonial past, a variety of migratory fluxes from all over the world brought along a vast array of diverse social, cultural and economic practices related to food in the archipelago. In Trinidad and Tobago, the heritage of British colonial policies influenced many aspect of socio-political life and contributed to mark and reproduce an ‘Us vs. Them’ division between citizens of African and East Indian ancestries. While the varied local cuisine can be regarded as the best reflection of the country’s colonial and mercantile history, both the African and East Indian communities claim to be the only creators of the most representative national dishes. This paper aims at investigating the major role played by food in the current identity narratives of both the single Afro- and Indo-communities, as well as that of the nation as a whole. In particular, two food metaphors (‘Callaloo’ and ‘Pelau’) seem to epitomise the tension between ethnic groups in Trinidad and Tobago. By means of an interdisciplinary CDA approach, I will be looking at the usage of ‘Callaloo’ and ‘Pelau’ as “mixing metaphors” (Khan in Cult. Anthropol. 16: 271–302, 2001) in Trinidadian cultural and political discourses. We will see how the two metaphors entail different degrees of heterogeneity and homogeneity in the discursive construction of national identity in Trinidad and Tobago.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Eleonora Esposito
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Culture and Society (ICS)University of NavarraPamplonaSpain

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