Domesticating the Japanese Culinary Field in Shanghai
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After the March 11, 2011 earthquake which triggered a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Chinese consumers began avoiding Japanese food products, and the PRC banned all agricultural imports from 10 prefectures near the disaster area. However, rather than a meltdown of the market for Japanese cuisine in China, we see a subsequent boom. The focus of this chapter is on this culinary boom, but the story of the burgeoning Japanese culinary field must also include a consideration of how food safety – along with culinary politics and questions of culinary authenticity – has been framed by domestic narratives and narrators within China. A culinary field comprises a social field of tasters, things tasted, producers of tastes, and other actors with a stake in determining these tastes. While a Japanese culinary field has indeed developed in China, it is one now dominated by Chinese actors, who increasingly determine the direction of its development. In other words, the argument in this chapter will focus on the indigenization of this culinary field, which partly insulates it from geopolitical frictions, serving to frame issues such as food safety within Chinese narratives. These narratives will be discussed more generally in the concluding discussion. The main body of this chapter traces the development of this transnational Japanese culinary field. It is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Shanghai over the past five years, part of a larger project on international cuisine in that city.
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