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Queer Fish: Eating Ethnic Affect

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Visuality, Emotions and Minority Culture

Part of the book series: The Humanities in Asia ((HIA,volume 3))

Abstract

The very term ‘ethnic’ has deep culinary resonances. It also vibrates with different affects. Charles Darwin’s discussion of disgust was, after all, triggered by his mediated contact with a ‘native’ via a morsel of meat. In the everyday of multicultural cities, food cultures speak of colonial violence, consumed now with pleasure. While the tendency for mainstream white culture has been to celebrate and reify ‘authentic ethnic food’ as a self-congratulatory indicator of tolerance, there is of course a darker side. Departing from the usual mode of analysing the cultural semiotics of cuisines, in this chapter I focus on the materiality of the thing that is eaten. In other words, I shift attention to how ‘ethnicity’ is transferred from a socially defined category of human to the objects eaten: from ‘exotic’ fish, stag penises, to cheese described by some Chinese as ‘the mucous discharge of some old cow’s guts, allowed to putrefy.’ Across several ethnographic vignettes I examine closely the food objects that are differentially considered as delicious or disgusting. As Ash Amin argues, increasingly we are brought together across ethnicities in our everyday living, or what he calls ‘conviviality’. Analysing different scenes of eating—of sharing what is deemed edible by whom—I see commensality and conviviality as practices in progress that are fuelled by hope, the hope of being together that will change a collective and individual present and future. 

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Notes

  1. 1.

    http://www.fmo.org.hk/index/lang_en/page_fmo-support/ (accessed 9 March 2015).

  2. 2.

    https://www.brocku.ca/MeadProject/Darwin/Darwin_1872_11.html (accessed 10 September 2014).

  3. 3.

    http://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/centrelink/income-management (accessed 17 September 2012).

  4. 4.

    ‘A snapshot of the Northern Territory’. www.hreoc.gov.au/pdf/legal/seminars/snapshot_of_the_NT.pdf (accessed 20 September 2012).

  5. 5.

    http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/politics/northern-territory-emergency-response-intervention (accessed 9 March 2015).

  6. 6.

    Bev Manton, Chairperson of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council. ‘Perpetuating neglect’, Koori Mail 482 p. 25. Reprinted: http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/politics/northern-territory-emergence-response-intervention (accessed 17 September 2012).

  7. 7.

    ‘Intervention condemned’, Koori Mail 462 p. 6. Reprinted: http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/politics/northern-territory-emergence-response-intervention (accessed 17 September 2012).

  8. 8.

    American readers will of course be aware of the classed and raced aspects of the US Government’s ‘feeding’ program, SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). From my very limited knowledge, there are important differences in how the Basics scheme targets geographical areas in relation to how income support can be spent, and it is not an ‘extra’ but is taken directly from income that the State has deemed to be required. In addition, the NTEI covers much more than food—in fact its thrust is aimed at the so-called prevalence of pornography in communities. It should be noted that there are many Indigenous leaders and especially women who support the Intervention, for instance the Warlpiri woman Bess Nungarrayi Price (see http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/bess-price-welcome-to-my-world/2949706) (accessed 9 March 2015).

  9. 9.

    http://www.coca-colajourney.com.au/stories/sydneys-food-scene-taste-the-wonder-of-cabramatta-on-john-street (accessed 9 March 2015).

  10. 10.

    http://www.beyondjelly.com/2014/01/iron-chef-chinese-seafood-restaurant.html.

  11. 11.

    With thanks to Murat Es for this reference (accessed 9 March 2015).

  12. 12.

    http://www.fuchsiadunlop.com/about/ (accessed 9 March 2015).

  13. 13.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/luckypeach/how-to-make-dick-soup#2kjlha5 (accessed 9 March 2015).

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Acknowledgments

My thanks to John Erni and his Research Assistant, Connie Cheng, who invited me and organized my trip to Hong Kong Baptist University. Mid October 2014 was a most extra-ordinary time to be in Hong Kong. I want to especially thank John and Daren Leung for taking me to Occupation Central. Seeing so many people so peacefully commingling in the name of such a powerful hope was a powerful and humbling experience. This rare chance to see a totally different demonstration of democracy in action made me think again about the everyday commingling of ethnically diverse individuals through eating. The sharing of food that we saw on the streets of Central was an especially touching and hopeful act that continues to reverberate. My thanks to Clif Evers for his really helpful comments. Research on which this article is based was funded by the Australian Research Council.

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Probyn, E. (2017). Queer Fish: Eating Ethnic Affect. In: Erni, J. (eds) Visuality, Emotions and Minority Culture. The Humanities in Asia, vol 3. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-53861-6_3

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