Food, Race, and Ethnicity

Yong Chen

in The Oxford Handbook of Food History

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199729937
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Food, Race, and Ethnicity

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Food is the most basic need of man. What we eat and how we eat is a reflection of our relationship with the natural environment. However, food is important not only as a physical necessity; it is also an indication of the multitude of relationships that we form with others as individuals, communities, and nations. Indeed, food has embedded political, socioeconomic, and cultural meaning. Modern racialization has been linked to connections between food, identity, and power. Mary Douglas has noted a distinction between "pure" and "polluted," one that establishes both the significance and the socially constructed nature of our ideas about the edibility of food. Drawing on both primary research and secondary sources, this article looks at the history of food and how it is connected with race and ethnicity in the United States. It also examines the colonial roots of American regional cooking, exclusion and assimilation of immigrants in nineteenth-century America, and racialization and inequality in American foodways in the twenty-first century.

Keywords: food; race; ethnicity; United States; racialization; immigrants; regional cooking; exclusion; inequality; foodways

Article.  7558 words. 

Subjects: History ; World History

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