Food and Nationalism : Nordic Identity in New Nordic Cuisine

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Title: Food and Nationalism : Nordic Identity in New Nordic Cuisine
Author: Jakobsen, Morten
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2017
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Poliittinen historia
Political History
Politisk historia
Abstract: The present study examines the discursive construction of Nordic identity in a contemporary movement of the twenty-first century known as New Nordic Cuisine (NNC). It contributes to the sparsely researched topic of food and nationalism by uncovering how New Nordic Cuisine relies on a shared history of the Nordic nation-states and roots itself in a primordialist conception of nations in order to create a Nordic identity movement. The thesis incorporates theories and concepts from history, human geography, and political science as its foundation for answering how a Nordic identity is discursively constructed by the movement and what the societal implications are of this construction. The methodology used for this type of interdisciplinary analysis is Critical Discourse Analysis as envisioned by Norman Fairclough. The data consists of two cookbooks, three reports by the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM), and one promotional brochure also by NCM. This range of material ensures that the main figures and initiators of the movement, meaning the chefs and the politicians of NCM, are represented. The analysis locates three discourses on globalization, terroir, and identity respectively. NNC adopts the French gastronomic term ‘terroir’ in order to explain a close connection between food, nature, and identity. The movement defines terroir as the eternal conditions in which produce grows, meaning all the natural elements of the weather and the soil, which together make a place unique. Due to the produce coming to life in these conditions, it is thought to embody the culture of that location. When humans consume the food, their conception of themselves transforms. Thus, the timeless identity of the land is experienced through food and, at the same time, affects the identity of people. The implications of this idea are that societies, who legitimize themselves based on a shared identity, are at least partly created based on the nature of that location. Such a terroir is argued to exist in Norden. The idea of a Nordic terroir means that the Nordic people, in order to establish a stable identity, need to experience the terroir-dimension in the food they consume. However, according to the movement the emergence of globalization has obfuscated a previously close connection to nature by industrializing and homogenising the production of food. This has resulted in a lack of Nordic identity. This thesis argues that the NNC movement due to their romantic vision of nature and people fail to see the creation of Nordic nation-states and the idea of Norden in a historical perspective. Globalization is not antithetical to nation-states, but was instead an essential facilitator in their emergence during the nineteenth century. Only by acknowledging the historical specificity of Norden and its nation-states as well as the changing nature of terroirs throughout history can we live with a vision of the world that complements history and scientific evidence.
Subject: food

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