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An imagined culinary community: On gender and class in “Sweden – the new culinary nation”
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Food, Nutrition and Dietetics.
2016 (English)Conference paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper critically analyses how a Swedish culinary identity is produced and how this production intersects with gender and class. The analysis builds on observational data and texts published online by actors with a mission to promote Swedish food culture. A nation is an “imagined community” (Anderson, [1983] 2006). It is indeed a community, but of a very particular form due to its comprehensiveness that inevitably makes it impossible for all of its members to be able to know about each other and to interact. This incomprehensible size results in nation-building practices connecting people—culturally and geographically distant from each other—to imagine common concerns and values; public stories are produced that construct shared stories in the minds of people. Feminists have further shown how national identity productions are profoundly intertwined with symbolic constructions of femininity and masculinity, and on functions allocated to men and women for the good of the nation. Last but not least, the particular production of national culinary excellence is also a story of class, deriving from gastronomic legacies of the pre-Revolution French aristocracy and post-Revolution bourgeoisie. During a time in which Swedish politicians have used explicitly nationalist statements with tremendous caution—because of a general fear to be interpreted as flirting with the nationalist party—food have seemed to persist as a safe space to celebrate national pride. “Sweden – the new culinary nation” is a political vision aiming to promote Sweden as a country of culinary excellence, with the long-term purposes of creating more jobs, increasing revenues for people in all the food and hospitality industries (whether urban or rural) and stimulating economic growth. My analysis shows how this promoted image builds on assumptions of Swedish traditions and authenticity and that the culinary nation of Sweden is a country in which all people, as part of an imagined culinary community, are equally important. The top chefs and the leading restaurants might be the spearhead, but the conveyed message is that “we are all in it together” and everybody, from near and far, are welcome to enjoy our tremendous food culture. However, it is this rhetoric of a seemingly inclusive and democratized political vision that I will discuss and argue to be profoundly gendered and classed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-280668OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-280668DiVA: diva2:911610
Sociologidagarna 2016
Available from: 2016-03-14 Created: 2016-03-14 Last updated: 2016-03-14

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Neuman, Nicklas
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Department of Food, Nutrition and Dietetics
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

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