Introduction Halal pizza: food and culture in a busy world
In reality, 'the people' are too busy living.
(Ghassan Hage, White Nation)
From this interdependence of people arises an order sui generis, an order more compelling and stronger than the will and reason of the individual people composing it. It is this order of interweaving human impulses and strivings, this social order, which determines the course of historical change; it underlies the civilizing process.
(Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process)
The suburb of Brunswick (City of Moreland) is one of the most densely populated areas in Melbourne. It is a 'migrant suburb'. Over a third of Moreland's residents were born overseas and just under half of the suburb's residents speak a language other than English at home. Moreland residents have both substantially lower than average income as well as the highest level of home ownership in the city. It has the largest number of residents in Melbourne who profess any kind of religious faith and is home to one of the largest Christian populations as well as the largest Muslim population in Melbourne. The area is the Melbourne home of the Halal, the Turkish and the Lebanese pizza.
First and second generation Italians constitute the largest migrant population in Brunswick, as well as the largest European non-English-speaking migrant group in Australia. The longevity of the Italian cultural presence in Australia has rendered it a significant conduit for non-migrant and other migrant understandings of Mediterranean cultures wherein 'new' ethnic otherness is known in relation to known and familiar ethnic others. 'Pizza', a familiar food in Australia, translates and mediates lesser-known 'Mediterranean' foods for non-migrants and other migrants alike as suggested by the phenomenon of 'Halal pizza'. This cultural facilitation characterises cultural production in a multicultural space.
Intercultural use of the term 'pizza' speaks of the importance of mundane corporeal, material, commensal and street-level sites of cultural production for the ways in which people make and inhabit a world (cf. Hage 1997). Incoming cultural actors orient themselves to a new society as much in relation to other incomers as any consideration of a cultural 'host' in a multicultural domain. For instance, in a recent study on identity among Arabic-speaking youth in Sydney, Noble, Poynting and Tabar (1999: 30) found that:
For Ahmed, the biggest divide in the classroom was between
Australians and everyone else: 'Muslims or Lebanese or wogs'. He
saw a strong link between the various 'wogs': 'Greeks and Italians
you can relate to them ... because they have the same traditions.'
Among cultural incomers such as Ahmed and his friends in Sydney, difference is a shared commonality. The relation between commonality and difference embodies the lived complexity and vivacity of cultural production in the world of Hage's (1998) 'multicultural Real'. 'It is the reality of an unproblematic and pervasive [Australian] multicultural interaction. It could be argued that this reality is absent in media representations of multiculturalism because of its ordinariness' (Hage 1998: 233). However, 'White multiculturalism works to mystify, and to keep out of public discourse, other multicultural realities in which white people are not the overwhelming occupiers of the centre of national space' (1998: 19). Halal pizza embodies precisely the kind of cultural engagement described by Hage. It articulates a structural relation and engagement between similarly positioned social groupings that share both generalised notions of cultural imperatives and a sense of otherness lived among a host culture. Halal pizza expresses a necessary and pragmatic relation between migrant groups that in daily life is as important as and possibly more so than their relations with the host national culture and society.
Anthropological examinations of food currently span theoretical, thematic and ethnographic space. Food has a complex and vital role in making human relations as well as its fundamental function in the sustenance of human life. Transforming social relations and cultural processes are tellingly revealed via explorations of the intimate, exquisite meanings, experiences and relations produced by the thing eaten. This collection of articles constitutes a diverse set of anthropological examinations of food and culture. Nevertheless, there are areas of common ground and interconnection between papers, some of which I will discuss here. The overall strength of the collection is its consistent yet nuanced engagement of anthropological method and theory with ethnographic facts that are in contemporaneous processes of cultural production and transformation. Here, I will provide brief synopses of the articles presented and continue a survey of further theoretical and thematic issues raised and illuminated by the volume as a whole.
Family recipes and the menu du jour
The moment and meaning of eating or consumption is a corporeal blending of economics, politics, sociality, and aesthetics, entwined in life history and cultural memory. Anthropologists have recorded numerous repertoires of ethnographic detail concerning the social, political, economic, religious and symbolic significance of food, motivated by implicit grasp of the existential affectivity of the thing eaten. Much research, (as in the case of the current volume), has not been part of an anthropology of food but rather has contributed to the thematic study of cultural logics through a focus on food, as in Levi-Strauss' (1964) The Raw and the Cooked, Delamont's (1995) edited volume, Appetites and Identities, or Harris' 1998 ) Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture (see also Bell and Valentine 1997; Caplan 1997; Hage 1997). The many anthropologies of food are diverse in focus. They include those that explore the social relations of food, drinking and eating (Farb and Armelagos 1980; Goody 1982; Murcott 1983; Douglas 1991, 1994; Wood 1995), food, the body and gender (Lupton 1996; Counihan and Kaplan 1998; Counihan 1999), and nutrition (Fieldhouse 1995; Mcintosh 1996; Goodman, Dufour and Pelto 2000) as well as those that explore the place of food in processes of cultural change (Kahn and Sexton 1988; Macbeth 1997; Lentz 1999; Wu and Tan 2001) and globalisation (Fine, Heaseman and Wright 1996; Probyn 2000; Warde and Martens 2000; Cwiertka and Walraven 2002). In their recent survey article, Mintz and Du Bois (2002:111): (2)
... posit that three major trends this last quarter
century ... have influenced [the increase in food literature]:
globalization; the general affluence of Western societies and their
growing cosmopolitanism; and the inclusivist tendencies of U.S.
society, which spurs even disciplines ... without anthropology's
strong inclusivist ethic to consider cross-cultural variations in
Recent ethnographies of food and consumption provide rich data on diverse cultural trajectories, as well as the intimacies of domestic cultural production. These include Buitelaar (1993), Trankell (1995) and Miller (1997). Likewise, each of the contributors to this volume aims to extend the ethnographic reach of the anthropological examination of food by offering specific discussions from the Australasian-Pacific region. Furthermore, each author has sought to contextualise his or her discussion of food practices within the relevant historical trajectories, such as colonialism, migration, modernity and globalisation.
In the opening essay, Musharbash suggests a competitive element in Warlpiri birthday party giving at Yuendemu, Northern Territory. She argues that birthday parties are bids for social standing enacted among women from different social (kin) groupings. Musharbash draws out a persistent generational association (i.e. a sense of kin role/time relation) of certain foods that produces a clear sensory cultural order and embodies a gustatory historiography (see also essays by James, Charon Cardona, Thomas and Westmacott). Party foods and party-giving manifest a theoretically unusual level of public political display permissible and socially validated among younger Warlpiri women of the mother generation. The temporal schema for Warlpiri birthday party giving parallels that of Warlpiri women's ceremony, suggesting the significance of the sense of space/time relations among Warlpiri ordering logics.