Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Religion & Culture / Religious Studies
Faculty of Arts
This dissertation is motivated by two research questions: (1) how can food act as a means of reimagining, recreating, reaffirming, and expressing, sometimes complicated and contested identities for minority religious immigrant communities in highly secular contexts? (2) What impact does the context of reception, particularly the host society’s unique and complex history and interaction with colonialism, immigration, secularism, and nationalism, have on these identity negotiations? To examine these questions, I conducted a comparative ethnographic study of the foodways of North African Muslim immigrants in Paris, France, and Montréal, Canada, in 2012-13.
The results presented here show that food is often the most important symbol of identity engaged by my informants. By choosing which religious/cultural food practices to continue and which ones to alter, by choosing to label them in precise ways, by relegating these practices to specific places and times, my informants reveal the complex and varied ways that Muslims negotiate their identities in transnational context. In settings such as Paris and Montréal, where outward/public signs of religiosity can be seen as problematic, and food culture is central to national identity, I argue that these kinds of actions take on particular importance for immigrants living in these cities.
In line with scholarship in religion and migration, I show how reception directly influences the practices and identities of its immigrant communities. While the fear may be that by maintaining or even increasing practices that indicate difference, that highlight the “homeland” side of one’s transnational identity, immigrants may not integrate fully into the host culture, my research shows the exact opposite effect. In Canada, within multi- and inter-cultural contexts my Montréal informants felt more Canadian or had a greater desire to “be Canadian,” and on the whole felt free to express and engage their individual identities, whether religious, ethnic or cultural, In France, the opposite was true. I use food as the lens to reveal that France’s universalistic and assimilationist immigration policies undermine its efforts to emphasize equality.
Brown, Rachel D., "Immigration, Integration and Ingestion: The Role of Food and Drink in Transnational Experience for North African Muslim Immigrants in Paris and Montréal" (2017). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1901.