Transcript: Martin Manalansan on A Palatable Multiculturalism | Oct 23, 2004

Martin Manalansan stands behind a podium in a packed conference room. A banner on the podium reads “University of Toronto. Munk Centre for International Studies at Trinity College.”
Martin is in his thirties, clean-shaven and balding. He’s wearing rimless glasses and a striped blue shirt.

He says THIS PAPER
IS PART OF A LARGER BOOK PROJECT
ENTITLED “ALTERED TASTE: ASIAN
AMERICANS AND A PALATABLE
MULTICULTURALISM.”

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Martin Manalansan. University of Illionis. A palatable multiculturalism? Fusion cuisine and a culinary/political make over. University of Toronto. March 20, 2004."

Martin continues AND
THINKING ABOUT REVISIONS TO THE
PAPER, AND TO TITLES, IT CAME
OUT THAT MAYBE THE TITLE FOR
THIS PAPER IS MORE APTLY “FOOD
LOVE WITHOUT LABOUR.”
AND I THINK IT WOULD COME--
IT WOULD BECOME MORE APPARENT AS
I GO THROUGH THE PAPER.
IT'S ALSO QUITE INTERESTING THAT
I'M THE LAST FORMAL PAPER FOR
THIS CONFERENCE, BECAUSE IN
FACT, MY PAPER DEALS NOT SO MUCH
WITH THE ETHNOGRAPHIC MATERIAL I
HAVE, WHICH WE CAN TALK ABOUT IN
THE Q and A, HOPEFULLY WE HAVE TIME
FOR A Q and A.
BUT IN FACT IT GOES BACK TO THE
VERY FIRST PANEL ON TELEVISION,
BECAUSE I'LL BE DEALING WITH TWO
TEXTS FROM TELEVISION.
AND I REALISE THAT I JUST--
I AM IN CANADA, I'M NOT SURE IF
YOU HAVE THE FOOD CHANEL.
YOU DO, GOOD -- THANK GOD, WHEW.
AND THEN UM, BUT UNFORTUNATELY
FOR-- THE SECOND TEXT IS
ACTUALLY ABOUT THE LAST EPISODE
OF “SEX AND THE CITY.”
SO FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T WANT TO
KNOW, JUST UH, CLOSE YOUR EYES.
[Audience laughter]
I'M SORRY, I WAS COMPLETELY
CAUGHT BY SURPRISE WHEN SOMEBODY
GROANED ABOUT THE, YOU KNOW,
BAMBI TALKING ABOUT THE LAST
EPISODE, BUT ANYWAY, THE OTHER
THING, TOO, IS, THIS IS NOT A
PAPER ABOUT FUSION CUISINE, I
FOUND OUT.
BUT IT'S REALLY A SPRINGBOARD
FOR WHAT I WOULD TALK ABOUT
TODAY, THE REUNIFICATION OF
ETHNIC CUISINE.
BUT TO START, LET ME USE THE
FUSION CUISINE SPRINGBOARD.
MANY PEOPLE HAVE HERALDED FUSION
CUISINE AS THE CUISINE OF THE
FUTURE, AS MUCH AS IT IS
CONSIDERED THE CUISINE OF THE
MOMENT.
THAT IS, IT IS SUPPOSEDLY
CHARACTERISED BY AN
OBLITERATION, IF NOT BLURRING OF
ETHNIC AND NATIONAL MARKERS.
TRULY COSMOPOLITAN, FUSION
CUISINE IS CONSIDERED TO BE A
GLOBALIZED CULINARY CULTURE THAT
IS IMPERVIOUS TO THE
RESTRICTIONS OF NATIONAL
BOUNDARIES AND SPECIFIC CULTURAL
HISTORIES.
AT THE SAME TIME, FUSION CUISINE
IS SEEN AS VERY AMERICAN, AS I
HEARKENS TO THAT OLD, VERY TIRED
METAPHOR OF THE MELTING POT.
THIS PAPER IS LESS ABOUT FUSION
CUISINE, BUT RATHER ITS VEXED
RELATIONSHIP TO ASIAN-AMERICAN
AND--
TO ASIAN AND ASIAN-AMERICAN
ETHNIC DIFFERENCE IN THE
AMERICAN IMAGINARY.
BY THIS I MEAN THE FUSION
CUISINE IS EMBEDDED IN AND
CONSTITUTED BY ONGOING PROCESSES
OF REFINING AND LEVELLING OFF OF
DIFFERENCES IN FOOD RELATED
DISCOURSES, RESULTING IN WHAT I
CALL A PALATABLE
MULTICULTURALISM.
THIS PARTICULAR FORM OF
MULTICULTURALISM THAT HAS BECOME
PREVALENT IN THE LAST DECADE OR
SO, PARTICULARLY IN THE INCREASE
OF POPULAR--
INCREASED POPULARITY OF FOOD
CHANNELS, FOOD LITERATURE, FOOD
LUMINARIES AND CELEBRITIES LIKE
THE CHEFS THEMSELVES.
THIS KIND OF MULTICULTURALISM,
AS I WILL CONTEND AN ARGUE, IN
FACT IS AN ATTEMPT TO
DOMESTICATE THE FOREIGN, AND
YET, IRONICALLY REARTICULATE THE
NEED FOR INTIMACY WITH OTHER
CUISINES.
IN OTHER WORDS, I'M LOOKING AT
WHAT ONE WOULD CALL THE
PARADOXES OF CULINARY
MISCEGENATION.
DESPITE ASSERTIONS TO THE
CONTRARY, ETHNIC CUISINES ARE
STILL HERE WITH US, BUT LOCATED
IN VERY DISTINCT AND
CONTRADICTORY SITUATIONS.
TO THIS END, I AM CONCERNED WITH
TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE
LOCATION OF ASIAN-AMERICAN
ETHNIC FOOD, PARTICULARLY
CHINESE FOOD, IN RECENT POPULAR
IMAGINATION.
TO BEGIN, LET US EXAMINE THE
IDEA OF FUSION CUISINE AND HOW
IT IN FACT REARTICULATE RATHER
THAN SUBMERGE OR MASK ETHNIC
CUISINE.
ONE OF THE FOOD CHANNEL'S FAMOUS
CHEF'S -- ACTUALLY, HIS SHOW HAS
BEEN CANCELLED, MING SAI, DID
YOU ACTUALLY HAVE IT HERE?
“MING SAI, EAST MEETS WEST”?
OKAY, WELL ANYWAY, BELIEVE ME,
IT'S A SHOW ABOUT FUSION
CUISINE.
HE'S A YALE EDUCATED
MIDWESTERNER, ASIAN-AMERICAN,
CHINESE-AMERICAN GUY.
YOU KNOW, TOTALLY AFFABLE, AND
TOTALLY BLAND, MIDWESTERNER.
[Audience laughter]
AMAZINGLY.
YOU KNOW, WORKING IN THE MIDWEST
IT'S AMAZING THAT I MEET A LOT
OF THEM.
[Audience laughter]
SO MING SAI, DEFINED FUSION
CUISINE IN THIS WAY, “MY FOOD IS
BASED ON INGREDIENTS AND COOKING
TECHNIQUES OF BOTH THE EAST AND
THE WEST.
TOO OFTEN, HOWEVER, SO-CALLED
FUSION CUISINE CONFUSION COOKING
COME OF US CALL IT, PRODUCES
CONFUSION ON THE PLACE AND IN
THE MOUTH.
TO AVOID THIS--
ON THE PLATE AND IN THE MOUTH.
TO AVOID THIS, I HAVE ENORMOUS
SENSE OF RESPECT FOR EACH
CULTURE'S INGREDIENTS AND
TRADITIONAL TECHNIQUES.
SUCCESSFUL EAST-WEST COOKING
HARMONIOUSLY COMBINES TWO
DISTINCT CULINARY APPROACHES.
TAKE MY SAVOURY BRAISED OXTAIL
WITH PRESERVED LEMON POLENTA
RECIPE.”
IT'S A MOUTHFUL.
“WHEN A DISH IS NOT JUST NEW,
BUT BETTER, WHEN I CAN FIND
SUPERIOR WAYS TO CELEBRATE
OXTAIL'S EARTHINESS, SAY, OR THE
DEEP SOUR TANG OF PICKLED LEMON,
AND THEN JOIN THE TWO, THAT'S
REAL EAST-WEST COOKING.”
MING SAI'S COOKING SHOW, “EAST
MEETS WEST,” IS A PROGRAM THAT'S
SEEN TO BE ABOUT THE COMBINATION
OF WESTERN AND ASIAN CUISINE,
YET AS WE CAN SEE, IT IS ABOUT
RENDERING THEM AS SENSUALLY
SEPARATE.
FUSION CUISINE THEN, IS ABOUT
THE PARADOX OF BLENDING AND
SEPARATING, OF BOUNDING AND
UNBOUNDING OF BOUNDARIES, OF
BORDERS.
OF CREATING A SPACE FOR BORDERS
TO COEXIST WITH STRONG CROSSINGS
AND INTERMINGLINGS OF FLAVOURS,
COLOURS AND ODOURS.
THEREFORE, FOLLOWING MING SAI'S
DESCRIPTION, FUSION CUISINE
UNRAVELS THE IDEA OF NATIONAL
CUISINE, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME,
RE-TERRITORIALISING ETHNIC
IMAGES, PARTICULARLY ASIAN AND
ASIAN-AMERICAN IMAGES, PRACTICES
AND INGREDIENTS.
THE PARADOX BEHIND FUSION
CUISINE THEN, ESTABLISHES AN
ARENA THAT LOCATES AND
DISLOCATES IDEAS ABOUT ASIAN-
AMERICAN ALIMENTARY STRUGGLES
AMIDST RACIALIZING DISCOURSES.
TO CONTEXTUALISE THESE
ASSERTIONS, LET ME JUST GIVE YOU
A QUICK HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO
ASIAN-AMERICANS AND FOOD.
ASIAN-AMERICAN HAVE LONG BEEN
ASSOCIATED WITH FOOD.
FILIPINOS, KOREANS AND VIETNAMESE--
AT LEAST IN THE AMERICAN
IMAGINARY, FILIPINOS, KOREANS
AND VIETNAMESE HAVE LONG BEEN
BRANDED AS DOG EATERS.
THE CHINESE HAVE BEEN ACCUSED OF
COOKING AND EATING CATS, RATS
AND EVERY ANIMAL IMAGINABLE.
INDIANS HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH
BEING GUILTY OF CREATING A FIERY
SPICY CUISINE THAT DEFIES HUMAN
CAPACITIES.
AT THE SAME TIME, ECONOMIC REALITIES
HAVE ALSO RENDERED THESE RACIST,
STEREOTYPICAL CONJUNCTION OF
ASIAN-AMERICANS AND FOOD, AS
BOTH REPULSIVE AND DESIRABLE AT
THE SAME TIME.
SO YOU FIND, YOU KNOW, WHILE
THERE IS THIS KIND OF
STEREOTYPICAL PEJORATIVE
ITEM, THERE IS ALSO KIND OF
COUNTER MOVE, THIS MOVE TOWARDS
DESIRE.
“EARLY HISTORY OF NEW YORK
CITY'S CHINATOWN,” BY MARY LUI
AND JACK CHEN, ACTUALLY SHOWS
HOW THIS AREA WAS BOTH
CONSTRUCTED, IN THE WHITE
IMAGINATION, AS A PLACE OF VICE
AND EVIL, ON THE ONE HAND, AND
OF EXOTIC CUISINE ON THE OTHER.
SO ON THE ONE HAND, ALL
THROUGHOUT THE WEEK IN LATE 19th
EARLY 20th CENTURY, PEOPLE WOULD
STAY AWAY FROM CHINATOWN, AND
DURING THE WEEKENDS, THERE WOULD
BE THESE CARAVANS OF WEEKEND
TOURISTS WHO WOULD TRY TO SAMPLE
THE CUISINES OF CHINATOWN, FROM
UPTOWN MANHATTAN.
NOW ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE
COIN, THERE HAS BEEN THIS
UPSURGE OF CONTEMPORARY LITERARY
PRODUCTION AROUND THE CONNECTION
BETWEEN ASIAN-AMERICANS AND
FOOD, BY ASIAN-AMERICAN AUTHORS.
BOOKS SUCH AS, “THE BOOK OF
SALT,” “EATING CHINESE FOOD
NAKED,” “MY YEAR OF MEATS,” “THE
BARBARIANS ARE COMING,” “DOG
EATERS,” AND “HUNGER,” FEATURE
FOOD, COOKING AND EATING AS
INTEGRAL TO THE FABULATION OF
ETHNIC AND RACIALIZED SELVES AND
IDENTITIES.
IN ADDITION, LITERARY CRITICISM
HAVE LONG ACKNOWLEDGED A
SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE OF FOOD
REPRESENTATIONS IN ASIAN-
AMERICAN FICTION.
ONE OF THE--
I'M SORRY, ONE OF THE MORE
DOMINANT CONSTRUCTIONS OF ASIAN-
AMERICANS, CAN BE READ WITH
AND AGAINST THE IMAGE OF THE
PERPETUAL FOREIGNER.
NOW HOW THIS AND OTHER
REPRESENTATIONS PLAY OUT IN
CONTEMPORARY MEDIA NARRATIVES
ABOUT FOOD AND ASIAN-AMERICANS,
SPECIFICALLY CHINESE-AMERICANS
AND FOOD, LET ME GO TO MY FIRST
EXAMPLE, WHICH I SUBTITLED, FOOD
LOVE WITHOUT LABOUR.
THE POPULARITY OF FUSION CUISINE
IS PARTLY DUE TO THE HEIGHTENED
AWARENESS ABOUT FOOD AND PLACE,
AND ABOUT HOW FOOD CARRIES A
CERTAIN CACHE, OR IS A MARK OF
CULTURAL CAPITAL.
IN THIS LIGHT, I CALL THIS
INCREASED THIRST OR HUNGER FOR
KNOWLEDGE ABOUT FOOD, I'M
TERMING AS FOOD LOVE, WHICH IS
ABOUT A KIND OF PRIVILEGED
INTIMACY WITH KNOWLEDGE AND
HIGHLY VALUED CULINARY PRODUCTS.
THIS KIND OF PRIVILEGED INTIMACY
TAKES THE FORM OF A CELEBRATORY
REVELRY IN ACQUIRING FOODS FROM
AUTHENTIC SOURCES, WHICH IN TURN
LENDS CREDIBILITY AND
AUTHENTICITY TO PEOPLE WHO GET
TO POSSESS THEM.
CONSIDER THIS PARTICULAR
TELEVISION VIGNETTE.
I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN IT WITH ME.
BUT THE FOOD CHANNEL HAS A
SERIES OF PROMOS, WELL, IT'S
ACTUALLY A PART OF THEIR
PROMOTION OF THEIR CHANNEL,
RIGHT?
THEY SAY THE FOOD CHANNEL IS FOR
FOOD LOVERS.
SO THEY HAVE THIS LONG RUNNING
SERIES OF PROMOS OF DIFFERENT
VIGNETTES, WHICH ALWAYS END
WITH, “FOOD LOVERS, THEY'RE MADE
EVERY DAY.”
SO FOOD TV IS FOR FOOD LOVERS,
AND CONSIDER THIS VIGNETTE.
THIS VIGNETTE STARTS WITH A
CHINESE MAN IN AN UNDISCLOSED
SMALL RESTAURANT IN A FOREST
WHERE HE TAKES A PACKAGE OF FOOD
FROM THE COOK, TAKES HIS BIKE,
STARTS OFF THROUGH THE FOREST, A
HIGHWAY, BOARDS A PLANE, TAKES
HIS BIKE FROM THE BAGGAGE AREA,
YOU KNOW, FROM THE BAGGAGE
CAROUSEL, THEN BIKES THROUGH A
CITY INTO WHAT SEEMS TO BE A NEW
YORK CITY APARTMENT BUILDING.
HE PRESSES A DOORBELL AND A
WHITE COUPLE COMES OUT.
THE CHINESE DELIVERY MAN THEN
SAYS SOMETHING TO THE EFFECT
THAT THE FOOD PLUS THE DELIVERY
CHARGES AMOUNTED TO A COUPLE OF
THOUSAND DOLLARS.
THE MAN RAISES HIS EYEBROWS, AND
THE WOMAN SAYS, “TRUST ME,
DARLING, IT'S ALL WORTH IT.”
IN THE END, THE COUPLE COZILY
WATCHING TV, EATING THEIR
CHINESE TAKEOUT FOOD, THE WOMAN
SUDDENLY EXCLAIMS IN THIS, YOU
KNOW, SUDDEN REVELATION, SHE
SAYS, “LET'S ORDER DESSERT.”
AND THEN IT COMES DOWN, THE
PROMO SAYS, “FOOD LOVERS,
THEY'RE MADE EVERY DAY.”
WHILE THE NARRATIVE LINGERS ON THE
PHYSICAL TRAVELS OF THE CHINESE
DELIVERY MAN, IT NEVERTHELESS
HINGES ON AND ENDS WITH THE
WHITE COUPLE'S BOUNDLESS, RATHER
INSATIABLE DESIRE FOR MORE
EXOTIC FOOD.
THE CAVALIER MANNER OF THE
COUPLE DEFLECTS AND DISREGARDS
THE LABOUR EXPENDED ON GETTING
THE FOOD TO THEIR OWN HOME.
THE COOK'S AND DELIVERY MAN'S LABOUR ARE
SEEN ONLY AS A MEANS TO PROVIDE
AUTHENTICITY TO THEIR FOOD, AND
AS IT'S SEEN TO--
AND AS THE VIGNETTE ACTUALLY
CONSTRUCTS THE FOOD AS COMING
FROM FAR AWAY, AND NOT FROM THE
CORNER TAKEOUT SHOP, IT CREATES
THIS YOU KNOW, THIS IMAGE OF THE
YOU KNOW, AUTHENTIC FOOD, NOT
FROM THE GREASY TAKEOUT JOINT,
BUT RATHER FROM SOME OTHER
NAMELESS PLACE.
AS THEY SIT COZILY ON THEIR SOFA
IN FRONT OF THE TV, ANOTHER
DESIRE COMES UP, THIS TIME FOR
DESSERT, PROPELS ANOTHER CYCLE
FOR OTHER PEOPLE'S LABOUR FROM
ANOTHER IMAGINED EXOTIC PLACE TO
COMPLETE A RESTFUL, INTIMATE
NIGHT IN THEIR COSMOPOLITAN
URBAN HOME.
INTIMATE ARRANGEMENTS,
THEREFORE, OF WHITE URBAN
DOMESTICITY, ARE EVIDENT IN THE
NEXT EXAMPLE FROM THE LAST
EPISODE OF--
THE LAST EPISODE OF, “SEX AND
THE CITY.”
OKAY, IN THE MUCH BALLYHOOED
ENDING, BELIEVE ME--
[Audience laughter]
I'M ACTUALLY DESTROYING THIS FOR
YOU, BUT ANYWAY, THE FOUR WHITE
WOMEN HEROINES, CARRIE, AMANDA,
CHARLOTTE AND SAMANTHA ARE LEFT
IN THE FINAL THROES OF SETTLING
INTO HETERONORMATIVE INTIMACIES
AND ARRANGEMENTS.
AGAIN, THAT'S WHAT WE CALL THE
FAILED QUEER POSSIBILITIES OF
THE SHOW.
THEY'RE ALL, YOU KNOW, WELL...
[Audience laughter]
I'M REALLY DESTROYING IT FOR
YOU.
IN ONE OF THE LAST SCENES,
CHARLOTTE IN PARTICULAR, THE
UPPER EAST SIDE PREPPY PRINCESS
CALLS HER HUSBAND TO THE DINNER
TABLE.
SHE APOLOGISES, SHE SAYS,
“HONEY, I'M BEING A BAD
HOUSEWIFE TONIGHT.
I ONLY ORDERED CHINESE TAKEOUT.”
HER HUSBAND COMES TO THE DINING
ROOM CARRYING AN ENVELOPE,
SAYING HE ALSO HAS SOMETHING
FROM CHINA.
THEIR APPLICATION FOR ADOPTION
FOR A CHINESE BABY GIRL, WHAT
SOMEBODY TOLD ME YESTERDAY, WAS
THE NOW FASHIONABLE UPPER EAST
SIDE ACCESSORY, THE CHINESE GIRL
ADOPTEE, ADOPTED BABY, BECOMES
PART OF THIS DOMESTIC PICTURE,
RIGHT.
SO THEIR APPLICATION FOR A
CHINESE BABY GIRL WAS APPROVED,
AND THERE WAS A PICTURE, AND HE
SHOWS HER.
AND THEN CHARLOTTE CRIES AT THE
RECOGNITION THAT, INDEED, THIS
WAS THEIR CHILD, THIS TOTALLY
COMPLETES THE PICTURE, COMPLETES
THE NARRATIVE AND ACTUALLY ENDS
THE NARRATIVE OF CHARLOTTE,
RIGHT?
THE ACT OF POSSESSING A CHILD AS
THEIR OWN, IS PARADOXICALLY
JUXTAPOSED WITH DINNER THAT
SEEMS, AS THE SCENE SUGGESTS--
I'M SORRY, THAT BOTH, AS THE
SCENE SUGGESTS, COME FROM ONE
LOCATION OR FROM ONE PLACE.
THE PERFORMANCE OF DOMESTIC
INTIMACY IN THIS WHITE HOUSEHOLD
IS BASED ON TWO ELEMENTS, THE
CHINESE BABY AND A CHINESE
TAKEOUT, RIGHT, AND BOTH OF
WHICH ARE SEEN AS -- AND AGAIN,
WHETHER TRUE OR NOT, IT IS
ALWAYS ABOUT AN IMAGINED FAR
AWAY PLACE.
AND ON THE ONE HAND, BOTH OF
THESE PHENOMENON, THE BABY AND
THE TAKEOUT FOOD, PERFORMED A
ROLE OF PROPPING UP THE
HETERONORMATIVE BLISS OF THE
COUPLE BY MAKING POSSIBLE THE
ICONS OF DOMESTICITY, THAT IS,
FOOD ON A DINNER TABLE AND THE
PROMISE OF A BABY IN A NURSERY.
ON THE ONE HAND, THE PUTATIVE
DANGER POSED BY THE TAKEOUT
FOOD, ON THIS PERFORMED
DOMESTICITY, THAT IS IN TERMS OF
CHARLOTTE'S ADMISSION THAT SHE
WAS BEING A BAD HOUSEWIFE.
SHE WAS IN FACT BEING UM, HER
DERELICTION OF WIFELY DUTIES,
THE OUTSIDE COMES IN TO THE
RESCUE AGAIN, IN TERMS OF THE
BABY.
IT COMPLETES PRETTY MUCH, IT
KIND OF BALANCES IT ALL OUT,
RIGHT?
THE EASY RESOLUTION OF THIS
MICRODRAMA OF WHITE DOMESTICITY
EASILY SUBMERGES AND RENDERS
INVISIBLE THE LABOUR OF OTHERS.
THE NAMELESS COOK AND DELIVERY
MAN, AND THE NAMELESS MOTHER.
RIGHT, THESE PEOPLE WHOSE BODIES
AND VOICES ARE LOCATED IN A
RACIALIZED ELSEWHERE, THAT IS,
OUT OF THE TV FRAME AND OUT OF
PEOPLE'S MINDS, ARE IN FACT ONE
THING TO CONSIDER.
FOR MANY VIEWERS, IT IS JUST A
FITTING ENDING FOR CHARLOTTE,
WHO FOR MANY SEASONS OF--
TELEVISION SEASONS, HAS SEARCHED
FOR HER UPPER EAST SIDE CASTLE
OF FAMILIAL HAPPINESS, DID
INDEED FIND THAT HAPPINESS.
THE LOVING HOME IS HERS.
ONLY WITH NOT SO LITTLE HELP
FROM NAMELESS OTHERS.
WHETHER IN THE ACADEMIC OR
ENTERTAINMENT REALMS, THE LURE
OF THE EXOTIC AND THE POPULARITY
OF THE FOREIGN AND THE
CULTURALLY DISTANT, ARE
DRAMATIZED IN THE WAYS ASIAN-
AMERICANS ARE LOCATED IN
CONTEMPORARY CULINARY
DISCOURSES.
THIS SITUATION IS MADE MORE
TROUBLESOME BY ASIAN-AMERICANS'
COMPLICATED HISTORICAL AND
SYMBOLIC RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD
PRODUCTION, DISTRIBUTION AND
PREPARATION.
ASIAN-AMERICANS CAME TO THE U.S.
TO FILL THE NEED FOR CHEAP
LABOUR, PARTICULARLY IN THE
AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRIES IN
HAWAII AND THE WEST COAST.
IN THE MID TO LATE--
MID 19th TO EARLY 20th CENTURY,
TO PRESENT DAY SOUTHEAST ASIAN
MEAT PACKERS AND CHINESE-
AMERICAN TAKEOUT DELIVERY MEN,
WE FIND THAT THIS THING STILL
ENDURES.
HOWEVER, THE LONG HISTORY OF
ASIAN-AMERICAN LABOUR IN FOOD
PRODUCTION AND SERVICE
INDUSTRIES ARE RENDERED
INVISIBLE BY THE MUNDANE
PLEASURES AND BANAL PRESENCE OF
ASIAN PRIMARILY CHINESE CUISINE
IN AMERICAN LIFE.
IT ALMOST BECOMES, BECAUSE OF
THE HISTORY, THE WAYS IN WHICH
CHINESE CUISINE IS NOW “THE,”
ETHNIC CUISINE OF CHOICE.
THIS BANALITY TOTALLY RENDERS
THE ETHNIC PRESENCE INVISIBLE.
IN OTHER WORDS, ASIAN-AMERICANS'
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MATERIAL
AND SYMBOLIC ASPECTS OF FOOD IS
PART OF THEIR CONTINUING
MARGINAL AND ABJECT STATUS IN
THE AMERICAN CULTURAL IMAGINARY,
WHILE LATINOS AND AFRICAN-
AMERICANS HAVE ALSO BEEN
IMPORTANT SOURCES LABOUR FOR
FOOD PRODUCTION AND SERVICE
INDUSTRIES, ASIAN-AMERICANS HAVE
BEEN SYMBOLICALLY AND
STEREOTYPICALLY LINKED TO FOOD.
TAKE THE RECENT--
OH, WELL, THERE WAS A DEBACLE
WITH RACIST T-SHIRTS FROM THE
CLOTHING COMPANY ABERCROMBIE AND
FITCH.
I'M NOT SURE IF YOU'VE HEARD OF
IT, BUT THEY HAD A SERIES OF T-
SHIRTS THAT CAME OUT, THAT HAD
THINGS LIKE YOU KNOW, PING'S
RESTAURANT, AND PING'S TAKE OUT
FOOD, WITH FIGURES WITH SQUINTY
EYES, AND CONICAL HATS, THAT
THEY IMMEDIATELY REMOVED FROM
THE MARKET AFTER UM...
AFTER SEVERAL ASIAN-AMERICAN
POLITICAL GROUPS PROTESTED.
SO IN FACT, THIS IS SOMETHING
THAT COMES IN AGAIN AND AGAIN.
TO CONCLUDE, THE TWO EXAMPLES I
HAVE PRESENTED TO YOU, AND I
HAVE TOTAL-- IN A BIGGER PAPER,
I HAVE ETHNOGRAPHIC EXAMPLES, I
HAVE PRESENTED TO YOU, GIVE US A
GLIMPSE OF THE EMERGING IDEAS OF
WHAT MIGHT BE THE CULINARY
COUNTERPART OF WHAT BAMBI
HAGGINS TALKED ABOUT YESTERDAY
AS THE POST 9-11, POST RACIAL
IDEOLOGY.
THAT IT IS, IN FACT, LIKE THIS
POST RACIAL IDEOLOGY, THE
PALATABLE MULTICULTURALISM I'M
TALKING ABOUT IS AN IDEOLOGY
THAT IS PRODUCED, DELIVERED AND
EATEN UP BY A PUBLIC THAT TRIES
TO OVERCOME AND SUBJUGATE THE
SMELLY, THE DISTASTEFUL, THE
FOREIGN, THE VIOLENT, THE
ABNORMAL OR THE QUEER.
IN ADDITION, THIS
MULTICULTURALISM DOMESTICATES
THE UNALLOYED OR UNFUSED, THE
UNASSIMILATED OR INASSIMILABLE
INTO AN ACCEPTABLE MIX OF
IDENTITIES, PRACTICES AND IMAGES
TO BE CONSUMED, AND YES, TO BE
SILENCED.
YET IN THE PROCESS OF SILENCING
AND SUBJUGATING THESE ABERRANT
PHENOMENA, THE ANALOGY OF A
PALATABLE MULTICULTURALISM
RE-ESTABLISHES THE BOUNDARIES OF
DIFFERENCE, THUS MAINTAINING
VESTIGES OF THE COLOUR LINE
AMIDST THE CELEBRATORY OVERTONES
OF CULINARY LIBERATION.
AS INTELLECTUALS AND AS
CITIZENS, WE NEED TO UNRAVEL AND
DISMANTLE THIS OBFUSCATING
CULTURAL IDEOLOGY, TO REFUSE THE
REPAST OF OLD IDENTITIES IN NEW
DRESSINGS, OF INTIMACY WITHIN
HIERARCHIES, AND OF FOOD LOVE
WITHOUT LABOUR.
THANK YOU.

[Applause]

Watch: Martin Manalansan on A Palatable Multiculturalism