ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Gastrodiplomacy, Conflict, and Culinary Debate

A form of soft power, gastrodiplomacy is widely employed by states trying to construct a particular image through subtle ways.

The troubles between Turkey and Greece over Baklava—the layered, sweet, and nutty pastry—are not unknown, while this sweet dish is a part of the identity of
nations like Turkey, Greece, Syria, Armenia, and more. In a globalised world market, food is a product of a certain origin and this identity also fetches economic value. This further sets up the question of authenticity among the states regarding a national cuisine—the contestation among states about national cuisine is an attempt to create a national narrative about one’s own identity. This food identity creates a counter-narrative to the homogenising tendencies of globalisation while often encouraging tourism and the food business. Countries like Thailand have effectively used their cuisine to create a new image for themselves. The green and red curries of Thai cuisine are now synonymous with the identity of Thailand. Food also has been a part of the resistance as witnessed during the Arab Uprising when the citizens of Egypt took to the streets with bread in their hand against the rising price of wheat. In Brazil, the famous Tortilla riot was against the hike in the price of corn flour reducing the affordability of the people’s staple food.

It is a common instinct for every human being to live within a community, and a natural need to identify themselves with an extended group of people with similarities to form a collective identity. This is a way to also trace the roots and histories of different communities that exist all over the world. Gastrodiplomacy, or culinary diplomacy, is a form of cultural diplomacy where food is used as a tool to attract and influence foreign audiences. It can change a country’s national image and is widely employed by states trying to construct a particular image or better their standing and identity on the global platform. At its core lies Joseph Nye’s concept of “soft power” and the ability of a state to attract another through its culture and values rather than coercion through military and economic means. Gastrodiplomacy is usually premised on the claims of ownership of a particular cuisine as the “national cuisine.” However, the evolution of food politics is not merely restricted to one’s regional identity but has developed through the fusion of many interacting and colliding cultures. In world politics, heightened by strong nationalist sentiments, modern states have constructed and reconstructed the ideas of national cuisines for identity formation. They have engaged in the promotion of culinary diplomacy, cooking shows, publication of cookbooks, and promotion of restaurants and chefs. This helps in the enhancement of business, trades, investments, and tourism, and helps in nation-branding.

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Updated On : 23rd Aug, 2023
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