Intangible culinary heritage: France and Mexico's construction of symbolic closure on UNESCO's list of the intangible heritage
thesisposted on 23.05.2021, 19:10 by Sarah Hewitt
In this work I argue that UNESCO intangible heritage inscriptions discursively root fluid and moveable food traditions in place. The nomination forms for the French gastronomic meal and Mexican traditional cuisine reign in the symbolic meaning of their food traditions through the process of definition and description, connecting them to territory, national history, and kinship in order to promote fixed and essentialized national culinary identities. Through an examination of the nominations submitted by each respective Member State, I show how the intangible becomes tangible and how this tangibility serves to assuage anxieties over contamination, the dissolution of the nation state, and the fading away of historical narratives. Embedding and fixing these traditions within place portrays the nation as a site of agency with a unique (and, more problematically, fixed) cultural identity. Taking on solid form, these traditions also come to narrate collective pasts, providing a place for those in the present as cultural protectors and propagators.