Role of Food in Construction of Social Identity Essay

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Food is a highly unique commodity, for though it is essential to every single person on earth, there is no other commodity which is acquired and consumed in such diverse ways. It is a multifaceted social instrument, serving to connect people across cultural boundaries while simultaneously drawing lines through society, dividing people across race and class. Though we have discussed the connections between certain alternative food movements and the creation of a ‘white’ identity, I contend that the social mechanisms of food extend beyond the production of ‘whiteness’, and are intricately bound up in the creation and perpetuation of other racial and class identities in Western society. As the ways in which we consume and engage with food …show more content…

By compartmentalizing food into such racial categories, the ‘white’ consumer draws boundaries between themselves and ‘others’.

Alternative movements, such as eating organic, also become “performative of an elite sensibility” (Guthman 2003, 52), as food is used as a symbol of certain social and environmental values, while the consumption of this food bolsters a sense of heightened moral superiority. Product manufacturers have been particularly astute in rebranding even the most unhealthy of foods, such as sugar, by ‘re-enchanting’ foods, projecting ‘holistic’ notions such as the family farm across their plastic packaging. These “supermarket narratives” play into consumer desires for ‘healthy’ foods by emphasizing ‘freshness’ and ‘sustainability’ (Reisch 2003), ideas which complement the ‘white’ ideology of food. In consuming these ‘healthier’ foods, the white middle class consumer often separates themselves from fast food eaters, who are viewed as mindless fools (Guthman 2003, 55).

Through this, it can be seen that the ‘white’ consumer often assumes that the choice of what to eat is similar for all, and is ignorant that “levels and practices of food consumption have been shaped by social ranking and

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