Between rough and refined: Omnivorous consumption and palatable elitism in mediatized food discourse

Mapes, Gwynne Erin (2018). Between rough and refined: Omnivorous consumption and palatable elitism in mediatized food discourse (Unpublished). In: Talking about Food: Local and Global Contexts conference. University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany. 27-28 April 2018.

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Food, like language, plays a central role in the production of culture; it is likewise a powerful resource for the representation and organization of social order. Status is asserted or contested through both the materiality of food (e.g. its substance and raw economics) and through its discursivity (e.g. the way it is depicted and discussed). This intersection of language and materiality (cf. Cavanaugh and Shankar 2017) makes food an ideal site for examining the place of language in contemporary class formations (cf. Thurlow 2016). Orienting more specifically to elite discourse studies (e.g. Thurlow and Jaworski 2014), I argue that mediatized representations are instrumental in teaching people how to attain and manage privilege. Central to this instructional function is conveying the need to disavow entitlement or snobbery and, instead, to assert one’s status on the grounds of effort and inclusivity. As empirical evidence, I turn to a dataset of New York Times food section Instagram (@nytfood) posts, documenting the multimodal tactics by which food media writers and users perform a kind of acceptable or “palatable” eliteness. One such tactic is the framing of “rough” and “refined,” and the juxtaposition of various forms of supposedly low and highbrow cultural artifacts or practices. For example, @nytfood features one photo of a restaurant’s (expensive) lobster and Swiss chard dish, accompanied by the following caption about the 17 restaurant itself: “[this is] a swell place to spend a night in a postindustrial zone where gentrification has moved as slowly as the fluid in the canal”. Elite readers are thus invited to imagine an experience, for one night, that is both fine dining and slumming (cf. Koven 2006). Additionally, they are invited to work through their status publically by commenting on or tagging other users in posts, nicely exposing how putatively inclusive, democratic digital platforms are often spaces of social hierarchy (cf. Naccarato and LeBesco 2012). In sum, my paper speaks to the ways mediatized food discourse demonstrates and demands a nuanced preference for egalitarian, “omnivorous consumption” (cf. Khan 2014), which is essential to performing the “good taste” (Bourdieu 1984) of contemporary privilege. References Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. by R. Nice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Cavanaugh, Jillian R. and Shalini Shankar, eds. 2017. Language and Materiality: Ethnographical and Theoretical Explorations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Khan, Shamus R. 2014. “The Ease of Mobility.” In: Birtchnell, Thomas and Javier Caletrío, eds. Elite Mobilities. London: Routledge. 136-148. Koven, Seth. 2006. Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Naccarato, Peter and Kathleen LeBesco. 2012. Culinary Capital. London/New York: Berg. Thurlow, Crispin. 2016. “Queering Critical Discourse Studies or/and Performing Post-class Ideologies.” Critical Discourse Studies 13(5): 485-514. Thurlow, Crispin and Adam Jaworski. 2014. “Visible-Invisible: The Social Semiotics of Labour in Luxury Tourism.” In: Birtchnell, Thomas and Javier Caletrío, eds. Elite Mobilities. London: Routledge. 176-193.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of English Languages and Literatures > Modern English Linguistics

UniBE Contributor:

Mapes, Gwynne Erin

Subjects:

400 Language
400 Language > 410 Linguistics
400 Language > 420 English & Old English languages

Language:

English

Submitter:

Leona Josefine Irmgard Goop

Date Deposited:

23 Jan 2019 17:43

Last Modified:

23 Jan 2019 17:43

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/122620

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