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Ulrich Beck, Cosmopolitical Realism: On the Distinction between Cosmopolitanism in Philosophy and the Social Sciences, Global Networks, 4, 2, (2004): 139. 2. Ranji Devadason, Cosmopolitanism, Geographical Imaginaries and Belonging in North London, Urban Studies, 47, 14, (2010): 2945-2963. 3. Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitan Patriots, Critical Inquiry 23, 3, (1997): 617-639; Ulrich Beck, Cosmopolitical Realism, op. cit., pp131-156; Devadason, Cosmopolitanism, Geographical Imaginaries and Belonging in North London, op. cit. 4. Greg Noble, Everyday Cosmopolitanism and the Labour of Intercultural Community, in Everyday Multiculturalism, Amanda Wise and Selvaraj Velayutham (eds), London, Palgrave, 2009, pp46-65. 5. Cited in Nissa Finney and Ludi Simpson, Sleepwalking to Segregation?: Challenging Myths About Race and Migration, Bristol, Policy Press, 2009, p94. 6. Ted Cantle, Community Cohesion: A New Framework for Race and Diversity, Houndsmills, Palgrave, 2008.

Moving Food: gustatory CoMMensality and disjunCture in everyday MultiCulturalisM

Amanda Wise
Abstract This essay draws on the fieldwork from three research projects undertaken in Australia between 2002 and 2007. The general research was concerned with investigating the phenomenology of everyday diversity as it was experienced in a number of spatial contexts (suburban, urban, regional, shopping mall, church and so on). Material interactions with food were found to be a privileged arena for experiences of living within a multi culture, and food consumption constituted a site for experiences of cultural anxiety and disjuncture as well as for prosaic forms of low-level cosmopolitanism. Living in common means living with common resources. Commensality - in its etymology - names the practice of eating at the same table; in its more general meaning it describes the practice of living together with others. This paper explores commensal practices that encourage convivial experiences of multiculturalism while also investigating how the experience of sitting down with others can exacerbate cultural differences. Keywords cultural fragrance, commensality, conviviality, cosmopolitanism, diversity, food, space, recognition, reciprocity, non-space

Cosmopolitanism is often conceived as an ethical stance holding the potential to overcome racist, nationalist identity orientations which undermine an individuals capacity to embrace, define, and inhabit the multicultural nation and multi-ethnic city on non-assimilative terms. While cosmopolitanism has become a topic of considerable attention from philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists and others, Beck has astutely asked, how do cosmopolitan democracy, justice, solidarity, legality, politics, statehood and so forth become possible?1 To that I would add, how does one become the kind of person who might hold a cosmopolitan world view with the capacity to enact this in everyday life? In addition, given that this was a traditionally bourgeois concept,2 how do class, gender, age and other forms of difference and overlapping hierarchies inflect the process of becoming cosmopolitan? There is a recently emerging literature that differentiates between cosmopolitan ethics, which define it in utopian, normative terms, and cosmopolitan practice.3 Only very recently, however, has attention begun to turn to the question of becoming cosmopolitan; that is how it is that the dispositional and affective capacity to take the cosmopolitan perspective might evolve.4 This does seem a pressing question since it lies at the heart of (questionable) anxieties expressed by individuals such as Trevor Philips, Britains former
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Racial Discrimination Commissioner. In a controversial 2005 speech, Phillips argued that Britain was sleepwalking into segregation. This he viewed as contributing to recent race riots and ethnic conflicts because we have allowed tolerance for diversity to harden into effective isolation of communities.5 In his analysis of race-based riots in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham, influential policy thinkers like Ted Cantle responded to Phillips concerns with calls for more mixing across race and ethnic difference in a bid to build community cohesion.6 Consequently, the more mixing discourse is now firmly embedded within public policy in the UK, Europe, Australia and elsewhere.7 And these policies are clearly oriented towards working class forms of mixing of the everyday variety. Implicit within these mixing discourses is an assumption that quotidian contact with the Other will loosen identities, produce affective ties across difference, and produce more cosmopolitan dispositions amongst those involved in the mix. Putting aside some of the obvious problems with Philips and Cantles reading of the extent, causes, and outcomes of segregation, it remains that mixing continues to be a key aspect of contemporary community cohesion policies. However, to some extent the outcomes of mixing are typically presumed to be positive while more difficult aspects are often glossed over.8 This poses the question then, under what conditions does intercultural mixing change dispositions and orientations to the other? Food is frequently at the centre of much intercultural contact, figuring prominently in the deeply contested terrain of race, ethnicity and cultural diversity. Food travels diasporic and migratory routes, reproducing and recreating identities abroad; it can interweave with other foodways, creating hybrid or transversal identities, or reinforce the boundaries of old ones. It can be the subject of both disgust and desire, mediating cultural difference in multicultural settings. This all occurs in everyday settings; eating in an ethnic restaurant, partaking in a multicultural feast, or eating at a multicultural festival. Because it is at once everyday, deeply embodied, and yet so symbolic of difference, food also appears regularly in community cohesion mixing interventions to bring people together and foster intercultural conviviality.9 However, such initiatives often simply assume that eating the food of the other in intercultural situations will have positive outcomes for race and interethnic Fig 1: Poster for Taste of Harmony initiative, a campaign run in 2010 as part of the Australian Harmony Day festivities held annually on the UNs International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
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7. In Britain, see for example the resources on the Institute for Community Cohesion website: <http://resources. cohesioninstitute.>; in Australia, see the programmes funded under the Coalition governments Living in Harmony programme, and from 2008 onwards, the Diverse Australia Program: <http://www. funding/communitygrants/major.htm> 8. For a good discussion of this contact discourse, see Gill Valentine, Living with Difference: Reflections on Geographies of Encounter, Progress in Human Geography, 32, 3, (2008): 321335.


9. Paul Gilroy, After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture?, London, Routledge, 2004.

10. Anglo-Celtic is used in the Australian context to denote the dominant white majority community. Anglo-Celtic signals the broadly intermeshed culture of white descendants of English, Irish and Scottish immigrants to Australia, who made up the majority population in Australia until the 1970s. 11. Ian Cook et al, Geographies of Food: Mixing, Progress in Human Geography, 32, 6, (2008): 1-13. 12. Sneja Gunew, Introduction: Multicultural Translations of Food, Bodies, Language, Journal of Intercultural Studies, 21, 3, (2000): 227. 13. Ghassan Hage, At Home in the Entrails of the West, in Home/World: Space, Community and Marginality in Sydneys West, Helen Grace et al, (eds), Sydney, Pluto Press, 1997; Benedict Anderson, The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia and the World , New York, Verso, 1998.

relations. At the discursive and symbolic level too, the desire and embrace of diverse foodways is promoted in many western nations as characteristic of an emergent cosmopolitanism at the national level, and functions as a form of cultural capital for the cosmopolitan middle classes. Given the prominence of food in discourses and policies around community cohesion, mixing and becoming cosmopolitan, this essay takes food as an everyday lens into these contested debates. The essay reflects upon the question of food and gustatory commensality and disjuncture via material gathered in three research projects carried out between 2002 and 2007, each focused in different ways on the phenomenology of everyday diversity. It asks, under what conditions does inter-cultural food consumption, contact, and sharing produce positive connections across difference? The first study, Contact Zones, explored everyday affinities and disjunctures in an old Sydney neighbourhood, Ashfield, recently transformed by Chinese migration to the area. The focus of that project was how Anglo-Celtic10 and long time residents from other backgrounds such as Italians, Greeks and Indians were coping with the changes brought about by the transformation of the local shopping high street where approximately eighty percent of shops are now Chinese-owned, and it targeted businesses such as restaurants and Asian grocery markets. The second study focused on exploring everyday relationships between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians in Sydney. This included exploring what underpins experiences of everyday racism as well as friendships and positive encounters between groups. The third study centred on a regional town in a fruit growing area of country in New South Wales, Australia. A town of about 50,000, Griffith has a long history of successful migration and settlement of diverse groups, beginning with Italians and Punjabi Sikhs in the 1950s and 1960s. More recently, groups settling there have included communities from Turkey, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, The Cook Islands, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Vietnam, Taiwan and China. Food was a common thread through each of these studies, playing a role in reflecting and indeed producing inter-ethnic commensalities and disjunctures. LIVERPOOL ROAD Food and diversity have often been written from the point of view, or via a critique of, middle-class cosmopolitan elites and their multicultural eating habits. Popular discourse about the value of cultural diversity in the West very often focuses on the enrichment of Anglo food with multicultural cuisines. A familiar trope in the scholarly literature on diversity and food critiques views this as a form of neo-colonial, Orientalist appropriation and consumption of ethnic difference, requiring little in the way of real engagement with the Other. Cook cites bell hooks work as exemplary of this tradition.11 She argues that, through food, ethnic difference is simply consumed in such a way that the Others difference is eradicated and
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decontextualised. Gunew laments that food has become the most benign version of accommodating cultural difference, leaving deep-seated race-based power differentials untouched.12 Thus, eating ethnic food often manifests as a form of celebratory multiculturalism where a middle class cosmo-multicultural elite appreciate and consume cultural difference as exotica from a disengaged standpoint, while remaining at the centre with the power to decide who and what to tolerate.13 Writers such as Buettner point out the (apparent) irony that while there has been a phenomenal increase in ethnic eating exemplified, for example, by the White British notion of going for a curry,14 this kind of multicultural consumption has occurred at the same time (and often by the same actors) as an increase in White racism. That is to say, she sees no evidence of any link between ethnic eating and a reduction in racism.15 While not irrelevant, this article argues that there are other windows through which we might view the role of food in constructing, reconstructing and mediating cultural differences in multicultural settings. It asks, under what conditions do experiences of otherness through food make cosmopolitans or contribute to positive relationships across difference? The stereotypical cosmo-multiculturalist figured only very lightly in my fieldwork. Instead, what became apparent was that there were multiple, situational dimensions to how food mediates inter-ethnic relations in diverse urban settings. For example, it matters who is doing the consuming, in what kind of social setting, where food is eaten: as a consumer in a restaurant; demonstrating ones cultural capital at a dinner party; or in a more convivial feast of commensality; appreciating ethnic food at a multicultural festival; sharing food at a Friday afternoon BBQ on the factory floor amongst diverse workers; swapping vegetables with ethnically different neighbours; or gifts of food during a religious or cultural festival; eating in the shopping centre food court; or on the street in an ethnic neighbourhood. In each setting - the spaces of consumption, the social rituals involved, the actual food consumed, and the prevailing political and cultural winds - all mediate how, and in what way, food matters in intercultural settings, and whether, and to what extent identities are ascribed, reinscribed, traversed or reworked.16 Further, the sensuous qualities of food thread through all of these encounters, invoking, evoking, knitting together, incorporating, pushing apart, and re-habituating bodies along the way.
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Fig 2: Ashfield high street

14. In Australia, this would be going for Thai, or going for Chinese. Other Western nations obviously have their own versions. 15. Elizabeth Buettner, Going for an Indian: South Asian Restaurants and the Limits of Multiculturalism in Britain, The Journal of Modern History, 80, 2008.

16. David Bell and Gill Valentine, Consuming Geographies: We Are Where We Eat, London, Routledge, 1997.


SPACES OF CONSUMPTION Much of the literature on food and consumption of Other cuisines takes the actual site of consumption for granted. It is often assumed that the consumption of ethnic food takes place in restaurants in a commercial transaction. However, I want to argue that the actual spaces of consumption (that is, the very materiality of the spaces, as well as the cultural and social relations they foster and or embody) matter immensely in how food mediates inter-ethnic intermingling. Reflecting on my own city, what became readily clear was that the space where the most regular contact takes place with ethnic Others is not actually on the street in ethnic neighbourhoods but in suburban shopping malls, large and small. And within these malls, it is the centre food courts where the most intimate encounters with diversity occur. This poses a number of questions. What is the difference between eating in the food court, and eating authentically in an ethnic restaurant on the high street? What is the difference between a small suburban non-regulated food court, and a big super-mall chain such as Westfield? What is the difference when one involves social interaction between regular customers and shopkeepers? How do these situations of commercial transaction differ from consuming food of the Other in a situation of conviviality and commensality? How does the presence, absence, or underplaying of cultural scent matter? Does it matter with whom you are eating: side by side with strangers in a food court, or interacting around a dinner table? SCENTED AND NON-SCENTED SPACES (FOOD COURT VS HIGH STREET)
17. Marc Aug, NonPlaces: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, London, Verso, 1992; George Ritzer, The Mcdonaldization of Society, Newbury Park CA, Pine Forge, 1993; John Manzo, Social Control and the Management Of Personal Space in Shopping Malls, Space & Culture 8, 1, (2005): 83-97. 18. Lu Shun and Gary Alan Fine, The Presentation of Ethnic Authenticity: Chinese Food as a Social Accomplishment, Sociological Quarterly 36, 3, (2005): 535553.

It readily became apparent during the four studies upon which this essay is based, that the food court in the neighbourhood and regional mall is a site par excellence for encounters with everyday cultural difference and the prosaic consumption of ethnic food. The Ashfield study involved some months of participant observation in various spaces of food consumption. Food courts are typically characterised as anonymous non-places of Disneyland-like hyper-consumption and regulation.17 Eating ethnic food in such spaces is contrasted unfavourably with the more authentic experience of eating on an ethnic street in an ethnic neighbourhood. Independently owned restaurants run by ethnic entrepreneurs are seen to offer some level of organic, rather than manufactured difference, and, for the cosmo-multiculturalist, represent a sense of touristic adventure, and a space to acquire cosmopolitan cultural capital.18 Ashfield Mall is a small suburban shopping mall (as against a larger regional shopping mall). It spans only two floors, houses three supermarkets, four or five clothing stores, a newsagent, post office, a couple of shoe stores, photo processing store, and a couple of chemists. The mall sits in the middle
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of the Liverpool Road high street stretch, and is the main draw card for the area. The food court is the hub of the mall and very much a stop off point for most who shop there. More than seventy languages are spoken in Ashfield, and on a typical day, a good portion of those can be heard in the food court. The food stalls include Evelyns Coffee Shop, run by a Chinese couple, and Sindhoor, an Indian place run by Tamil speakers from South India. They have modified their menu to encompass more North Indian dishes in the last year to serve the mostly Punjabi Indian international students who study and work in the area. Any leftover curry and rice is packaged up at the end of each day and discounted into $5 meal boxes. Enough to feed two, the international students (mainly young men) have cottoned onto this bargain hour, and flock there after classes to purchase their evening meals. Next door is a Thai place, popular with everyone, and next to them a Chinese buffet, a sandwich shop owned by Chinese, a Turkish kebab house, and a KFC outlet. There is a distinct temporal rhythm to the space. On weekday mornings, one length of tables are occupied by a group of ten or so Italian men who meet to drink coffee, talk, debate, play cards, and generally while away the time. They buy their coffee from the Italian-themed coffee shop owned and run by local Chinese immigrants. Large-screen TVs hanging above hum with the sound of Oprah or the news. The tables in the middle are occupied by a few elderly white men (I suspect widowers living alone), usually with a cup of coffee and a newspaper. Typically theyll be sitting alone but apparently enjoying the light-touch company of others occupying this public space. There is a soup kitchen up the road so there are often homeless men occupying tables near the TVs and weve seen the Chinese couple who run Evelyns coffee shop give free coffee and cake to a couple of them who come regularly. They always make an effort to remember the names and typical order for their frequent customers and have a pin board where they display photos of babies of their regulars. Cleaning the tables are Filipinas, Indian (female this time) international students, and our Greek neighbour who stops by our table for a chat as she cleans - typically to say hello to my baby, and sometimes with some gossip about our (Tamil, Anglo and Italian) neighbours to share. Iraqi and Sudanese refugees (and increasingly, Indian international students) collect runaway shopping trolleys for the big supermarket chains, pushing trains of them through the food court on the way from the car park, stopping to collect abandoned ones along the way. Serving alongside local youths from various backgrounds at the KFC counter are more international students, from China and India, working part-time to support their studies. After school, Indian, Pacific Islander, Sri Lankan, Filipina, Portuguese, Polish, Lebanese, Korean, Italian, Anglo and Chinese mums, grandparents and kids stop in for a bite to eat and there are as many culturally and racially mixed families, as single ethnicity ones. Wednesday is old-age pension day and the Anglo ladies come out en-masse dressed in their best to treat themselves to lunch.
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Fig 3: Ashfield Food court on a weekday lunchtime, January 2010 Weekday lunchtimes see crowds of public servants (Anglo, and non-Anglo middle-classes) who drop in from their nearby office building. During my many interviews and outings with Anglo senior citizens in Ashfield, I slowly became aware that, despite its size, Ashfield Mall was somehow invisible to them in the context of discussions on diversity and their negative feelings about cultural difference and place change. Moreover, the space where they spent most of their time eating in Ashfield - the mall food court - was in fact the most culturally diverse space in the suburb, in terms of the consumers eating there, and the variety of food on offer. Food courts, at least in the popular cosmo-multiculturalist imagination, represent a safe way of consuming cuisines of the Other. This is a discourse which sees the suburban malls international food court as a space of safe approximation where cuisines of the Other are watered down, and made bland for a popular (white bread) palate. It is seen as a space where the Pad Thai, Chicken Korma, kebab and fried rice become fast food which no longer resemble their authentic ethnic culinary origins. Setting the quality of the food aside for a moment (always a subjective issue in any case), I suggest that food courts are spaces where being around difference and diversity becomes inhabited and habituated precisely because they slide beneath the Otherness radar of the average suburban consumer (of whatever ethnicity). Writing about Japanese technology, Iwabuchi proposes the concept of cultural odour. He describes cultural fragrance as the way in which cultural features of a country of origin and images and ideas of its national, in most cases stereotyped, way of life are associated positively with a particular cultural
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product in the consumption process.19 Cultural odour becomes a fragrance when the smell becomes culturally and socially acceptable. Iwabuchi argues that Japanese audio-visual consumer technologies (DVD players, televisions and the like) are culturally odourless, designed not to specifically invoke ideas of Japan, in order to make inroads into international markets. Carrying little in the way of Japanese cultural imprint, Iwabuchi argues that transnationally circulated commodities such as audio-visual technologies become culturally odourless in the sense that their origins are subsumed by the local transculturation process.20 To borrow Iwabuchis concept, Other cuisines in the suburban international food court carry, I suggest, only the lightest fragrance compared to that encountered on the typical ethnic high street. And this is not so much a characteristic of abridged menu offerings, and in-authentic watered down tastes, but of the very aesthetic and social qualities of the space. Thomas has explored changing taste cultures among Vietnamese youth in Australia and found that food courts had become important places for these diasporic youth to gather with peers away from the gaze of their elders, and their strict codes of behaviour.21 Ritzers McDonaldisation thesis suggests that a key part of the appeal of food courts is the lack of cutlery, tableware, surveillance of waiters, and the disapproval of other customers. These features reduce the sense of anxiety experienced in more formal spaces such as cafes and restaurants where more ritualised and codified boundaries of behaviour are demanded. Thomas suggests it is this very absence of formality and ritual that Vietnamese youth are drawn to as it offers a zone to carve out a sense of belonging to a global youth culture, culturally diverse friendship networks and to wider society, through spatial distancing from what they may perceive as the boundedness of ethnicity lived at home through eating traditional Vietnamese food.22 In Iwabuchis model, what determines whether a commodity is odourless or culturally fragrant is, thus, not just the commodity itself, but its packaging and design. Extending this to the question of food, I argue that the cultural odour becomes more obvious if consumed in a place characterised by aesthetics of difference such as an ethnic restaurant on a high street in an ethnic neighbourhood. Things like the dcor, the signage and menu style, the surrounding shops and the signage (for example in Chinese script) increase the odour. In some cases the rituals of restaurant eating induce a level of anxiety that increases awareness of the presence of difference (e.g. Chinese wait staff or customers). Conversely, the lack of such rituals combined with the aesthetic and material non-place character of mall food court spaces induces, instead, a sense of light cultural fragrance and eating thus becomes less about consuming otherness. This is despite the fact that the service staff and other customers are ethnically different (from the Anglo seniors Im describing). I suggest lightly fragranced rather than odourless because difference is not entirely absent. Rather, it exists at a lower order of consciousness and is not
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19. Koichi Iwabuchi, Recentering Globalization: Popular Culture and Japanese Transnationalism, Durham and London, Duke University Press, 2002, p27. 20. Ibid., p94.

21. Mandy Thomas, Transitions in Taste in Vietnam and the Diaspora, Australian Journal of Anthropology 15, 1, (2004): 54-67.

22. Ibid., p64.


23. Ghassan Hage, White Nation: Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society, Sydney, Pluto Press, 1998; Leonie Sandercock, Cosmopolis II: Mongrel Cities in the Twenty-First Century, London, Continuum, 2003. 24. Sandercock, Cosmopolis II, op. cit., p113. 25. Ben Highmore, Alimentary Agents: Food, Cultural Theory and Multiculturalism, Journal of Intercultural Studies, 29, 4, (2008): 396. 26. Sophie Watson, City Publics: The (Dis)Enchantments of Urban Encounters, London, Routledge, 2006; Sophie Watson, The Magic of the Marketplace: Sociality in a Neglected Public Space, Urban Studies, 46, 8, (2009): 1589. 27. Uma Narayan, Dislocating Cultures: Identities, Traditions, and Third-World Feminism, London, Routledge, 1997, p184.

the primary frame of reference for the experience. It is precisely due to the lightly fragrant nature of the presence of cultural otherness that difference slides below the radar, operating at the subconscious level. As Thomas suggests, the informality of the food court means it is a relatively anxiety free space. Spaces such as Ashfield Malls food court are where everyday multiculturalism is inhabited rather than appropriated as a form of cultural capital. The Other is present, not just behind the counters, but at the next table. The fact that there is little requirement to step out of ones comfort zone - in terms of cuisine, and other aesthetic and social rituals - means that difference in a sense becomes part of the wallpaper, and that culinary and cultural experimentation can occur without feeling too threatening. This under the radar capacity of food courts contrasts with the narratives of loss and competition that authors such as Hageand and Sandercock recount.23 In this view a desire to reassert control over ones spatial territory, ones spatial habitus, is a result of a deep sense of loss and displacement for those residents unable to adapt to the changes brought about by diversity.24 Highmore suggests that spaces of cross-cultural food consumption are places where new not me worlds are encountered, and the affective registers (such as joy, aggression, fear) permeating these encounters offer, on the one hand, a kind of barometer for the wider sense of everyday multiculturalism, and on the other, represent transformative negotiations in themselves.25 Rather than strong affects such as disgust or desire, what I want to suggest is that lightly fragrant food courts could be said to evoke a sense of difference more akin to an affective register of banality, representing the fact that most encounters with and perceptions of difference are in fact day to day mundane forms of rubbing along.26 Uma Narayan has argued that gustatory relish can stand in for an absence of real relationships and contact with those different from ourselves. She suggests that gustatory relish for the food of others may help contribute to an appreciation of their presence in the national community27 on the basis that it produces some level of embodied connection, rather than privileging knowledge of culture in an intellectual sense. Although focused on explicit desire for the food of the Other, this point can extend to consumption of Other foods in situations of more mundane intermingling such as food courts. Here, the lightly fragranced banality of Otherness produces only the vaguest sense of incorporation of difference, slipping below the anxiety radar such that rubbing along with the Other and their food becomes embodied as part of the material and social landscape, where Pad Thai or Chicken Korma in a sense become white bread, and come to embody a taken for granted ethnic and racial landscape. That is, rather than fierce relish or desire, we are talking of a banal, low level, hum of positive affect engendered with lightly fragranced difference, because it is consumed in a non-place, in the sense of aesthetic form (tables, dcor and the like), and in a situation absent of formal social rituals, where difference is there, without being too present.
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Earlier I posed the question, what is the difference between a food court in a large regional shopping mall, and a small suburban one such as Ashfield Mall? Small neighbourhood malls such as these tend to be less regulated. The smaller, more human scale of the food court, coupled with the fact that many of the food stalls are owner-operated mean that social interactions between shop staff and regular customers is more likely. On any given day in Ashfields food court, the Chinese owners of the Italian coffee shop are chatting with their regular clientele, and nearly always remember your regular coffee order. They give a free coffee to the Tamil owners of Sindhoor at the tired end of a long afternoon cooking. The Tamil boys will stop for a chat with the Chinese owners before returning to their posts. While the coffee shop chain Gloria Jeans28 chases away homeless men from their more formal and enclosed caf at the other end of the mall, as already mentioned the owners of Evelyns Coffee Shop in the food court regularly give free coffee to a homeless man who then blends back into the casual seating area. A large number of Anglo seniors are also regular customers. Those I spoke to said they were drawn there by the personal attention and informal chat with the friendly Chinese owners who remembered them and even greet them if they walked by without buying. Henry: The strange thing, in the Mall youve got a food court, youve got a donner kebab, run by Lebanese, youve got a Vietnamese shop, a Thai food shop, then youve got Dans Chinese shop, then youve got a sandwich shop. Im just taking these four shops, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and the other one is half Chinese and half . Served, maintained, kept up, all the communication is there, and they are all of different nationalities, but theyre like you and me. They speak beautiful English. Their service is good, clean and as a result people shop at those little shops. Theres a little coffee kiosk there, run by a couple of Chinese, one girl is Jan, the other is Danielle, and her husband, and there are two assistants, Chinese, beautiful English. If they find that youre old, theyll come and serve you at your table, even though its a food court. Research suggests that older people often lack adequate social networks, and as a result many increasingly rely on non-traditional social networks with people such as retail employees for support.29 These are, in Lofland terms, intimate secondary relationships, in that they are emotionally infused relationships that take place in the public sphere.30 It is not inconsequential that the people serving food in Ashfields food court are extremely culturally diverse. Coupled with the positive feelings of social belonging that emerge from customer-shopkeeper relationships in the smaller food courts, it is possible to see evidence of a mundane, yet positive relation to difference emerge. Ashfields Anglo seniors all spoke of the Mall as a much more comfortable space of belonging than the high street. Here, encounters with cultural
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28. Gloria Jeans is the Australian version of Star Bucks which is set up as an enclosed caf at the other end of the mall to the food court.

29. Mark S. Rosenbaum, Exploring the Social Supportive Role of Third Places in Consumers Lives, Journal of Service Research, 9,1, (2006): 60. 30. Lyn H. Lofland, The Public Realm: Exploring the Citys Quintessential Social Territory, New Brunswhich, Transaction Publishers, 1998.


Fig 4: Some Ashfield Seniors in the food court on pension day difference seemed to produce much less anxiety than outside, and by and large, this had to do with the quality of the interactions and an ability to function and communicate in English. Ideas of civility threaded through all their narratives. Komter sees civility as deeper than superficial ideas of manners and courtesy, and conceptually more akin to notions of solidarity. Following Shils, he sees civility as involving everyday relations of recognition of the humanity of self and others and a willingness - based upon an awareness of mutual dependency - to develop communality with others.31 As Henrys narrative above suggests, many Anglos were almost taken by surprise when asked to reflect on cultural difference in the space of the mall, as though difference was not something they had particularly associated with the space before. Although many of the elderly Anglos in Ashfield had little in the way of deep friendships or contact networks with those culturally different from themselves, the diverse food court workers with whom they interact in some sense came to stand in for the Other. Nonetheless it is important to be circumspect, as Henry reminds us, as many of these seniors express quite contradictory views about Chinese in Ashfield, and their acceptance is usually quite conditional. Lightly fragrant spaces are not just designed spaces. The local fruit and vegetable market was also raised several times as somewhere seniors felt comfortable. The main Ashfield Fruit Market is a large, cavernous, barn-like establishment at the far end of the Liverpool Road high street shops, located directly in front of the main bus stop, half a block down from the mall. It used to be Italian owned, now Chinese owned and is nearly always crowded with an enormous diversity of customers from every conceivable background
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31. Aafke E. Komter, Social Solidarity and the Gift, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p185.

who can mostly find their familiar varieties there. The produce on sale ranges from the familiar Anglo varieties of apples, oranges and carrots, to a world of Chinese greens, and the most exotic of Asian vegetables such as Durian, dragon fruit, or bitter melon.32 Green Grocers are further examples of low fragrance sites of food provisioning. This is so in the sense that there is a certain familiarity with the material form of fruit and vegetables, even taking into account the sheer variety of produce on offer in this multicultural suburb. Low fragrance in this sense creates an interpretive space free from, or low in, anxiety for elderly Anglo shoppers, where the lack of packaging, the ability to touch and feel the produce, the English tags, the diversity of the customers, and the English speaking staff, all combined to make this a navigable space, provisioning food that required little in the way of translation or stepping too far beyond ones comfort zone. Victor:.. theyve got a lot of Eastern vegetables, which we all use, bok choy and things like that. They cater for a very diverse clientele and their assistants are also of many nationalities. But the common language is English, the the vegetables belong to two or three different types of countries, maybe more. But everybody buys every kind of food that is over there and using one language, which is English. It is here that Gabaccias point about the importance of the role of commercial exchange resonates. She argues that much of the fear of ethnically different food in America has been overcome due to the predominance of the commercial exchange as the main context for food crossing. She suggests that the impersonal rules of the marketplace help ease fears of cultural difference, because buying and selling are limited, public, and highly ritualised forms of social interaction.33 In some cases, this produces a positive sense of conviviality and inter-cultural propinquity in a low anxiety setting. In others, such as Victor, above, the sense of multicultural belonging this produces is somewhat ambivalent as he hints at the fact that his comfort in this space has to do with factors such as English language as the medium of communication, which in a sense becomes a metonym for him of how diversity should function in his ideal national order of things. COMPETITION OVER SPACES The national order of things also flows down to meanings made of situations where a sense of competition over claims to spaces of food consumption and food-related sociality emerge. A couple of the elderly Anglo ladies fussed and grumbled about the Italian men who gathered daily in the food court. The Anglo ladies perceived their regular gathering as an inappropriate colonisation of the long table in the food court, mainly in regards to
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32. This green grocer went bankrupt in August 2010.

33. Donna Gabaccia, We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1998, p230.


Fig 5: Italian men who meet at this food court each morning for coffee. Their Chineseowned caf is the stall directly behind them. overstaying their rightful time when others were struggling to find a seat during busy periods. Two women also commented on the fact that they had observed the men purchase only one coffee in the morning, then staying for several hours after, without further food or drink purchased or consumed. What is interesting about this however is that most of the Anglo seniors I spoke with knew about these men, and even those who grumbled about them had spent enough time in the food court to have observed their regular habits, right down to the nature and frequency of coffee purchase. Another space of competition is the bistro in the Ashfield Returned Servicemens League (RSL) Club. RSL and similar registered clubs are regular haunts for Ashfields senior citizens - both Anglo and non-Anglo. The RSL clubs in particular are long standing traditional third places34 for Anglo seniors, particularly retired war veterans and their families. Typical facilities include poker machines, bingo and raffles, dancing and evening entertainment, a bar, and usually a buffet style bistro. Food is an important aspect of club life. Many of the raffle and bingo prizes are food provisions. For example, a typical club calendar would have a meat raffle one day, a surf n turf (seafood & steak) prize the following day, and a grocery hamper the next. Many club users are old aged pensioners who enthusiastically participate in this form of entertainment on a regular basis, rationalising it as helping them with their limited budgets. There are a good number of prizes on offer each time, and most of the seniors I spoke to reported having had a win in the last month. As others have found, many pensioners can only afford cheap cuts of meat such as beef mince or sausages, so prizes of good quality steak
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34. Ramon Oldenburg and Dennis Brissett, The Third Place, Qualitative Sociology, 5, 4, (1982): 265284.

or seafood are highly valued as a means of acquiring the ingredients to cook a decent meal such as a Sunday roast.35 These types of clubs also traditionally provided subsidised meals, usually of typical Anglo fare, such as Roast Lamb, fish and chips, and versions of food such as pasta, crumbed chicken, apricot chicken and the like. Many Anglo seniors would treat themselves for a cheap club roast, a meal typically available in the clubs for around $12, when a similar dish at an outside restaurant would cost $25-30. Anglo seniors interviewed for my study expressed a clear preference and expectation for good quality homely food, of the type that becomes increasingly challenging to prepare at home as people age. As Simpson-Young and Russell report, seniors tend to prefer service areas of clubs serving straightforward food of the meat and three vegetable variety, over those serving caf style or exotic food. Many clubs have tried to go up scale since the 1990s, engaging in expensive renovations, and expanding their premises, particularly gambling facilities. Formerly, these clubs ran on a not for profit basis, subsidising things such as meals and entertainment. Modern managerial cultures have increasingly influenced the running of clubs today, and most have a greater focus on profits margins. Consequently, there has been a growing trend across the state for clubs to outsource the operation of club bistros to external, independent operators as a means of rationalising operating costs. Interestingly, many Chinese entrepreneurs have become aware of these opportunities and a large number of club bistros in the Sydney region are now operated by Chinese family businesses. Such is the case in the Ashfield RSL, unsurprising given Ashfields status as Sydneys Little Shanghai. In 2003 a Chinese family took over operations of the bistro there, which was during the period of my initial fieldwork. Renaming it Lucky Buffet, they advertise as offering Chinese and Australian cuisine. The new buffet space is now predominantly Chinese fast food, with a small selection of Australian food offered in one corner. Couched in nostalgic narratives of decline and loss, many of the Anglo seniors interviewed would grumble about the declining quality of the food. It needs to be born in mind however that the Anglo food traditionally available wasnt (perhaps with the exception of the roasts) of particularly high standard either. The quality of the food seems to ebb and wane in tune with the broader sense of belonging to the setting. Mary: I have watched a tremendous change there. We have, we actually wrote a petition, about the food. Suddenly it was no longer Australian food. Now the situation down there is that theyll tell you that theres Australian food on the menu, but Bill: You cant find it. Mary: Yeah.
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35. Virginia Simpson-Young and Cherry Russell, The Licensed Social Club: A Resource for Independence in Later Life, Aging International, 34, 4, (2009): 216-236.


Amanda: I think Ive seen the sign that says Chinese and Australian restaurant, but are you saying its not really? Mary: No, no, its a Chinese restaurant, and they bring all the coach tours in. Bill and Mary, in their mid 70s and living in public housing, repeated a story I heard several times, and subsequently viewed myself on several occasions. Ashfield is full of extremely entrepreneurial Chinese business people. One recent trend has been a rise in the number of small Chinese travel tour operators, who run low cost coach trips for mainland Chinese tourists. Ashfield has become a key stopping off point for meals, and the Chinese operators of the Ashfield RSL bistro have established a roaring trade - mainly due to the seating capacity - catering to coach loads of Chinese tourists most days, with discounted meals, and a free lunch to the driver. While an innovative and mutually beneficial business opportunity for the parties involved, one side problem has been seating capacity, where other club users are unable to find tables, or are confined to a couple of the less favourable tables at the side of the bistro. In turn, this has caused a sense of resentment where food spaces Anglo seniors used to see as a kind of second living room are perceived to be under colonisation by Chinese users of the space. Complaints over competition for tables and a lack of familiar food become racialised. This needs to be set within the context of the Anglo seniors feelings of displacement in the broader suburb, with the change in the high street shops. As previously suggested, the traditional club fare of a good roast meal provides a sense of the club being an extended home, akin to what Oldenburg Fig 6: The Ashfield RSL and advertising for its Lucky Club Australian & Chinese Restaurant


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terms third places. Third places are places such as pubs, coffee houses and the like which are accessible to their inhabitants and appropriated by them as their own.36 The fact that this sense of being taken over occurs in a food provisioning space that is experienced as homely is important. Amin suggests that in the threadbare city, feelings about difference are permeated by a sense of loss and lack, where crumbling public infrastructure, spaces and utilities form the material base where a sense of competition over scarce resources creates an affective register, or urban unconscious, permeated by mistrust, suspicion, and competition.37 This reading of scarcity resonates with Hages arguments about paranoid nationalism, which evolves when the state abrogates its responsibilities to care for its people and perpetuates the unequal distribution of societal hope. Those who have a sense of superior claim to the nation, develop a paranoid attachment characterised by worrying about the nation.38 These Anglo seniors, whose physical selves are beginning to decline, exist within a broader national setting where the old age pension ceased long ago to be anywhere close to a living wage, where the public health system is struggling to provide for their needs, materially and also emotionally - health professionals are far too busy to stop for a chat and a bit of care. They exist within the urban space of a crumbling neighbourhood, busy, noisy and never still, and where local places of sociality have almost disappeared. And in a national media culture which casts the ethnic Other as the chief competitor for the scarce resources of the nation: everything from discourses surrounding over-population and climate change, to demands on the welfare state, crime and neighbourhood safety, and access to affordable housing. In such a context, the food provisioning third space of the club is experienced as my home, where I have been materially, and symbolically displaced, right down to feelings about not being able to get a good meal anymore. EVERYDAY RECOGNITION: RECIPROCITY, HOSPITALITY & FOOD Taking a slightly different tack, there is a long, and indeed growing, literature on questions of reciprocity, hospitality and solidarity. It is surprising, however, how little empirical work there is looking at these issues from the point of view of cultural diversity in contemporary western society. In my various forays into the field, stories of food, reciprocity and hospitality were the most prominent way individuals of all backgrounds wished to talk about their experience of cultural difference. Whether or not a community was considered hospitable often underscored evaluations of racial and cultural others. In a recent book chapter I discussed a situation of intense inter-ethnic neighbourly exchange of backyard grown vegetables.39 These exchanges of tomatoes, figs, chillies and curry leaves between Lebanese, Italian, Indian and Anglo neighbours I characterised as a moral economy of gifted surplus and argued that the material and sensuous qualities of these food gifts,
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36. Oldenburg and Brissett, The Third Place, op. cit., p274.

37. Ash Amin, Cities and the Ethic of Care among Strangers, in Seminar presented at the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, Macquarie University 2010. 38. Ghassan Hage, Against Paranoid Nationalism: Searching for Hope in a Shrinking Society, Annandale, Pluto, 2003, p31.

39. Amanda Wise, Everyday Multiculturalism: Transversal Crossings and Working Class Cosmopolitans, in Everyday Multiculturalism, Amanda Wise and Selvaraj Velayutham (eds), London, Palgrave, 2009.


40. James Carrier, Gifts, Commodities, and Social Relations: A Maussian View of Exchange, Sociological Forum, 6, 1, (1991): 121. 41. Marcel Mauss, The Gift, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969, p11. 42. cf Daniel Miller (ed), Material Cultures: Why Some Things Matter, London, University College London Press,1998. 43. Pnina Werbner, Global Pathways: Working Class Cosmopolitans and the Creation of Transnational Worlds, Social Anthropology, 7, 1, (1999): [PAGE NUMBER]; Noble, Everyday Cosmopolitanism and the Labour of Intercultural Community, op. cit., http://dx.doi. org/10.1017/ S0964028299000026

and the stories they embodied (where the food comes from, how you might cook it) interwove, in a deeply embodied way, diasporic and local modes of belonging. Likewise, in Singapore, where my Indian in-laws live in a high-rise public housing block, gifts of food and sweets flow regularly up and down the shared corridor between Indian, Malay and Chinese neighbours, following the smells of cooking that waft out of doors left open to beat the tropical heat. At Chinese New Year, the Chinese neighbour will bring jars of sweets and cakes to my Indian in-laws. At Hindu Deepavali my in-laws bring Indian sweets and savoury nibbles to the Chinese and Malay neighbours. Great care is taken to select varieties they think will be palatable for their culturally different neighbours. So the very hot muruku Indian nibbles are left out of the offering. Meanwhile, the cultural exchange flows beyond the immediate parties involved. My Indian in-laws (who are working class and share only a very minimal street Malay as the lingua franca to communicate with the neighbours) will sometimes purchase gifts of Chinese biscuits to gift to Indian relatives. And my father-in-laws brother, who runs a busy hawker stall, does a roaring trade supplying Indian food to adventurous Chinese wanting to cater with something different for their Chinese New Year family reunion feast. Such exchanges can be characterised as a moral-economy of place-sharing and what is important about them is how the people, objects and social relations involved are made and remade, understood and re-understood in everyday transactions.40 The reciprocities just described also create what I call local and diasporic intersections. As Mauss has argued, gifts are inalienable and to some extent part of persons.41 And as material culture scholars such as Miller have demonstrated objects (in this context, gifts of food) carry with them both general cultural meanings, and cultural biographies, and also take on meanings within specific personal relationships.42 This intersection of the cultural biography of the object and its giver, with the inters-subjective relations produced in the giving, produces narrative, embodied, material and emplaced intersections. Unlike the more problematic notion of the cosmo-multiculturalists, contrasted to the white bread, closed white suburbanite, these exchanges are not overly conscious intercultural engagements with ethnic food that becomes a form of acquisition of cultural capital. What I found was in fact a world of everyday middle- and working-class cosmopolitans who were doing community across difference at work, between neighbours, in their sports teams, or in their kids schools.43 Most importantly, stories of food and hospitality permeated just about every positive thing my various research participants had to say about cultural difference. For example, a group of Anglo women volunteers were involved in a welcoming committee in Griffith for refugees who arrived in town. They helped with settling into the neighbourhood, learning English, and accessing employment and education opportunities. Food-related forms of hospitality were important.
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The Afghani ladies have come to my house probably once a month, and that has been wonderful Id show them all the Australian food like pavlovas and lamingtons, sandwiches Jatz biscuits I mean, the first time one of the Afghanis was having a sandwich, she tried to eat it with a knife and fork. I said, No, no. Hand, hand! You know, so we just got to know each other, even though we still dont speak each others language. A farm manager in Griffith talked about the importance of the afternoon BBQ for their culturally diverse fruit pickers - who come from a myriad of different backgrounds, and many of whom are refugees: There are always cup of tea, coffee, and a biscuit, maybe some free morning, fifteen minutes, and afternoon they have afternoon tea. They have half an hour or hour lunch, and thats it. And they always make barbecue when they finish. We always have a table there, and talk, and so on. Theres talk about family, sometimes sport, sometimes people go for wedding, or whats happening, about cooking, and a lot of fun with a lot of girls are from Taiwan and Timor, and always happy little girls, and laughing, and bring something. They have lunch, they give us to try what they do, I bake a cake, I always give somebody too, some. You know, biscuits or cake, then we share (Italian (2nd Generation) farmers wife speaking about her culturally diverse farm workers). These relations of exchange and hospitality produce new forms of solidarity through ritualised sharing of food and meals. As Berking argues: it is the identity of what is consumed, the symbolic quality of what is incorporated, which produces the identity of the group. The meaning shifts and symbolic inventions impelled by ritualization open the horizon for transference and associative linking, which are able to externalise what must then be incorporated in the common meal as the substance of community.44 Thus, gestures of crossing (such as making an effort to accommodate ones guests tastes, or bringing food along to represent ones culture) can be seen as symbolic means of incorporating the other into a situation of conviviality which, momentarily, broadens the notion of my community to incorporate the Other. An example of this was evident in the project I conducted on everyday relations between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians. A Lebanese Muslim boilermaker remarked that his Anglo boss had approached him one day to ask why he did not join in the regular Friday afternoon BBQ held at the back of the factory. The Lebanese worker explained to his boss that he didnt want to make a fuss, but that he felt he couldnt attend because the meat served was
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44. Helmuth Berking, Sociology of Giving, London, Sage, 1999, p96.


45. Greg Noble, The Textures of Recognition: Ethnicity and the Permission to Be Human, Seminar Paper, presented at Macquarie University Department of Sociology Colloquium, 8 May, 2008. 46. Phyllis Herda, Ladies a Plate: Women and Food, in Ladies a Plate. Change and Continuity in the Lives of New Zealand Women, Julie Park (ed), Auckland, Auckland University Press, 1991, pp144-172. In New Zealand, older white women will use the phrase ladies, a plate; see as well Juliana Mansvelt, Working at Leisure: Critical Geographies of Ageing, Area, 29, 4, (1997): 289-298.

47. Mary Douglas, Deciphering a Meal, Daedalus, 101, 1, (1972): 61-81 and Purity and Danger, London, Routledge, 2002. 48. In Conrad Lashley and Alison Morrison (eds), In Search of Hospitality: Theoretical Perspectives and Debates, Oxford, ButterworthHeinemann, 2001, p27. 49. Ibid., p28.

not halal. His boss had not heard of halal before, but once it was explained to him, he asked where such meat could be bought, and subsequently sourced the BBQ meat from the local halal butcher. The worker took this as a great gesture of inclusion and hospitality on the part of his boss and was held up as an example to prove that not all white Australians are against Muslims. In some cases there are built-in acts of everyday recognition45 such as the Anglo boss buying in Halal meat, hosts ensuring vegetarian options are available, or at a typical Singaporean (pork loving) Chinese or Indian Hindu wedding, where there will often be a separate side table for halal food for Muslim guests. Many of these occasions of hospitality involve guests bringing a plate.46 In Australia and New Zealand bringing a plate is a tradition associated with older generation white women who would bring a plate of home cooked food - such as sandwiches, a home baked cake, lamingtons or biscuits - to ladies gatherings, church socials and the like. It is a deeply gendered social code, but also one steeped in notions of reciprocity, egalitarianism, and ideas of giving ones labour (and thus, a little bit of me) to the group. It evens out, or makes more ambiguous, the guest-host divide. Home-cooked food brought to such gatherings creates opportunities for discussion about recipes - how something was made, the history of the recipe (for example, handed down from my grandmother, or adapted from one my neighbour makes). And it provides an occasion for mutual admiration of one anothers cooking skills (and no doubt, a bit of behind the back criticism too). There are numerous stories in my various projects of Anglo women commenting good humouredly (and sometimes patronisingly) about a new migrant or refugee woman they had invited who, having been invited to a gathering and asked to bring a plate, turned up, literally, with an empty plate. But once this particular cultural peculiarity of Anglos is understood, these gatherings typically become forums for diverse others, mostly women, to bring some home-cooked food representing their own ethnic cuisine. They thus provide an opportunity for some discussion of where this or that dish originates and stories of women relatives and family gatherings back in the home country, and comparisons over similarities and differences with cuisines of the other cultural groups present. Mary Douglass famous reading of Hebrew feast argues that Jewish food taboos revolve around creatures such as pigs or shellfish, considered too hybrid and incomplete members of their class.47 Eating complete creatures symbolises the wholeness and completeness of those doing the eating, and eating of proper food then comes to represent complete membership of the group.48 Sharing these food laws binds members of a family together, and to those members of the wider community also subscribing to these laws. Acceptance of the guest at the Hebrew feast, who must conform to their hosts food laws and ritual codes, momentarily affirms a common identity.49 Thinking back to the examples posed above begs the question, is there
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a qualitative difference between everyday acts of hospitality involving a dominant culture representative inviting a guest from another background to partake in a feast of food representative of the dominant culture (such as the woman giving the Afghan women lamingtons and other Australian food), and those where guests and hosts (and where the guest/host line is blurred) bring a plate - typically involving food that represents them in some way? I would argue there is indeed a difference. This is not to argue that there is anything necessarily wrong with presenting the complete feast of ones culture, but that something slightly different emerges out of a convivial situation involving diverse individuals bringing a plate. Food brought to such events is typically scented, in the sense that they are often crafted to represent the identity of the cook and their culture. As Miller has argued, in the modern, secular world, a sense of everyday ritual and aesthetic order, embedded through repetition of form, orders the universe and cosmology.50 Unlike unregulated contact with Other food in urban space (such as in the ethnic restaurant in an ethnic neighbourhood), highly fragrant ethnic goods brought to the shared table51 as a gift of otherness, a gift of me, is nonetheless received as an act of giving (and thus entreating reciprocity) and circumscribed by the rules and orderings of the setting of the feast. There is usually someone to welcome new guests and a table to put their plate alongside others, conventions around sharing and admiring one anothers dishes, and built in translators (the giver, most obviously) who can describe what the food is and how it is to be eaten. Food that is scented can be more scented in a situation of ritualised hospitality. It is order, ritual, hospitality, and reciprocity which makes it safe, or at least reduces the ambiguity and anxiety that can sometimes come with encounters with difference. Further, bring a plate allows different food preferences to be discretely incorporated into a shared gathering. One is free to try other cuisines on offer, but it is also possible to discretely bring ones own plate and eat from that. Moreover, very often bring a plate also involves sweet foods such as cakes and biscuits which circumvent restrictions which typically associate with meat. Fatima: They different culture, they different people. now I learn, I dont like to share with another people food or drink... because another people may eat pork or dog. Chinese eat dog, Vietnamese eat dog, or drink. I cant feel like that, I dont know. Im share my food. Im bringing some plate or dish or something like that, but I dont like to eat from another dish, because I dont know whats in there (Afghani refugee woman, mid 40s). Simmel argues that communal eating and drinking can transform a mortal enemy into a friend unleashes an immense socialising power that gives rise to the primitive notion that one is thereby creating common flesh and blood.52 I want to suggest that it is the shared meal, in a situation of ordered reciprocity and hospitality that incorporates hybrid others in a bodily
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50. Daniel Miller, The Comfort of Things, Cambridge, Polity, 2008, p293. 51. Michael Symons, The Shared Table, Canberra, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1993. Thanks to Marion Maddox for introducing this term to me.

52. David Frisby and Mike Featherstone, Simmel on Culture: Selected Writings by Georg Simmel, London, Sage, 1997, p131.


53. Jacques Derrida, Of Hospitality: Anne Dufourmantelle Invites Jacques Derrida to Respond, R. Bolby (trans), Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2000.

54. Lashley and Morrison, In Search of Hospitality: Theoretical Perspectives and Debates, p34.

55. Paul Gilroy, Multiculture, Double Consciousness and the War on Terror, Patterns of Prejudice, 39, 4, (2005): 439.

way, through the consumption of the Others food, in turn establishing, at least for the duration of the meal, a sense of we-ness in difference. That is, a sense of commensality that embodies difference. Common understandings of hospitality are closer to what Derrida calls conditional hospitality, which relies upon a sense of sovereignty on the part of the host, a sense of mastery and ownership of ones place in the world.53 Bring a plate makes one both guest and host, complicating the power differentials of the traditional guest host relation. While coded orders of hospitality and reciprocity permeate these encounters, there is a surplus of conviviality produced. As Lashley and Morrison point out, hospitality is very much associated with the convivial pleasures of excess, poised between morality and transgression, duty and pleasure.54 This pleasurable, and marginally transgressive surplus anchored in a base of reciprocity and hospitality holds in it the possibility of incremental openings of identity, where the food, bodies, and narratives of the other seep across identity boundaries. As Gilroy suggests, once exposure to otherness can involve more than jeopardy, conviviality has taken hold and he speculates that a society that embraces everyday intercultural conviviality is better equipped to take on and deal with racism and discrimination without lapsing into unproductive guilt and narcissistic anguish.55 FOOD TABOOS: FROM CONVIVIALITY TO DANGER It is because food is taken into the body that social faux pas involving food are sometimes experienced as bodily threat or transgression. Misplaced assumptions of shared codes and rituals render hospitality dangerous, or at the very least shot through with ambivalence. This begins to make sense of many of the narratives of ambivalence uncovered in my various field researches. Elderly white congregation members of the local Ashfield Catholic Church raised with me an example of hospitality declined as emblematic of a wider malaise of multiculturalism. A group of about fifteen Chinese had joined their church, and after some months the two groups more or less existed separately. The Anglo congregation discussed the matter and decided to hold a Sunday afternoon luncheon to welcome them officially and as an opportunity for the two groups to get to know one another informally. Unfortunately, on the appointed day, the Chinese group did not turn up, and two days later, a letter of thanks arrived, explaining that they had established their own Church in disused premises a couple of suburbs away, and that this had been in the planning for some time. Oddly, had it not been for the failed gesture of hospitality, the Anglo congregation would probably have been quite happy to hear the news of their moving on. Instead, it became fodder for complaints of ungrateful migrants who choose not to integrate, despite our best efforts. Most of the difficult stories in these research projects were tales of dashed hopes, failed encounters, quiet withdrawal, and social unease.
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Incorporating hybridity is easier in some contexts than in others, and there are incommensurabilities surrounding differing food cultures and taboos. The inherent sense of danger in gestures of hospitality, and the threatened breakdown in the moral economies that lubricate social life, sometimes means that coming together around food and drink is anxious territory. For example it was not well known among non-Muslims interviewed in one of my studies that it is forbidden in Islam to drink alcohol and the concept of Halal was little understood. This seemed to be a key barrier to greater levels of intermingling between Muslim and non-Muslims. This was particularly so for Anglo-Australians for whom alcohol is a key part of socialising, especially among men who use alcohol as a social lubricant to bond with other males.56 A particular challenge is the social discomfort this can cause, especially when well-meaning gestures of hospitality need to be declined. Mubarak: To be honest, with the non-Muslims, when you get to know each other there is no problem, but when youre meeting a new non-Muslim person in the beginning, I wonder how Im going to get along with that person because whatever he drinks or whatever he or she wants to eat and what I want is probably different, and most of the time it has happened that because of the difference in eating and drinking, that can block the talking and we actually dont get along very much. Some of these food-based religious differences can create a feeling of burden and in turn a tendency to try to avoid situations where such invitations might be extended so as to avoid social embarrassment. There are occasions the non-Muslim hosts are willing to provide Halal food. However, many Anglo hosts feel that alcohol is an essential part of the shared meal and say they feel unreasonably constrained to have to avoid alcohol themselves at these gatherings, despite not expecting their Muslim guests to drink. These are vexed issues and seem to be one of the most predominant barriers (particularly alcohol) to mixing between the two groups. These differences can cause discomfort, and sometimes irritation even among the most well-intended individuals, and offence can sometimes be taken when a well-meaning social invitation is declined. Taboos and codes around eating are not confined to those stemming from religious belief. As writers such as Elias have shown us,57 Western civilisation is shot through with food related etiquette which symbolises, and reproduces, given social orders. Yet as anthropologists such as Douglas and a myriad of others have shown, ideas embodied in the feast, and the social orders it produces and reproduces, are to be found in every culture. In the country town of Griffith, this became obvious when discussing with the Samoan Reverend of the local Methodist church why his attempts to get the Anglo and Pacific Islander members of his congregation to mix together had failed, despite numerous attempts.
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56. Stephen Tomsen, A Top Night: Social Protest, Masculinity and the Culture of Drinking Violence, British Journal of Criminology 37, 1: 90-102.

57. Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process, London, Blackwell, 2000.


Reverend Abera: The Anglo will only bring a sandwich, a sandwich for any function, but if its Pacific Islanders they want to have a big feast. So we have them here in the church, and (Anglos) say, Well okay, well help well have supper down there, and when the supper arrives, we have sandwiches on one side, and we have pork and chicken [huge dishes that the Islanders bring] yeah, so yeah, sometimes, the Anglo people say theres just too much, you know? Too much, and its going to be a waste of food, and then the Pacific Islander will say, No. This is what we have. This is what we are, or who we are. If we bring that much, its how we feel. Each culture (and indeed classed and gendered sub-cultures) has ideas about what the feast symbolises. As Douglas has argued, the meaning of a meal is found in a system of repeated analogies.58 Many Pacific Islanders in Griffith59 are first generation immigrants from village-based subsistence societies. The feast, for these communities, represents hospitality, communality, prosperity, happiness, excess, and, traditionally, a bountiful harvest. The food symbolises a sensual feeling of fullness, and having more than enough produces embodied, somatic affects infused with feelings of joyful surplus. However, among elderly Anglo women, the feast, at least in the context of a Sunday church gathering, is structured by codes of restraint, reserved manners and dainty food. Many of these women would have grown up in Depression and WWII era times of scarcity where it was a matter of pride to be spare, and to prepare food without excess or waste. The ideas about too much food and waste are culturally framed ideas embedded in specific histories. Likewise, manners and notions of what is a polite way to eat, frame experiences of discomfort and anxiety in intercultural food encounters. Here, the Reverend talks about the social unease caused by the coming together of different food cultures - not so much the food itself, but the codes and rituals of eating, and the level of excess symbolised by the two ways of eating. Rev Abera: because Anglo eat with little things, with forks and knives and then the Islanders, well its very hard for them to come and eat beside an Anglo without the fork, and the procedures like eating, the Islanders want to fill up their plate, and then they will go to [sit next to] an Anglo, and they only want to have a cup of tea, so you dont want to go there... Despite best intentions, it is simply uncomfortable for an Islander with a large plate of feast food traditionally eating with the hands to sit down next to an Anglo lady with a small dainty plate of sandwiches, or who eats cold cuts of meat or quiche with a knife and fork. These snippets highlight the precariousness of hospitality. As Lashley and Morrison argue60 the danger lies, precisely, in the possibility that the opportunity and promise of a relationship will simply not be taken up, that the stranger remains a stranger, and that the transformative processes which
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58. Douglas, Deciphering a Meal, op. cit., p69. 59. Pasifika communities, as they are known, include Samoan, Tongan, Fijians, Cook Islanders, and Maoris from New Zealand.

60. Lashley and Morrison, In Search of Hospitality: Theoretical Perspectives and Debates, [YEAR] p33.

acts of hospitality put in motion will simply wither away before they have been given a chance to take root. Thus, manufactured (or otherwise) situations of hospitality are always shot through with some level of risk, ambivalence and anxiety - and these fears are all the more grounded when they involve intercultural food encounters. The disjunctures that sometimes occur when different cultural foodways and their meanings conflict have real material and emotional effects. However, as Douglas has also highlighted, food is also a field of action and food choices support political alignments and social opportunities.61 For this reason, she argues ethnic food is a cultural category, not a material thing, and persists only insofar as ethnic boundaries continue to exist, and disappears as a category when those boundaries no longer remain salient. This suggests an element of natural change resulting from changing social (inter)actions; of symbolic shift and emergent hybridities. It also suggests intention can come into play, in as much as the parties involved in an act of hospitality design and present the feast to symbolise something; for example, incorporating meanings and elements of inter-culturality. In other words, the white parishioners potentially had the capacity to modify the food they brought to the luncheon to incorporate the tastes of both communities and thus symbolise a sense of togetherness, rather than reinforce an old identity. Nonetheless, the cultural capital (and associated habitus) that imbues such a capacity to create a situation of intercultural hospitality is unevenly distributed, and these capacities need to be learnt. It is questionable whether the Anglo women at the luncheon (or their Islander counterparts) had such a capacity and deliberately chose not to enact it, or whether they were simply unaware and needed some guidance on how to do it better. *** As Parker and Karner have pointed out, neither proponents of the community cohesion agenda, nor its critics, have adequately explored the qualities of everyday associational life and its affective consequences.62 In Australia, a myriad of community harmony, anti-racist and community cohesion programs have sprung up in recent years, a very large proportion of which involve intercultural contact-type activities centred around food. Some are multicultural food festivals, food tours of ethnic neighbourhoods, others involving more sustained contact such as interfaith Iftar (breaking the fast after Ramadan) feasts or intercultural luncheon encounters among community and church groups as just described. Cooking shows featuring the multicultural cuisines of Australia are amongst the most popular, while a succession of government ministers representing the migration and multiculturalism portfolio have highlighted food in speeches and press releases as among the more positive outcomes of multiculturalism.63 In Britain, Robin Cook told the House of Commons in 2001 that Chicken
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61. Mary Douglas, Food in the Social Order: Studies of Food and Festivities in Three American Communities, London, Routledge, 2002, p30.

62. David Parker and Christian Karner, Reputational Geographies and Urban Social Cohesion, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 33, 8, (2010): 1454. 63. For example Meave OMaras Food Safari series on SBS which features her touring ethnic restaurants around Australia and visiting the kitchens of various immigrant Australians. Other series include My Family Feast, Food Lovers Guide to Australia, and Vasilis Garden.


64. Jeremy MacClancy, in Spicing up Britain: The Multicultural History of British Food, Times Higher Education Supplement, 19 June 2008.

Tikka Massala is now a true British national dish, not only because it is the most popular, but because it is a perfect illustration of the way Britain absorbs and adapts external influences. Reflecting on this in 2008, the Times Higher Education subtitled a book review with the words: If we are what we eat, then the UK is a mutable feast of cultural diversity.64 The inevitable hybridisation of food through intercultural food consumption is frequently appropriated as a metaphor for how successful multicultural communities form. For example Parekh, the esteemed theorist of multiculturalism suggested that; The twofold process in which each cuisine gets multiculturalized and a new multicultural cuisine develops occurs in other areas of life as well, such as the arts and life- styles, and to a lesser extent even in such highly traditional and culturally resistant areas as religion, moral values and ways of thought. In each case different cultural traditions influence each other, acquire a multicultural dimension, and cope with its more or less unsettling influence in their own different ways.65 As Buettner has argued there is no automatic relationship between a reduction in racism and an increase in multicultural eating.66 In fact food racism is as present as ever - as evident in the episodic rise of moral panics around hygiene in ethnic food establishments, White resentments over state provisions for religious dietary requirements such as Halal or Kosher food, and food establishments targeted in racial attacks such as recent fire bombings of Chinese restaurants in Perth, or attacks on Turkish Kebab houses, as occurred in Griffith during my research there. Yet food is at the heart of many attempts to bring people together, to bridge differences, to build new communities and cement social ties. It is at the heart of fantasies of becoming cosmopolitan, and represented as emblematic of cosmopolitan nationhood. While its symbolic and discursive functions have been explored the extent to which food actually does bridge difference or create new forms of community or connection is less obvious and the practices and contexts that underpin positive changes have been relatively taken for granted. What I hope this essay has shown is that food has no meaning, in and of itself, yet plays a fundamentally important role in mediating both commensalities and disjunctures in everyday multiculturalism. There is nothing implicitly communal or disjunctural about food as it crosses cultures. Food can produce both borders and commensalities, and although I have only hinted at it here, I have argued elsewhere that the somatic, sensual nature of food also matters deeply.67 As Highmore points out, food has far more than a symbolic, discursive role in mediating relations between self and other.68 It has the capacity to re-orient bodies in both positive and negative ways. It is because food is taken into our bodies through the gut, the palate, through aroma, and visual invocations of visceral feelings, making us porous, that it is experienced and responded to so intensely, and has such power in
New FormatioNs

65. Bhikhu Parekh, Common Citizenship in a Multicultural Society, The Round Table, 88, 351, (1999): 455. 66. Buettner, Going for an Indian, op. cit.

67. Amanda Wise, Sensuous Multiculturalism: Emotional Landscapes of Interethnic Living in Australian Suburbia, Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies, 36, 6, (2010): 917-937. 68. Highmore, Alimentary Agents, op. cit., pp386-88.

re-orienting ones sensual habitus. Sometimes this orientation is away from the Other, at others it can help transcend or bridge difference. Duruz stresses how important it is not to assume eating the cuisine of the other is simply another expression of racism or colonialism as this misses the ambivalence of encounter and the fluidity of identity.69 Thus, I have argued that the material, ritual and social settings in which food is consumed cross-culturally matter immensely. The consumption of food always needs to be understood in relation to the settings in which it is consumed, the affective or dispositional nature of each gustatory experience - as an adventure in otherness, as identity grazing,70 consumed in a safe setting such as a food court, in a situation full of anxiety, or one underpinned by an ethic of care and hospitality - and understood in relation to the very material qualities of the urban environment itself. In short, it matters who is doing the consuming, where, and among whom. Ethnicity matters, as does class, and gender, as well as the individual food histories of those doing the eating. In situations of good faith, ritual gestures of food-based commensality at the shared table can play a part in producing positive relations across difference, and indeed, help to knit together new intercommunal identities. On the other hand, it is important to remember there are always wider forces at work. For example ignorance, mutual or otherwise, of one anothers food taboos, or in situations of competition for scarce resources of belonging, food can have the effect of solidifying and calcifying borders. Layered over all of these situational, interactional encounters is the larger discursive and ideological terrain on which they occur. As Highmore has argued, these embodied, sensual negotiations that occur through inter-cultural eating are also transformative negotiations, and spaces of potential.71 They are spaces of hopeful encounter,72 in the Spinozan sense of affectus - moments of encounter leading to an increased or diminished capacity to act and become.73 However, this does not imply a hierarchy of places where high (positive) or low (negative) intensities of difference are encountered and negotiated.74 Instead I want to see these different spaces food courts, situations of hospitality, sharing plate and so forth - as resources where capacities and affective dispositions positive towards difference can be slowly built up. As Watson has argued, situations of minimal engagement in diverse public spaces can help to reduce anxieties towards difference.75 This is not to idealise such spaces, but it does suggest a need to differentiate and explore the import of the kinds of spaces I describe as lightly fragranced - where competition over belonging and identity is not part of everyday background hum, or affective ambiance. These are spaces characterised not so much by great leaps forward in appreciating difference, but more about incremental changes in disposition and the opening up of boundaries.76

69. In Rachel Slocum, Race in the Study of Food, Progress in Human Geography, 35, 3, (2011): 303-327. 70. Jean Duruz, A Nice Baked Dinner ... Or Two Roast Ducks from Chinatown?: Identity Grazing, Continuum, 14, 3, (2000): 289301.

71. Highmore, Alimentary Agents, op. cit., p396. 72. Amanda Wise, Hope and Belonging in a Multicultural Suburb, Journal of Intercultural Studies, 26, 1, (2005): 171186. 73. Nigel Thrift, Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect, London, Routledge, 2008, p178. 74. Duruz, A Nice Baked Dinner ... , op. cit. 75. Watson, City Publics, op. cit., p158. 76. Wise, Hope and Belonging in a Multicultural Suburb, op. cit.

moviNg FooD