Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Research Proposal

Initially, I was very interested in studying the architecture of Berlin, and tracing the history and long-term cultural, religious, and ideological trends of Germany through its most visible artifacts. However, I eventually began to think that I wanted to examine a topic that had more visibility, more ability to change and adapt rapidly, and more immediate relevance with immigration. Studying more modern social and cultural trends requires, in a way, one to study something far more transient and modifiable than architecture. Therefore, during my time in Istanbul and Berlin, I plan on studying immigration and intercultural interaction as it plays out in food and (especially) street food culture. Instead of merely studying German traditions and heritage in its food and drink, I’m very interested in seeing how food is the perfect demonstration of cultural interaction.

As a child of immigrants, I’ve always been interested in how cultures interact and where the borders break down. I’ve noticed that religion and language, for example, are some of the most difficult areas to find interaction, but that one of the first points of interaction is food. A culture’s food is so closely tied to its identity, heritage, geography, history, and “cultural essence” that when cuisine begins to interact with other cuisine, I believe that cultures begin to interact with one another. In Los Angeles, there are large communities of both Hispanic/Latin American and Korean immigrants and communities. On a trip to visit friends there over spring break, I was treated to a meal that specialized in fusion of Mexican and Korean food—traditional Korean kalbi in tacos, or kimchi quesadillas. Lining up by the dozens were Koreans, Hispanics, and Caucasians alike. This memory resurfaced after hearing a description of currywurst—a traditional German food dressed in foreign flavors. With this as a starting point, I want to examine how stomachs can be a mode of cultural understanding and cooperation.

It has been a recurring theme in our readings that many minority groups in Germany were originally part of migrant worker programs, foreign armies, and the like. This kind of immigration has isolationism built into its core. I also found evidence of a strong Korean population in Berlin, mostly remnant of a migrant worker program in the 1960s. With these in mind, I'd like to explore this topic during the summer.

Haiming Liu and Lianlian Lin. "Food, Culinary Identity, and Transnational Culture" Journal of Asian American Studies 12.2 (2009): 135-162. Project MUSE. Web. 21 Jan. 2011. .

Ken Albala. "History on the Plate: The Current State of Food History." Historically Speaking 10.5 (2009): 6-8. Project MUSE. Web. 22 Jan. 2011. .

Michael Slackman. “National Dish Comes Wrapped in Foreign Flavoring.” NY Times, January 26, 2011.