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The rhetoric of Lao/French fusion: beyond the representation of the western tourist experience of cuisine in the World Heritage city of Luang Prabang, Laos

Event Type
Anthropology Dept.
Davenport Hall room 109A (Anthropology Dept. main office)
Dec 4, 2012   12:00 pm  
Dr. Robyn Bushell (Institute for Culture & Society, University of Western Sydney, Australia)
Prof. Helaine Silverman
Originating Calendar
CEAPS Events Calendar

In this talk I examine the history, heritage, discourse of food in the western experience of cuisine in Luang Prabang, Laos. 'Fusion' is a term used repeatedly in signage, web sites and restaurant menus. I explore the intersections between the way cuisine is represented and the contestations around these representations (what is included and excluded, the use of the past). I argue the rhetoric of fusion is partial, selective and strongly influenced by the various ways Luang Prabang (re)presents itself to western tourists. Further, the touristic image/experience of Luang Prabang's cuisine camouflages ' under the fusion description ' a highly mobile set of dynamics and understanding of the food scenarios within the historic city. In particular I look at the intermingling of many food traditions; the highly improvised nature of cuisine; the interplay between local farming, markets and food production; food imports from Thailand, China, Vietnam and France; and the way that cuisine marks and ritualizes social groups (Lao bourgeoisie, students, monks, hilltribe ethnic minorities, expatriates, western tourists). The heritage tourist rhetoric of fusion masks the complexity of food production and consumption and freezes an open-ended process into a fixed representation.

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