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Eating Japanese food in diaspora as identity building: The case of a Japanese Canadian church

In the life of a Japanese Canadian Christian church, food – especially Japanese cuisine – occupies a central place in parish life. Food not only nurtures members of the congregation physically but it serves as a focal point for collective identity formation. In the community where the majority of members are still survivors of Japanese Canadian internment during World War II, I argue that by planning, preparing, and serving food, women constantly create and maintain the imagined homeland in a Canadian diaspora. Based on 2 years of ethnographic fieldwork, this paper illustrates the ways in which food serves as a symbolic means to create a homeland and define women’s position within that cultural creation. The paper also illustrates the ways in which ‘race’ is experienced in dynamic ways in relation to the group’s shifting position in the global arena by contrasting the bitter experience of Japanese Canadians during World War II with the recent popularity of Japanese food.


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Contemporary Japan


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