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Global ethical culinary fashion and a local dish: Organic hummus in Israel

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Hummus, one of the most common foods in Israel, was appropriated several decades ago as an icon of Israeli culture and nationality. Organic hummus – a recent version of the dish – represents an encounter of the global and the local in consumption, due to global ethical culinary fashion. In this article I analyze how re-branding local food as organic adds a layer of cosmopolitanism, which is status related. This analysis can be extrapolated from the culinary to a fashion related example in order to make the following arguments:

That what appears as the embodiment of environmental ethics of localism over globalism (cutting down on the carbon footprint and eliminating toxins from the product life cycle for the benefit of both producers and the environment) can actually be seen as its opposite when the local value is transformed into a cosmopolitan one.

That even if organic is interpreted as an ethical watchword, what motivates consumers is often not high-minded ideals but a better consumer experience (taste, prestige, etc.).

This article traces the interplay between the global and the local through the example of hummus, which is analogous to the dynamics of organic and sustainable fashion. It argues that the global socio-economic conditions and ideas embedded in the concept of ‘organic’ allow the imagined re-localization of the dish. Like ethnic fashion, hummus used to represent rootedness, earthiness, and local simplicity but not fashionability. Nowadays, in its organic version, it wears an economic and symbolic framework of global values superimposed on the original local meanings, demonstrating a symbolic cosmopolitan and fashion-forward identity.
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Keywords: Israeli culture; commodification; ethical consumption; globalization; hummus; localization; organic food

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Publication date: 22 December 2011

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  • Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty is the first journal dedicated to the critical examination of the fashion and the beauty systems as symbolic spaces of production and reproduction, representation and communication of artifacts, meanings, social practices, and visual or textual renditions of cloth, clothing and appearance.

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