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Culinary diasporas: identity and the language of food in Gisèle Pineau's Un papillon dans la cité and L'Exil selon Julia

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Gisèle Pineau's novels Un papillon dans la cité and L'Exil selon Julia create a translocational diaspora space through the semiotics of food in which North African and Caribbean cuisine become an important link between France and the French-speaking diaspora (the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia) amid the dispersal of exile and immigration. The economic and social marginalization of the African diaspora immigrants is compensated by the richness of their culinary traditions in which the mediating discourse of food becomes a trope of culinary nomadism. The novels focus on the anguish of exile, the pain of misguided loyalties, the difficulties of assimilation and adaptation, and the impact of globalization on the lives of the disenfranchised immigrants. At the same time, the novels celebrate the importance of orality, memory, and cultural resistance through the dynamics of food in the urban ghetto. Food becomes the language of creolization while providing the sometimes tenuous language of self-conception and identity. Food becomes a metaphor for diasporic continuity and cultural retention to provide a vibrant historical text.

Keywords: creolization; cultural agency; exile; francophone diaspora; gender; globalization; orality; spices

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Mills College (Oakland, CA, USA)

Publication date: April 1, 2005

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  • The International Journal of Francophone Studies offers a critical preview for a new development in the understanding of 'France outside France', with a thorough insight into the network of disciplinary issues affiliated with this study. The journal complements the thriving area of scholarly interest in the French-speaking regions of the world, bringing a location of linguistic, cultural, historical and social dynamics within a single academic arena.
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