Food Aesthetics and the Unintended Construction of Civility in Peru

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: Booth 57
Oral Presentation
Luis TSUKAYAMA CISNEROS , Sociology, New School for Social Research, Sunnyside, NY
Peruvian food had always had important elements that connected it to national identity. However, in the last 10 years, food has acquired new -meanings that pertained to a strong sense of national pride, and new understandings of what it means to be Peruvian, which are reflected particularly in media and politics. In Peru’s biggest city, Lima (where 35% of its population live), culture and cuisine reflect the diversity of its population through years of internal and external immigration processes since the times of the Spanish colony. In this paper I argue that, in great part, the “aesthetization” of food in Peru –a focus on aesthetics rather than just on flavor—was pivotal to the transformation of its social meanings during the mid 2000s. In the early 2000s, chefs and tourism operators considered this process of “aesthetization" essential for the promotion of Peruvian food and, consequently, for the promotion of tourism and the increase of economic revenue to Peru. An unintended consequence of the success of this process was that the newly named “novo Andean” cuisine became a central element of an invigorated Peruvian pride. Additionally, this pride in Peruvian cuisine, in great part, allowed for emergence of new spaces of social “civility” based on weak links in a society that historically has been strongly been divided by differences of class, socioeconomic status, race, etc. This “aesthetization" of food took place almost exclusively in the biggest urban centers of Peru, mostly because of the intrinsic characteristics of Peruvian media, the economic configurations of the country, and the importance of spaces of social communication in cities. These publics allow different people to discuss and experience food in big cities directly or indirectly (through conversations or food television shows, for instance), as opposed to the “immediacy” of food outside of these urban spaces.