Ethnic politics in the framing of national cuisine

Yu Jen Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


By exploring the process through which a distinctive Taiwanese national cuisine was formed, particularly after 2000, this paper reveals that ethnic politics can play a crucial role in the framing of national cuisine, involving issues of social hierarchy and the dilemma of tradition and modernization. Through state banquets, local food festivals, and other means of promoting ethnic cuisines, local Taiwanese dishes and ethnic cuisines have become viable commodities in the marketplace, while the government has played an active role as a market agent in this process. Nevertheless, although traditional ethnic cuisines have been articulated as important symbols of ethnicity, the symbolic power of tradition has its limits. As social hierarchy is a crucial aspect in ethnic politics, and the degree of modernization has been shaped as the criterion of a higher social class, "tradition or modernization" becomes a choice between ethnicity and social status. The production and contestation of the hierarchies of ethnic cuisines in Taiwan thus involve not only the hierarchy of ethnic groups but also the forces of modernization and Westernization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-333
Number of pages19
JournalFood, Culture and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Aug
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethnic cuisine
  • Ethnic politics
  • National cuisine
  • State banquet
  • Taiwanese cuisine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies


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