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Joe Grengs, Policy & Planning for Social Equity in Transportation

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Mass producing food traditions for west Africans abroad

Publication Abstract

Renne, Elisha. 2007. "Mass producing food traditions for west Africans abroad." American Anthropologist, 109(4): 616-625.

In this article, I examine West African foods sold mainly in specialty grocery stores, focusing on how technologies used in food production in West Africa are referenced in the brand names and packaging of processed African foods sold in the United States. Through their association with "timeless" West African food-processing techniques, such foods evoke memories of childhood and home. Yet the transformation of West African foods through new technologies of processing, packaging, and branding reflects different time and health concerns of West African immigrants living in the United States. Through their purchase of time-saving, mass-produced, and hygienically packaged foodstuffs, which are ideologically similar to but technologically very different from the production processes and cooking in Africa, West Africans in the United States use food to maintain social relations with their particular families, hometown associations, and religious groups, while also constituting national, regional, and global connections through the reinvention of food traditions.

DOI:10.1525/aa.2007.109.4.616 (Full Text)

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