The article is the last of the series covering migration and migration-related issues. In this blog piece, before covering the role of food in the relationship between migrants and host communities, I will attempt to mention the concepts of “identity” and “culture” first.



Identity can be defined in a double sense. It refers to both social categories and to the individual’s self-respect or dignity. There is no necessary linkage between these. We can at least use the term “identity” to refer to personal characteristics or attributes that cannot naturally be expressed in terms of a social categorization.




Culture can be defined as the sum of beliefs accepted by members of a group or community. Some scholars define culture as the values, interpretations and perspectives that distinguish people from another in modernized societies; it is not material objects and other tangible aspects of identities. It is known that culture is not inherited; culture is something that is learned.


Food and cultural exchange


Food is key to individual identity, it should be stated that individuals are constructed, not only biologically but also in psychological terms and socially by the foods she or he chooses (Fischler, 1988: 275). Food has great significance in maintaining connections to homeland and signifying ethnic identity among diasporic community members.


Food has been demonstrated across a number of ethnographic contexts to play a significant role in ‘anchoring’ a migrant, while also enabling the creation of new subjectivities and orientations. Consequently, food frequently becomes viewed as a marker of ethnic identity (Vallianatos and Raine, 2008: 365).


In short, it can be noted that, for migrants, the meaning of food can be viewed as an exploration of culture through food. Food, like language, exists as a vehicle for expressing culture. It has the power of being both a biological necessity as well as a deeply symbolic cultural artifact, one that connects us to one another on several levels such as communication.

My next blog piece will provide a detailed list of literature on migration.

Afghan refugee Habib (centre) runs a cooking class organized by charity Migrateful, as part of an exhibition ‘Room To Breathe’ at the Migration Museum in south London, 21 November, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Lin Taylor


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