Tastes of Authenticity: Crafting Ethnicity through Food

This project will examine the historical development of the term “authenticity” as it relates to Chinese food in the Chinese diaspora. Often used as a “litmus test” for ethnic identity, the term “authentic” is often portrayed by its user as an objective measure of connection to an idealized ethnic culture. Building upon my interest in how cultural phenomena like language are reimagined and redefined to construct ethnic identities, this project will explore the various ways in which a global understanding of authentic Chinese food came to define Chinese-ness both inside and outside of China in the twentieth century.  I hope to examine not just how flavors and ingredients, but also restaurant architecture, interior design, and racial performance by servers and chefs, helped Chinese abroad to negotiate their own sense of ethnic identity with the experience of being an immigrant throughout the Pacific Rim—from the United States and Canada to Vietnam, from Korea to Australia.