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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien
30. Januar 2019

Inscribing Edible Otherness: Intersections of Food, Gender, and Ethnicity in Contemporary Zainichi Poetry

This presentation explores the intersections of food, gender, and ethnicity in contemporary zainichi Korean poetry. Far more than simply a biological necessity, “food serves as an indicator of social identity, from region to ethnicity, from class to age or gender” (Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz 1993: 90). In zainichi Korean literature, representations of food, cooking, and eating often do not primarily serve to add realism to the work. Rather, food is used as shorthand for the ties that persist between Korean immigrants and their pasts, and to indicate the degree of their assimilation in Japan. This function is particularly clear in poetry, which, due to its brevity, must forego world building and instead invest meaning in every single word. With a focus on the representation of what is probably the most iconic Korean food, kimchi, I examine how ethnic food is celebrated, and simultaneously resisted, as (gendered) cultural heritage. I show how food is used to highlight cultural anxieties and desires, mark processes of inclusion and exclusion, and express a wavering sense of connectedness between Korea, the imagined country of the poets’ descent, and Japan, the country of their own birth.

Kristina Iwata-Weickgenannt, Nagoya University / Trier University