The Role of Food Heritage in the Negotiation of Identity and Belonging among European Migrants to the UK

Shelves of jars

Project Team: Ben Davenport, Emma Waterton (supervisor) and Hayley Saul (supervisor)

Project Support and Funding: The Leverhulme Trust

The aim of this PhD project is to investigate the way that food and foodways function as cultural heritage, and the role they play in the negotiation of migrant identities and senses of belonging. It considers how food procurement, processing, preparation and consumption create contexts of inclusion and exclusion for individuals and groups and the impact of these processes on migrant experiences and relationships. Taking food heritage as its lens, the project will explore the role of material and immaterial cultural elements in migrant identity formation.

To do this the project will consider the following research questions:

  • What foodways do European migrants to the UK engage in, and what circumstances affect the form they take?

  • How is food heritage involved in negotiating identities and belonging among European migrants to the UK?

  • How does gender identity affect migrant food heritage-making?

  • What is the effect of material and immaterial elements of migrant foodways in generating attachments to materials and places associated with them?

  • In what ways do foodways transmit and sustain individual and collective memory for migrants and migrant descendants and how does this influence a sense of belonging under different conditions?

Food has been increasingly recognised as having an important role in the performance of identities and interest in food heritage has grown greatly as an area of scholarly and public interest over the last two decades. This PhD project will help conceive new frameworks through which to think about the role of food in society, and to think about mobility in ways that acknowledge the variability of migrant experiences and thus have the potential to reframe discussions of ‘community’ as a more heterogeneous and nuanced concept.

The project takes as its focus the ‘food stories’ of European migrants to the UK. Selected case studies span a range of temporal and spatial experiences to provide opportunities for comparisons between the role of food heritage in social, cultural and political life under different migrant circumstances. Fieldwork will be carried out in Northwest England working with Ukrainian migrants, in East Anglia working with Polish migrants, and in South Wales working with Italian migrants and migrant descendants. Embracing the creativity inherent in food practices, the project will utilise approaches to data collection that acknowledge the embodied nature of our relationships with food, and seek novel ways of exploring and representing these relationships.

Sustainable Development Goal/s: