Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Margaret Mills


This work explores how people talk about food. My original problem was to find how the idea of a cultural group one may see as comprised of "Mexican Americans" may or may not be complicated by a regional comparison (of rural Hispanos in Colorado and New Mexico and urban Mexicans and Mexican Americans in Philadelphia). The main question I asked myself in this exploration (as well as asked field consultants) was: How does food play a role in the enactment of self-definition? Out of a comparison of over 30 rural and urban food narratives gathered during fieldwork in both regions emerged the interesting link between food, place, and culture. These food narratives demonstrated a sense of place, a topophilia enacted through talking about food in one's life. The men and women interviewed for this thesis use location and space to define and characterize (as well as to perform) the role of food in their lives, an action I call "performative mapping." My conclusion was that the notion of "home" and of cultural borders expressed in narrative contrasts of "us" versus "them," "antes" versus "ahora," and "here" versus "there" are used by interviewees to perform "authenticity" as well as cultural boundary maintenance.


This dissertation was completed in Folklore and Folklife.

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