• ‘Molida’, That’s Shimshali Food: Modernization, Mobility, Food Talk, and the Constitution of Identity in Shimshal, Pakistan

      Hamill, Julia; Department of Geography
      This thesis examines how “food talk” – or talking about food – is used by members of a rural community in mountainous northern Pakistan called Shimshal to articulate identities to both local and transcultural audiences. Food and food practices have been well-established as important resources for the constitution and performance of identity, including in contexts of mobility and modernization. However, the literature on food, identity, and mobility tends to focus on contexts that involve primarily linear, unidirectional, and permanent movement from one country to another. My thesis draws attention to contexts of multilocality, a common livelihood strategy in Shimshal and other rural communities in the Global South in which household members move between and maintain connections in multiple spatially-distanced locations at once. In particular, I examine instances of transcultural identity constitution, in which Shimshalis construct representations for themselves and for outsiders. These kinds of interactions exemplify the increasingly common representational contexts that are both produced by and characteristic of the circumstances of mobility, multilocality, and modernization in which I am interested. To examine how food talk was used as a conversational resource for transcultural articulations of identity, I conduct discourse analysis on two sets of pre-existing published texts: a collection of oral testimonies and an archive of narrativized photographs. I identify four main discourses of modern Shimshali identity in the texts – unity, agropastoralism and modernity, exceptionalism, and multilocality – and trace how food talk is used to help perform these identity tropes to local and transcultural audiences, with talk about food as an agropastoral mode of production, community, health, ‘modernity’, ritual, ‘tradition’, and wealth particularly salient as identity resources. I also show how the use of food talk as an identity resource is shaped by the context in which it is employed, including the perceived aims of different texts and the symbolic and material changes in food itself. Drawing on an autoethnographic sensibility, I suggest that we can gain more meaningful insights into the performance of identity and food talk by attending to the specific contexts of their production and reception. Finally, I show how food talk and identity have changed (and been maintained) in the two sets of texts I analyze, which take place across a period of rapid increases in mobility and multilocality. By doing so, this thesis brings together and contributes to preoccupations from mobility studies, modernization and development studies, migration and multilocality, food studies, identity studies, discourse analysis, and geographical research on rural northern Pakistan.