"Si alla Polenta, No al Cous Cous": Food, Nationalism, and Xenophobia in Contemporary Italy

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This thesis explores how food has manifested itself as an integral part of Italian identity throughout history and continues to serve as a defining aspect of Italianness, even as the Italian landscape is changing rapidly due to immigration and global cultural exchange. I note how food fits into both Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of “habitus” and Benedict Anderson’s notion of nationhood as an “imagined community” and invoke these concepts to aid understanding of food’s integrality to Italian culture and society. I examine the current Italian demographic landscape, noting the recent influx of immigrants that has marked the last few decades and the often skeptical or negative responses toward immigrants that Italians hold. Using interviews conducted with both native Italians and immigrant or second-generation owners of foreign restaurants—all in Bologna—I seek to better understand the lived experiences Italian residents from varied backgrounds, ultimately showing that as some Italians cling to their culinary traditions in the face of perpetual change, food becomes a barrier to integration for immigrants seeking to make Italy their home.


honors thesis; awarded highest honors




Tuchler, Margot (2015). "Si alla Polenta, No al Cous Cous": Food, Nationalism, and Xenophobia in Contemporary Italy. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/9727.

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.