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Diaspora, Food and Identity

Nigerian Migrants in Belgium

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Maureen Duru

This book examines the connection between food and identity in the Nigerian diaspora community in Belgium. Encounters between people from different cultures do not lead to a simple adaptation of the diet, but usually give rise to some kind of fusion of new and indigenous food habits.

The author questions the relationship between what Nigerian migrants in the diaspora eat, their self-perception and how they engage with outsiders. Starting with a historical introduction about the country, this study examines what aspects of the Nigerian food culture is retained and what has changed. This is reflected by the dynamics in the Nigerian homes, especially the gender roles.

The new generation of Nigerians, who see Belgium as home, also hang on to a Nigerian diet that remains not only an important part of who they are, but is also used in the creation of cultural boundaries and group identities. However, the influence of the new environment is very present because each diaspora community, wherever and whenever, must adapt. Skills such as language and social norms are indeed necessary to survive in the new environment. Yet, food plays a prominent role: on the one hand, it contributes to the affirmation of Nigerian feelings, and on the other hand, food serves as a means of communication with the host country.

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Chapter Three The routes to a Nigerian foodway in Belgium

Extract

Chapter Three

The routes to a Nigerian foodway in Belgium

Migration has been an integral part of human existence since the beginning of mankind (Adler and Gielen, 2003, p. xiii; Koser, 2007). Marsella and Ring (2003, p. 3) went as far as claiming that, “the impulse to migrate is inherent in human nature – an instinctual and inborn disposition and inclination to wonder and wander in search of new opportunities and new horizon. In addition, Manning (2005, pp. 1-2) in his study on migration stated that it is a study in world history as it addresses a long time period and explores experiences drawn from many regions of the earth. It also emphasizes the connection in the human experience, encouraging one to think of connections as every migration connects a point of origin and destination. This is illustrated clearly by international migration and brings into focus the fact that, when people move, there are those who stay behind, whose impact on migration is not fully researched. In as much as they did not migrate, they are also an important aspect of migration. Sometimes they are the reasons some leave, and they are also the lighthouses that guide migrants home, irrespective of the challenges. Many survive the often a times treacherous routes of migration and look homewards because of those left behind.

The presence of Nigerians in Belgium was precipitated by migration across continents, and the transnational links have been vital in maintaining a Nigerian foodways...

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