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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 Six Conclusion – Foodscapes and Migrant Identity Formation

Extract

Chapter Six

Conclusion – Foodscapes and Migrant Identity Formation

1. Migrants’ foodways in contemporary foodscapes

Once people began moving from their homes to different parts of the world, so did their food and food-related customs or norms. These encounters between people of different cultures, do not lead to a simple adaptation to new food but usually give rise to a fusion of the new and the indigenous, to create entirely new foodways and culture. Often as shown in this book, these food fusions will give rise to relatively new dishes unknown in the homeland but accepted in the new place as authentic, which further challenges the notion of authenticity in food cultures and traditions.

Over the years these new food encounters meant that the cosmopolitan cuisines of many Western nations, have received inputs from cuisines from far flung parts of the world which eventually become part of their culinary culture. Think of pasta and pizza dishes that are now consumed all over the world, curry dishes from Asia popularised in Britain and other parts of the world and Chinese eateries dotted all over different cities of the world.

Many of these diverse cuisines took decades to become part of the modern urban foodscape. The promoters of these foodways no longer accept being submerged in one broad identity. They seek to reflect their national, regional or ethnic identity in their cuisine. Those who patronise them have also come to recognise the difference...

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